Want the latest COVID-19 updates as they relate to UK partner visas?
We discuss this in detail in our Partner & Spouse visa Coronavirus (COVID-19) update article.
In this article, we are going to talk about the positives and negatives of hiring an immigration lawyer to deal with your UK partner visa.
The Home Office fees are crazily expensive. We know.
We want to help you decide whether you want to submit your spouse visa application yourself or engage an immigration lawyer.
Let’s see what is best for you…
3 Reasons why you SHOULD NOT get a spouse visa solicitor
#1 You are willing to spend a lot of time familiarising yourself with the requirements
Unfortunately, the Home Office do not make it easy.
The simple guidance on the gov.uk website is very limited.
They are also worded in such a way that is not easily understandable.
Fortunately, we provide a ton of free & helpful content.
Here are some detailed guides that we have created:
#2 If you have previously submitted a UK partner visa application
Many UK immigration lawyers will not be happy about us mentioning this, but there is something that you can do to save you a lot of time and money.
If you have used a lawyer to submit a previous partner visa application, in some cases, you should be able to use the same information to make a further application.
In accordance with the immigration lawyer’s regulatory body rules (whether that is the OISC or the Solicitors Regulatory Authority), good practice says that they should keep records of previous applications, including scans of your whole case file.
This is something that many organised immigration lawyers do because the Home Office lose things often, and having a copy of the whole case file can certainly save the day!
Therefore, you can ask for your case file from the spouse visa solicitor who dealt with your last application – it is your information after all.
This can help you a lot because in many cases, the documents required are very similar.
For example, if in 2016 you previously paid an immigration lawyer to deal with your first FLR M visa, when you renew this FLR M visa (after 30 months), the Immigration Rules, for the most part, will be very similar and many of the same requirements apply.
Of course, if you and your partner have experienced changes in your personal circumstances, how you meet the financial or accommodation requirement will be slightly different.
“OK. I’ve asked my old immigration lawyer but he’s not responding!”
Again, many lawyers may not be happy about this information being made available, but you can file a Subject Access Request (SAR).
A Subject Access Request is a written request to an organisation demanding access to any personal information it holds on you.
More information about this can be found here.
Following changes to data protection legislation implemented on 25th May 2018, you can now request this information for free.
In order to make a SAR, you can do the following:
- Identify the correct department and person to send the request to.
- Identify what information you require and specifically request this.
- Simply write to the organisation with your full name, address, contact number, any reference number the organisation may have and any relevant dates.
- Make sure you state that they have a one month deadline to provide your personal information.
- Make sure you send your request by Recorded Delivery or email, and retain a copy of it and anything you receive in response.
- Companies must respond without delay and at the latest within one month. They can request to extend the deadline by a further 2 months, but only if your request is difficult.
The following is a template that you can use:
SUBJECT ACCESS REQUEST
[YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER]
[PREVIOUS SPOUSE VISA UK LAWYERS’ ADDRESS]
RE: Subject Access Request
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing this letter to formally make a ‘Subject Access Request’ in order to obtain a copy of the information you store about me to which I am entitled to under the General Data Protection Regulation 2018.
You will be able to identify my records from the following information:
Full name: [INSERT FULL NAME]
Address: [FULL ADDRESS]
I would be very grateful if you could supply me with the following data, as entitled to under data protection including:
- A confirmation that you are processing my personal data
- A copy of my personal data (including scans of application forms and my personal documentation)
I look forward to receiving the above information within one calendar month, as per the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
If you do not normally deal with such requests, I would appreciate it if you pass this letter to your Data Protection Officer or relevant staff member.
#3 Our DIY Application Pack Service
You can take advantage of our unique service where we tailor document checklists and provide you with custom letter templates for £285.
In short, if you do not want to spend hundreds and hundreds of pounds on legal representation, our DIY Application Pack service will allow you to save you time whilst also massively reducing the risk of forgetting to include important documentation.
We have a dedicated page discussing how this can benefit you here so we’ll move on with the article.
4 Reasons why you SHOULD get a spouse visa solicitor
#1 It should make everything LESS stressful
Let’s not beat around the bush – an application deciding whether or not your loved one gets to live with you in the UK is going to be stressful, regardless of whether or not an immigration lawyer deals with it.
We can assure you that it will be much LESS STRESSFUL with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration lawyer dealing with the paperwork.
If you are a particularly anxious individual, or suffer from severe anxiety, it may be wise to pay an immigration lawyer to help relieve the stress.
#2 You have previously been refused a partner visa
Refused applications makes subsequent visa applications more difficult. This is because they tend to face more scrutiny.
In addition to this, you should address the previous refusal(s) in any new application that you make.
An immigration lawyer can do this for you and will know best how to do this.
In short, they will have to explain to the Home Office case worker either:
i) why the refusal reason does not apply this time; and/or
ii) that it should not have been refused in the first place.
#3 If time is limited or the visa has to be submitted soon
Preparing and checking a visa application is a lengthy process.
This is especially the case if you are not familiar with the Immigration Rules or accustomed to the process.
Employing the services of an immigration lawyer means that you can let them worry about dedicating the time preparing and submitting the application as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
#4 If you’re a top earner
Let’s say you charge £250 an hour for your time.
