Spouse Visa UK 2024 Guidance | Migrate

16 steps you can follow to process your own visa

Let’s first quickly talk about….

step 1

What is a spouse visa, how much will it cost, and how long would it take?


What is a UK spouse visa?

#1 A UK spouse visa allows those applying (“applicants”) to join their UK partner (the “sponsor”) in the UK for 33 months. 

Please note that this article is for applicants who will be applying from outside the UK.

If you intend on making an application from inside the UK, you should read our FLR M visa 2024 guide.

An FLR M visa is essentially a spouse visa application that is made from inside the UK.

“Will we be making the application from outside or inside the UK?”

This is very important to know because the process, fees and requirements are different.

Firstly, if the applicant does not have any UK visas which were issued for longer than six months, they must make the application from outside the UK.

Secondly, if the applicant is in the UK as a visitor, they must make the application from outside the UK. This will require them to leave the UK and submit the application from their country of nationality or a country where they hold any type of long-term residency.

Applications can only be made from inside the UK if:

  • The applicant is in the UK when the application is submitted;
  • The applicant has a visa (or leave) which was issued for a period exceeding 6 months (unless they are in the UK as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner); and
  • The applicant is not in the UK as a visitor.

Please note that the following does not affect whether the application can be made from inside the UK:

  • If the sponsor (the UK partner) helps with the online application;
  • If the sponsor submits the supporting documents.

We discuss this further in our Out of Country or In-Country UK Spouse or Partner Visa Application? article



#2 A UK spouse visa can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) & British Citizenship.

Once applicants have spent five years (60 months) in the UK as a partner, they are normally able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

An exception relates to applications granted on the 10-year route rather than the 5-year route.

With this being said, if you submit an application which satisfies all of the standard requirements, you should expect to be granted a partner visa on the 5-year route rather than the 10-year route.

Please also note that time spent in the UK on a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner visa does not count towards the five year qualifying period.

Once Indefinite Leave to Remain is acquired, the applicant will stop being dependent on their partner (the sponsor) to remain in the UK.

It will also be at this point in which the applicant will not need to pay for any further UK spouse visa fees, as they will not be required to submit any future applications to remain in the UK (as long as they do not leave the UK for two or more continuous years).

Whilst a minority of applicants decide to apply for British citizenship (in which case leaving the UK for two or more continuous years does not have any negative consequences), many do not feel the need to do so.

“What is the typical spouse visa route to Indefinite Leave to Remain?”

The typical route to Indefinite Leave to Remain for the vast majority of those who initially apply for an out-of-country spouse visa is as follows:

Spouse visa (33-month visa) -> FLR(M) visa (30-month visa) -> Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

These two spouse visas will provide the applicant with the required 5 five years in the UK.

This is the case as long as:

i) The spouse visa extension is not submitted too early (more information on this can be found here); and

ii) The main spouse visa UK requirements in 2024 are met (most notably, the spouse visa UK financial requirements in 2024 and the English language requirement);

iii) The applicant is granted a partner visa on the 5-year route (& not the 10-year route). This should be made clear in the decision letters that they receive.



#3 A spouse visa will not allow an applicant to receive most UK benefits. 

Those in the UK on a UK spouse visa will not be able to receive ‘public funds’.

‘Public funds’ are defined in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules and include:

  • Disability living allowance;
  • Severe disablement allowance;
  • Attendance allowance;
  • Carer’s allowance;
  • Council tax benefit;
  • State pension credit;
  • Income support;
  • Jobseeker’s allowance;
  • Housing benefit;
  • Working tax credit;
  • Child tax credit;
  • Personal Independence Payment; and
  • Council tax reduction

Can you work on a UK spouse visa?

 

Yes. Those in the UK on a UK spouse visa are permitted to work in the UK.

They can be employed, self-employed and can start their own specified limited company.

This is one of its advantages over the 6-month UK fiance visa, which will not allow applicants to work in the UK.


How much will a spouse visa cost?

 

#1 The Home Office fee for a spouse visa will cost £1,846.

For more information about the spouse visa UK fees and costs in 2024, check our article here.

In addition to answering numerous frequently asked questions about the fees, it also discusses other ‘hidden’ costs that partners often have to pay.


#2 The Immigration Health Surcharge will cost £3,105.

The Immigration Health Surcharge is a mandatory fee that provides applicants access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

This will cover the duration of the spouse visa.


#3 The average immigration lawyer fee ranges between £1,000-£3,000+. 

For full legal representation, we charge a fixed fee of £2,250.

Our head of practice, Ed Lowe, is primarily responsible for all of our full legal representation clients.

Ed was in charge of UK visas for several continents during his 20+ years as a senior Home Office manager.

We also offer a unique spouse visa DIY Application Pack Service for £435.

This service will provide you with all of the information that you need to prepare and submit the application yourselves.


How long will a spouse visa take?

 

#1 Collecting all of the required documents normally takes partners longer than they expect.

For example, for some applicants, Tuberculosis and English language certificates can take up to 1-2 months to obtain.

Furthermore, it is often overlooked that some financial documentation can take multiple weeks (or even months) to get.

For instance, those relying on self-employment or specified limited company income may have to wait longer than a year to obtain certain documentation. This is due to having to rely on the ‘most recent full financial year’ (as we discuss here).


#2 Once received, the Home Office take 2-3 months (on average) to process standard (non-priority) spouse visa applications.

For more information about the spouse visa UK processing times in 2024, check our article by clicking here.

step 2

The ‘Suitability’ requirements that applicants must meet

 

Falling foul of the following requirements can result in a refusal. 

Whilst it is important to read these, these provisions which result in refusals are only relevant to a minority of applicants.

#1 An applicant has been told by the UK government that they are NOT allowed in the UK.

#2 An applicant has been given a DEPORTATION ORDER.

#3 An applicant has been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced to JAIL for a significant amount of time. For more information on this point, check S-EC.1.4. of Appendix FM.

#4 An applicant’s previous BEHAVIOUR makes it undesirable to grant them a spouse visa.

#5 An applicant has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with a requirement to-
(a) attend an interview;
(b) provide information;
(c) provide physical data; or
(d) undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report.

#6 An applicant has MEDICAL REASONS which makes them undesirable to be given a spouse visa.

#7 An applicant left or was removed from the UK as a condition of a CAUTION issued in accordance with section 22 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 less than 5 years prior to the date on which the application is decided.

#1 An applicant’s application has previously included FALSE INFORMATION, REPRESENTATIONS or DOCUMENTS or did NOT include IMPORTANT FACTS.

#2 A maintenance and accommodation undertaking has NOT been provided.

#3 An applicant’s CRIMINAL HISTORY.

#4 An applicant has failed to pay LITIGATION COSTS awarded to the Home Office.

#5 An applicant has NOT paid NHS charges that exceed £500.

step 3

The Spouse visa UK relationship requirements in 2024

 

#1 You and your partner must be aged 18 or over when the application is submitted.


#2 You and your partner must intend to live together permanently in the UK.


#3 The applicant and UK partner must have met in person.


#4 The UK partner must be one of the following:

  1. A British or Irish Citizen; or
  2. ‘Present’ and ‘Settled’ in the UK; or
  3. Someone who has been granted Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme; or
  4. Someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein with pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (& started living in the UK before 1 January 2021)
  5. In the UK with refugee leave or with humanitarian protection; or
  6. Someone in the UK with limited leave as a worker or business person under Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay.

If the UK partner has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and resides in the UK, or if they are an EEA national or non-EEA family member with a permanent right of residence in the UK, the UK partner will be considered as being ‘Present’ and ‘Settled’.


#5 You and your partner must NOT be within the prohibited degree of relationship.

Prohibited degrees for a man

Mother, Daughter, Father’s mother, Mother’s mother, Son’s daughter, Daughter’s daughter, Sister, Father’s sister, Mother’s sister, Brother’s daughter and Sister’s daughter.

Prohibited degrees for a woman

Father, Son, Father’s father, Mother’s father, Son’s son, Daughter’s son, Brother, Father’s brother, Mother’s brother, Brother’s son, Sister’s son.

The following marriages between the following are also prohibited:

  • Mother of former wife, until the death of both the former wife and the father of the former wife;
  • Father of former husband, until after the death of both the former husband and the mother of the former husband;
  • Former wife of son, until after the death of both his son and the mother of his son;
  • Former husband of a daughter, until after the death of both her daughter and the father of her daughter.

#6 Your relationship with your partner must be ‘genuine’ and ‘subsisting’.

Applicants must persuade the Home Office that there is a 51% or more chance of their relationship being genuine.

The ‘genuineness’ of the relationship is determined in light of the application as a whole.

It is therefore important that you take the time to ensure that you prepare the application accordingly.

What is sufficient depends on your circumstances and the factors that suggest that you’re in a genuine and submitting relationship – we discuss this further in our spouse visa requirements YouTube video.

#7 Applicants who are applying as a married or civil partner must be in a valid marriage or civil partnership

If the marriage or civil partnership took place in the UK, the marriage (or civil partnership) must be recognised under the laws of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

If the marriage or civil partnership took place outside the UK, the marriage (or civil partnership) must be valid under the law in force in the relevant country.


#8 Any previous relationship of the applicant or the sponsor must have broken down permanently

This is the case unless the previous relationship falls within one of the very few exceptions.