The time it would take to familiarise yourself with the spouse visa immigration rules will require many hours.
It may just be cheaper for you to get a good immigration lawyer to help deal with your case.
The saying ‘time is money’ very much applies in this case!
How will a UK Spouse Visa immigration Solicitor or Lawyer actually help you?
Most people pay immigration lawyers without knowing what to expect.
Different immigration lawyers have different levels of standards and expectations.
For instance, some spouse visa immigration lawyers will only provide you with a document checklist and long form for you to fill out yourself.
On the other hand, other immigration lawyers will dedicate a certain amount of hours with their clients to ensure that their client fully understands everything and be involved with a greater deal in the document gathering and form filling.
We can only speak for how we do things, which we believe is how things should be done!
STEP 1 – Making sure you meet the requirements
Your immigration advisor should ask you questions in order to determine if there are any obstacles that would prevent you from being granted a UK spouse visa.
The following are the main considerations that you should take into account:
The ‘Suitability’ requirements
These generally do not apply to most people. However, it is important that your immigration lawyer advises you of these requirements in case they do.
If you fail to meet some of the requirements, it is important to understand that your Home Office caseworker MUST refuse you.
On the other hand, there are requirements that, if you fail to meet, the Home Office caseworker MAY refuse you. In these cases, your immigration advisor should carefully explain why the Home Office should grant your application, even though you fail one of the requirements.
Your immigration lawyer should check that you meet the financial requirement, how you meet it and advise you accordingly.
The advice given in relation to this requirement is not always simple and varies depending on several matters:
- Do you have any dependent children?
- What is your source of income? I.e. salaried employment, non-salaried employment, self-employment, sole director of a limited company, cash savings, etc.
- How long you have been in this type of employment?
As you can see, there is a lot to consider and your immigration advisor should make things simple for you by advising you which rules apply to you.
In turn, by seeking advice, you may save several hours that you would have spent reading trying to find out whether you meet these requirements.
In addition to this, your immigration lawyer should make sure that the documents that you submit are correct.
Questions that may be relevant to your particular case are:
- Do you have any children together?
- Have you previously lived together?
- How often do you chat to one another and do you have any tangible evidence of this?
- Have you met in person? This one seems silly but it is possible to be married by proxy in some countries!
- Is your marriage certificate in another language?
Your immigration advisor should ask you all these questions and ensure that you meet the requirements before submitting the visa application.
STEP 2 – Identifying what supporting documents are required
As detailed above, different documents are required depending upon your individual circumstances.
The reason why we are able to offer our DIY Application Pack service for so cheap is because this service is limited to this only.
Since this takes us a lot less time, we are able to charge a lot less and then pass the savings on to you!
STEP 3 – Your lawyer will then help you gather and check these supporting documents
The biggest reason for refused applications is not because applicants do not meet the requirements, but because:
i) they do not include the relevant documents; or
ii) they include the relevant documents, but do not know about specific rules that apply to each of the documents.
This is why, in our DIY Application Pack service, we have gathered the relevant document rules and commonly made mistakes in our detailed document checklists.
STEP 4 – Your lawyer will then submit the application on your behalf
Fortunately, if you decide to submit the application yourself, the Home Office have recently made the application submitting process much easier.
For applications that are made inside the UK, no longer would you have to fill in the old 80+ page FLR (M) form, but can instead use the user-friendly FLR M website here.
For applications that are made from outside the UK, if you decide to submit the application yourself, you will have to deal with the spouse visa online application form.
Would having an immigration lawyer deal with these websites make it easier on you and your partner?
Would you and your partner be able to use these websites to submit the application yourself?
To be completely honest, sure. Thousands of non-immigration lawyers manage it without much effort.
STEP 5 – Your lawyer will then deal with any Home Office correspondence
Again, being completely honest, many immigration lawyers, when trying to sell their services, make this a big deal.
The vast majority of applications do not require any real communication with the Home Office.
Most of the time, they either grant your visa, or refuse it.
If you do decide to submit the application yourself, and in the event that the Home Office do get in contact, they will usually simply ask for specific documentation – something you can obviously do yourself.
UK Spouse Visa Solicitor or Lawyer Fees in 2020
The average UK spouse visa solicitor fee in 2020 is between £750 and £3,000 (for London based immigration advisors).
We charge £1,850 for full legal representation.
This is a lot of money, we know.
But before you judge us, the following are three reasons why we have to charge this much.
- Time – A proper preparation of your visa will be very time consuming. Ensuring that all the individual requirements are met, lengthy immigration forms, filling in and submitting your application, paying visa and IHS fee is, answering your questions, keeping files and records organised is all very time consuming.
- Training – Immigration lawyers have to invest hundreds and hundreds of hours learning the Immigration Rules in order to pass the immigration exams.
- Stress – Immigration lawyers (should) essentially take a majority of the burden on behalf of the client. They should care about you and your application and try their best efforts in order for you to have the best application possible. This means it can be quite stressful for us!
We hope that we have explained clearly the pros and cons of hiring a spouse visa solicitor or lawyer.
For some, it is certainly worthwhile to pay what is obviously a lot of money for legal assistance.
For others, especially those who are willing to invest the hours learning the spouse visa requirements, our £285 DIY Application Pack Service is perfect for them.