It is, therefore, normally the case that any previously legally recognised relationships must be sufficiently evidenced (e.g., by providing a decree absolute – or overseas equivalent – for previous marriages).

Spouse Visa UK DIY Application Pack

step 4

The Spouse Visa UK English language requirement in 2024

There are numerous ways to satisfy the English language requirement. We will discuss them in turn.

#1 Applicants will satisfy the English language requirement if they are a national of any of the following countries: 

  • Antigua and Barbuda;
  • Australia;
  • The Bahamas;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • The British Overseas Territories;
  • Canada;
  • Dominica;
  • Grenada;
  • Guyana;
  • Jamaica;
  • Malta;
  • New Zealand;
  • St Kitts and Nevis;
  • St Lucia;
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Trinidad and Tobago; or
  • The United States of America.

This is because they will be a national of a Home Office-designated majority English-speaking country.


#2 Applicants will also meet the English language requirement if they:

i) are 65 years or over at the date of the application; OR

ii) have a disability that is either physical or mental which prevents them from taking the English language test; OR

iii) have exceptional circumstances that prevent them from satisfying the requirement before entering the UK (exceptional is a relatively high threshold here).


#3 If the applicant has an English-taught academic degree, Master’s or PhD from a university in the UK, they can use this to satisfy the English language requirement. 


#4 If the applicant has an English-taught academic degree equivalent to a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree that was awarded outside the UK, they can use this to satisfy the English language requirement.

However, since evidence will be needed from Ecctis (previously known as “UK NARIC”), most partners find it easier and more convenient to sit an English language test that is on the list of Home Office approved Secure English Language Tests (SELT) in 2024.


#5 If none of the above applies, applicants must pass a Home Office approved Secure English language test.

The minimum required level for first-time partner visa applicants is the A1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in speaking and listening.

Please note that if applicants rely on satisfying the English language requirement via an English language test, as we discuss in our free video series, they must ensure that the English language test is on the list of Home Office approved Secure English Language Tests (SELT) in 2024.

Most commonly, the IELTS Life Skills A1 test is relied on to meet this requirement.

However, if the applicant’s English can be described as ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’, it is recommended that they take the ‘A2’ or ‘B1’ test, despite the A1 test being required for a spouse visa.

This is because if the applicant relies on an A2 English language test for their first spouse visa application, this will prevent them from having to do the test again for the subsequent FLR M visa in the UK (which requires a test at A2 level or above).

If the applicant relies on a B1 English language test for their first or second spouse visa application, they will normally be able to rely on the same test to meet the English language requirement for the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application.

Applicants will normally be awarded an English language test certificate once they have passed the Secure English language test.

This English language test certificate will contain a SELT unique reference number (URN) which will be required as part of your spouse visa application (if you rely on the English language test to satisfy the English language requirement).

step 5

The Spouse Visa UK Tuberculosis requirement (TB)

Certain applicants who are living in one of the listed countries (or have been living in one of the listed countries 6 months before submitting the application) must provide a tuberculosis (TB) test certificate showing they are free from active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).

#1 The listed countries are:

A: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan
B: Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi
C: Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire
D: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic
E: East Timor, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia
G: Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana
H, I, K: Haiti, Hong Kong or Macau, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan
L, M: Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma)
N, P: Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines
R, S: Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland
T: Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu
U, V, Z: Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe

You should check the latest Home Office list here as this list can change.


#2 The following applicants, however, will be exempt from taking the TB test if:

  • The applicant is a diplomat accredited to the UK;
  • The applicant has lived for at least 6 months in a country where TB screening is not required by the UK and they have been away from that country for no more than 6 months.

#3 Where a TB test is required, the TB test must be taken at a Home Office approved clinic.

Applicants can find a list of Home Office approved centres here.


#4 Where a TB test is required, the TB test certificate must be included as supporting documentation. 

The TB test certificates are valid for 6 months.

As long as the TB certificate is valid on the date that you submit the online application, it does not matter that 6 months have passed since the applicant arrives in the UK.

The Spouse Visa UK Accommodation requirement in 2024

The UK property that the applicant and UK partner intend to live in must be ‘owned or occupied exclusively’ by their family.

It must also not be ‘overcrowded’, as defined by the Housing Act 1985.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that you will be expected to provide documentation to show that the applicant and sponsor will legally occupy the UK property.

The required documents you are expected to include will depend on the particular accommodation circumstances. 

Our DIY Application Pack service takes into account four different accommodation circumstances:

i) The applicant and sponsor intend to live in a property owned by the applicant and/or sponsor.

ii) The applicant and sponsor intend to live in a property rented by the applicant and/or sponsor.

iii) The applicant and sponsor intend to live in a property owned by a family or friend of the applicant and/or sponsor.

iv) The applicant and sponsor intend to live in a property that is rented by a family or friend of the applicant and/or sponsor.

step 7

The Spouse Visa UK Financial Requirements in 2024

The spouse visa UK financial requirement in 2024 is certainly the biggest reason for refusals for spouse visa applications.

Because of this, we would strongly recommend reading this article which discusses the financial requirement in more detail.

We will now discuss five steps that you must consider.

#1 What is the financial threshold – How much income or savings will we need to show?

i) If one of the following permitted benefits or allowances is received, the adequate maintenance test will apply:

  • Disability Living Allowance;
  • Severe Disablement Allowance;
  • Personal Independence Payment;
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit;
  • Attendance Allowance;
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme;
  • Carer’s Allowance;
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme;
  • Police Injury Pension;
  • Adult Disability Payment; or
  • Child Disability Payment.

Example

Mark, a sponsor of a UK spouse visa application, receives Disability Living Allowance.

The minimum income threshold of £18,600 or £29,000 (discussed below) will not apply to the application. Rather, the adequate maintenance test must be satisfied.

We discuss the adequate maintenance test in our Adequate Maintenance Guidance for UK visas [2024 REQUIREMENTS] article.


ii) Out-of-country spouse visa applications submitted on or before 10 April 2024.

The starting position is that £18,600 (gross) will be the minimum income threshold.

The table below shows how applying dependent children will affect this figure.

Number of dependent children applying

Minimum income threshold

0

£18,600

1

£22,400

2

£24,800

3

£27,200

4

£29,600

Example

Beatrice has no UK visas and must, therefore, make an out-of-country UK spouse visa application.

Beatrice has one dependent child who will also be applying.

The minimum income threshold for the spouse visa application will be £22,400 (gross).

Those in the UK on a partner visa on the five-year route to settlement submitted before 11 April 2024 will not have to meet the increased £29,000 minimum income threshold for subsequent applications.

Rather, the starting position for the spouse visa extension and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application is that £18,600 (gross) will be the minimum income threshold.

The minimum income threshold will once again be increased if children are applying, as per the below table:

Number of dependent children applying

Minimum income threshold

0

£18,600

1

£22,400

2

£24,800

3

£27,200

4

£29,000

5

£29,000

 

You will note that the minimum income threshold here cannot exceed £29,000.

Example

Beatrice submitted her spouse visa application before 10 April 2024.

When the time comes to submit the spouse visa extension application (via the FLR(M) application form), £22,400 will be the minimum income threshold if there is still only one dependant child that is applying.



iii) Out-of-country partner visa applications submitted on or after 11 April 2024.

The minimum income threshold will be the minimum income threshold in force when the application is submitted.

Currently, the minimum income threshold for applications submitted on or after 11 April 2024 will be £29,000 (gross).

Specific dates have not yet been provided regarding the subsequent minimum income threshold increases to £34,500 and £38,700.

Rather, £34,500 is expected to take effect at some point later in the year whilst £38,700 has been stated to take effect in “early 2025”.

Example

Harry submitted an out-of-country UK spouse visa application on 14 April 2024.

The application must satisfy the minimum income threshold of £29,000.


#2 What sources of income can be included in the financial requirement? 

The following are different sources of income that you can include towards the financial requirement:

Salaried employment

Salaried employment includes that paid at a minimum fixed rate (usually annual) and is subject usually to a minimum contractual number of hours to be worked.


Non-Salaried employment

Non-salaried employment includes that paid at an hourly or another rate (and the number and/or pattern of hours required to be worked may vary) or paid an amount which varies according to the work undertaken.


Cash Savings

Generally speaking, cash savings can be considered when £16,000 has been held in the applicant’s or UK partner’s bank for longer than six months.

It should be noted that cash savings cannot be combined with gross annual income from self-employment nor income from specified limited companies to meet the financial requirement.

It should also be noted that there are several rules regarding using cash savings to meet the financial requirement, which we discuss here.


Self-employment income

In the UK Immigration Rules, self-employment income is income that is earned from being self-employed as a sole trader, as a partnership or as a franchise only.

It should not be confused with specified limited company income.


Specified limited company income

Specified limited company income is employment income and/or dividend income from a UK limited company where:

  • Shares are held of the employing company (either directly or indirectly); AND
  • Fewer than five other persons hold the remaining shares.

Since this is a very commonly made mistake that results in refusals, you should take the time to read our article “Specified Limited Company Guidance [Sole Directors, Owners and Employees]“.


Pension income

This can be either a state, occupational or private pension.


“Non-employment” income

Non-employment income falls under Category C and includes the following:

  • Property rental
  • Dividends or other income from investments, stocks and shares, bonds or trust funds
  • Interest from savings
  • Maintenance payments from a former partner of the applicant in relation to the applicant or any children of the applicant and their former partner (any documents issued by the family court must have permission to be disclosed).
  • Maintenance payments from a former partner of the applicant’s partner in relation to that partner
  • UK Maternity Allowance, Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement Payment and
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • Payments under the War Pensions Scheme, the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and the Armed Forces Attributable Benefits Scheme
  • A maintenance grant or stipend (not a loan) associated with undergraduate study or postgraduate study or research
  • Ongoing insurance payments
  • Ongoing payments from a structured legal settlement
  • Ongoing royalty payments


Permitted benefit income

As this article discusses, the general rule is that benefits can only be included if the adequate maintenance test applies.



#3 What is the relevant time period when calculating the financial requirement? 

This depends on how the financial requirement is met.

If the employment income is from a ‘specified limited company’

We provide step-by-step guidance which can help you identify if the employment income is from a specified limited company here.

Such income will be included under ‘Category F‘ and the relevant financial period will be the ‘last full financial year‘.

This is the year the limited company prepares the accounts that are submitted to the HMRC and Companies House.

It is also the same period as covered by a CT600 Company Tax Return, which corresponds to the 12-month accounting year of the UK partner’s limited company.

The term ‘last full financial year’ here means the most recent year.

It does not mean the ‘last full financial year’ that is required to submit by UK tax law.

Therefore, the UK partner may be required to submit the accounts earlier than they necessarily would have otherwise done.

If the employment income is not from a ‘specified limited company’

i) Where the UK partner has been employed for 6 months or more

The application can be based on the UK partner’s gross annual income in the past 6 months (under what is known as ‘Category A‘) or 12 months (under ‘Category B‘).


ii) Where the UK partner has been employed for fewer than 6 months

The application must be based on the UK partner’s gross annual income during the past 12 months before the date of application under Category B.

The UK partner must have met the financial requirement either in the last full financial year (under what is known as ‘Category F’), or by using the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years (under ‘Category G’).

For those self-employed as a sole trader, as a partner or in a franchise, the relevant financial year(s) will be that covered by the self-assessment tax return and in the UK this runs from 6 April to 5 April the following year.

It is important to note that the relevant period is the most recent last full financial year.

Therefore, if you were to submit the application on 10 April 2024, the relevant financial year will be 6 April 2023 to 5 April 2024.

The relevant financial period will be the ‘last full financial year’, which is the year the company prepares the accounts that get submitted to the HMRC and Companies House.

It is also the same period as covered by a form CT600, which corresponds to the 12-month accounting year of the UK partner’s company.

The term ‘last full financial year’ here means the most recent year.

It does NOT mean the ‘last full financial year’ that is required to submit by UK tax law.

Therefore, the specified limited company may be required to submit the accounts earlier than he or she necessarily would have otherwise done.

We discuss the requirements as they relate to specified limited companies in more detail here.

“Should I rely on Category A, B, F or G?”

Our article “Category A or B, F or G? [UK Visa Financial Requirements Guide]” will help you better understand which Category you will need to rely on.

Cash savings

The partner must have held the cash savings for a period of 6 months, unless one of the exceptions apply.

We discuss these exceptions in further detail here.

During this 6 month period, the cash savings must not drop below the required amount.

A note regarding sponsors who are in receipt of a ‘permitted benefit’

Where a sponsor receives a permitted benefit, the adequate maintenance test applies which can change the standard relevant time periods.

For more information about the adequate maintenance requirement, feel free to check our adequate maintenance test guidance article.



#4 How do the Home Office calculate how much someone’s gross annual income is? 

This depends on how the financial requirement is met.

Salaried employment is paid at a minimum fixed rate (usually annually) and is subject usually to a contractual minimum number of hours to be worked.

Please remember, it is exceptionally important to know whether the employer is a specified limited company or not – more information on this can be found here.

If the employment income is from a ‘specified limited company’

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary received in the company’s last full financial year and/or the dividends received or declared in respect of the company’s last full financial year (as stated in the most recent CT600 document) under Category F.

If the sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years can be relied on under Category G.


If the employment income is not from a ‘specified limited company’

Method 1 (under Category A)

If the UK partner receives their salary weekly, they multiply the lowest payment received in the 6 months before the application by 52.

If the UK partner receives their salary monthly, they multiply the lowest payment received in the 6 months before the application by 12.

This is the income from the person’s salary that can be counted towards the financial requirement.

Method 2 (under Category B)

Under Category B, the financial requirement must be met and evidenced in two parts.

If only one part is met, then the financial requirement will not be met, unfortunately.

Part 1: The gross annual salary (as it is on the date of application) must be higher than the financial threshold that applies (which is normally £18,600)

  • If the UK partner receives their salary every month, they multiply the last salary received by 12.
  • If the UK partner receives their salary every week, they multiply the last salary received by 52.
  • There is no required period for this current employment. For instance, an applicant can have been with their current employer (at the time of the application) for 2 months only.

Part 2: The UK partner must have received, in the past 12 months before the date of application, more than the financial requirement that applies to them.

Note: If the sponsor is employed overseas and will be returning to the UK with the applicant if the application is successful, to rely on this employment, they will need to have a confirmed job offer in the UK which also satisfies the minimum income threshold.

If the company that employs the UK partner IS owned by either the UK partner, the applicant or by the UK partner or applicant’s family AND any remaining shares are held by fewer than five other persons

The gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year under Category F, or, if the sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years, under Category G.

If the company that employs the UK partner is NOT owned by either the UK partner, the applicant or by the UK partner’s or applicant’s family

Here, Category B requires that the financial requirement must be met and evidenced in two parts.

Part 1: The gross annual salary (as it is on the date of application) must be higher than the financial threshold that applies (which is normally £18,600)

  • If the UK partner receives their salary every month, multiply the last salary received by 12
  • If the UK partner receives their salary every week, multiply the last salary received by 52
  • There is no required period for this current employment

Part 2: The UK partner must have received in the past 12 months before the date of application more than the financial requirement that applies to them.

Note: If the sponsor is employed overseas and will be returning to the UK with the applicant if the application is successful, to rely on this employment, they will need to have a confirmed job offer in the UK which also satisfies the minimum income threshold.

Non-salaried employment includes that paid at an hourly or another rate (and the number and/or pattern of hours required to be worked may vary) or paid an amount which varies according to the work undertaken.

Please remember, it is exceptionally important to know whether the employer is a specified limited company or not – more information on this can be found here.

If the employment income is from a ‘specified limited company’

Under Category F, the gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years, under Category G.


If the employment income is not from a ‘specified limited company’

If you choose to base the application on 6 month’s employment earnings (under Category A):

#1 They add up all the gross income from employment in the 6 months before the date of application

#2 They then divide the total by 6

#3 They will then multiply this number by 12.

This is the income from non-salaried employment that can be counted towards the financial requirement.

If the company that employs the UK partner IS owned by either the UK partner, the applicant or by the UK partner or applicant’s family AND any remaining shares are held by fewer than five other persons

Under Category F, the gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years, under Category G.

If the company that employs the UK partner is NOT owned by either the UK partner, the applicant or by the UK partner’s or applicant’s family

Here, the financial requirement must be met and evidenced in two parts.

Part 1: Your ‘annualised average’ for non-salaried employment must be higher than the financial requirement that applies (normally £18,600).

To work out the ‘annualised average’ from non-salaried employment, you must:

#1 Total the gross income that the UK partner has received from their current employment

#2 Divide this total by the number of months, weeks or days the UK partner has been in employment with the current employer

#3 If you divided the above number by the number of months, multiply the result by 12.

If you divided the above number by the number of weeks, multiply the result by 52.

If you divided the above number by the number of days, multiply the result by 365.

Part 2: The UK partner must have received in the past 12 months before the date of application more than the financial requirement that applies to the application.

Under Category F, the income will be the “gross taxable profits from their share of the business in the relevant financial year(s), not including any deductible allowances, expenses or liabilities which may be applied to the gross taxable profits to establish the final tax liability”.

Under Category F, the gross annual income will be the gross total of the salary and/or dividends received in the company’s last full financial year, or, if the sponsor prefers, the ‘mean’ average of the last two full financial years, under Category G.


#5 What documents are required to be submitted to satisfy the financial requirement?

This completely depends on the following:

  • The source(s) of income that you are relying on to meet the financial requirement;
  • Whether certain sources of income are being combined; and
  • Whether certain provisions in the Immigration Rules apply (for example, whether maternity pay has been received in the 6 months prior to submitting the application).

Because of this, it is crucial that you read both Appendix FM-SE and Appendix FM 1.7 if you are going to prepare the application yourself.

These will discuss:

  • The documentation that you will need to submit; and
  • The Immigration Rules that apply specifically to certain documents.


About Appendix FM-SE

Since Appendix FM-SE is part of the Immigration Rules, this is the most important source of reading regarding the spouse visa financial requirement.

Appendix FM-SE not only discusses the different documentation that will be required based on how you meet the financial requirement, but also the Immigration Rules as they apply to certain documentation.

This source of information is often more up-to-date than Appendix FM 1.7 (which we discuss below).


About Appendix FM 1.7.

Fortunately, Appendix FM 1.7. is phrased much more clearly when compared to Appendix FM-SE. It is easier to understand.

Because of this, we would suggest reading this document before Appendix FM-SE to identify the documents that you need to submit, as well as to make sure that you do not fall foul of the strict rules as they apply to financial documentation.

One thing to note is that where information in Appendix FM 1.7. differs from Appendix FM-SE, it is Appendix FM-SE that will apply (rather than Appendix FM 1.7.)


About Appendix FM 1.7a

Appendix FM 1.7A should be read by those who receive permitted benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance, Carer’s allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

This is because receiving a permitted benefit will mean you will not have to meet the minimum income threshold of £18,600+.

They will instead have to satisfy the adequate maintenance requirement.

uk spouse visa full legal representation 

step 8

Spouse visa supporting letters

Including supporting letters from both the applicant and their partner can strengthen the application and/or avoid potential misunderstandings.

In these supporting letters, you and your partner can write about the following:

  • How the financial requirement is met
  • How the accommodation requirement is met
  • How the relationship requirement is met
  • The development of the applicant and UK partner’s relationship
  • That the UK partner promises to provide the applicant with both the finances and accommodation to satisfy the Immigration Rules

If you want to save time and receive a professionally tailored supporting letter, without spending hundreds of pounds, our DIY Application pack service includes spouse visa supporting letter templates for both the applicant and sponsor.

step 9

Appendix 2 of VAF4A – Should you complete this form?

You do not have to complete the VA4A 2 Appendix form.

We no longer recommend completing this document despite the VFS uploading portal still listing this document.

step 10

Spouse Visa UK document checklist for 2024

You will be provided with a list of documents when you progress via the online application (which we discuss below).

The most common mistake that applicants make, by far, is by providing these documents without taking the time to read Appendix FM-SE and Appendix FM 1.7.

It is important to read Appendix FM-SE and Appendix FM 1.7 because:

#1 The list of documents provided by the online website does not always list the documents that you should submit in your application

Whilst the new ACCESS UK website is a welcome improvement to the old visa4uk website, the document checklist provided by the ACCESS UK website is not an exhaustive list.

This means that, in some instances, it will not list documents that you must submit.

It will also not always list documents you should submit to have the strongest application possible.


#2 There are strict rules that apply to certain documents.

Unfortunately, the Home Office often enforce these rules.

If you want a document checklist tailored exactly to the information you provide us, we can provide you with a detailed and professionally written document checklist with our spouse visa DIY application pack service.

Our document checklists have been relied on successfully in thousands of applications, but they also list many document-specific rules that partners sometimes overlook.

step 11

Familiarise yourself with the spouse visa application process

“What is the document submitting procedure?”.

It will be helpful for you if you are aware of the application submission procedure early on.

Unfortunately, there is no universal spouse visa application process, and the procedure varies depending on the country in question.

#1 Step One – Search the gov.uk website

In some instances, the gov.uk website will provide you with some helpful content regarding the application submitting procedure for your country.

On the gov.uk website, search “[country] apply” (for example, “New Zealand apply”), and in some instances, there will be an article that provides a helpful overview.


#2 Step Two – Check the VFS/TLS websites

Whether or not there is an article for the country from which you are applying, the next step is to visit the VFS and TLS websites.

VFS applicants

The VFS website can be found here.

If you cannot find your country on this website when answering the question “Where are you applying from”, check the TLS website.

After you have selected the country from which you are applying, it will normally give you an overview of:

  • The application submitting procedure (the process of submitting your spouse visa application); and
  • The available added value services that you can choose (such as the priority service).

The process is normally found in the ‘How to apply’ tab.


TLS applicants

The TLS website can be found here.

Similarly to the VFS website, this website will normally provide you with:

  • An overview of the application submission procedure; and
  • The added value services that you may decide to purchase.

After selecting the visa centre you want to use in your home country, you will be provided with some general information.

Note: Although it is helpful to get an idea about the application submission procedure as early as possible, ultimately, what matters is what you are told as you progress through the application process.

step 12

Familiarise yourself with the different ways that you may be able to submit your documents

Again, whilst ultimately what matters is what you are told in the official correspondence (& online application process) when the online application is submitted, it is a good idea to better understand the possible options beforehand.

Option #1 – The walk-in service at one of the UK centres (VFS handled applications only)

This service, if chosen, will cost you an additional fee.

You do not have to book an appointment to submit documents this way.

Instead, you can simply walk in at one of the locations (a list of which, if available, will be provided to you after you pay the Home Office fees on the online application website).

With this method, it is important to note that a courier cannot submit documents – the sponsor (or agent) must attend the centre in person.

If the sponsor attends this walk-in service, they should bring:

  • A copy of your passports;
  • Your document checklist which was automatically generated by the online application
  • All supporting documents (which will be scanned and handed back at the time of their visit). Whilst it is normally fine to bring copies of the original documents here to be scanned, it is important to follow the instructions given as you progress through the online website, as it will sometimes specifically state that original documents must be brought.

If the documents you submit are crumpled, heavily creased or torn, you should photocopy these beforehand as these will not be able to be scanned.

Documents should also not be laminated.

This can be done after you attend the visa appointment at the overseas visa centre.

There is no set time limit, but we would not recommend leaving it too long until this is done. As a rough rule, try to get this done within three weeks of the applicant attending the overseas visa centre.

Note: This service may not be available to you, especially if you apply from a TLS location.


Option #2 – Posting documents to a specified UK address

This method will allow you to post the supporting documents to an address in the UK.

Unlike option #1, the walk-in service at one of the UK centres, this option is normally available to TLS-handled applications.

If this option is available to you, you will normally be notified on one of the last pages of the online government application website.

If you choose this service, it will be important that you send it to the address that you are specifically told of as part of the process.

When available, there will be generally two different service levels that you can choose from:

The standard service – This will cost around £75 (+VAT) per application and documents will generally be scanned within 5 working days from receipt of the documents.

The priority service – This will cost around £100 (+VAT) per application and will generally be scanned within 24 hours from receipt of documents at the scanning hub.


OPTION #3 – Document Scanning Assistance service at the overseas visa application centre

 This will involve the applicant bringing their supporting documents to the overseas visa application centre and having the staff at the overseas centre assist with scanning the documents for submission.

Whilst this is a method that we used to recommend, this is no longer the case.

As of recent, we have seen partners face numerous issues such as certain documents not being accepted, incorrect advice being given (by poorly trained staff), and documents not being submitted properly.


OPTION #4 – Uploading on the VFS/TLS website

The last option that some applicants choose is to upload the documents on the VFS/TLS website.

The uploading portals have significantly improved and are now what we generally recommend for partners.

step 13

Start completing the spouse visa online application form

#1 Go to the spouse visa application form 

To ensure that you use the correct online application, check out our spouse visa UK application form 2024 article. 


#2 Select Appendix FM Partner

You should select “Appendix FM Partner” if you are applying for a:

  • UK Spouse visa
  • UK Civil partner visa
  • Unmarried partner visa
  • Fiancé(e) visa
  • Proposed civil partner visa

#3 Select the country where the applicant will attend the visa centre.

This country must be the applicant’s country of nationality or a country where the applicant holds any type of long-term residency.


#4 Complete section 2 (‘Application’) and section 3 (‘Finances’) by inputting your and your partner’s information as asked


#5 Section 4 will give you a document checklist

Unfortunately, the document checklist that this website generates does not always list all of the documents that are required (& recommended).

This often gives partners a false sense of security that by submitting these documents alone, they will be guaranteed their visa (which, unfortunately, is not the case).

Our DIY Application pack service addresses this, as it:

  • Identifies the relevant rules that apply to specific documents
  • Identifies general rules that apply to all documents that are submitted
  • Points out common mistakes that people make
  • Lists documents that should be included in the application that are not listed on the official website
  • Tells you the sections of the Immigration Rules and Home Office that you have to read

We created this service because we know that there are thousands of capable people (just like you) who want to process the application themselves without paying thousands in immigration solicitor fees.

Our DIY Application Pack service will:

  • Help you save time by having the relevant information more centred in one place (rather than relying on the information scattered online).
  • Help you ensure that you do not miss out on an important document or requirement that, unfortunately, can result in a refusal (& loss of the Home Office fees).
  • Provide you with general email support for any questions that you may have
  • Save you potentially thousands of £s (when compared to paying for full legal representation)

We are so confident, based on our customer’s success, that we offer a 100% money-back guarantee.


#6 Declare contents of application form are correct in section 5


#7 Select the standard of service

“What are the processing times for these different services?”

As we discussed in our spouse visa UK processing time article, the following are the expected waiting times depending on the level of service you choose:

  • Standard service2-3 months (on average)
  • Priority service6 weeks (the cost will vary depending on the visa centre that you are applying from but will be around £500).



#8 Choose your appointment at the overseas visa centre

“My financial documents will be older than 28 days at the visa centre appointment. Is that an issue?”

What matters is that you meet the requirements when you submit and pay using the online website. This is known as the ‘date of application’.


Example

Jeff’s bank statements were issued on 1st December.

Therefore, if Jeff submits and pays for the Home Office fees using the online application website before 28 days (28 December), it does not matter if Jeff’s appointment is scheduled for 22 January.


“What about my child dependant’s application? Do we have to go to separate appointments?”

You can usually attend the same appointment as any child dependants that are applying at the same time as you.

If, when you book your child dependant’s appointment, you cannot choose the same time slot that you booked as the main applicant, this should not be an issue and you should bring your child dependants with you to your appointment.

In most cases, the staff at the desk will allow you to process both your and your child dependant’s application at the same time.



#9 Pay the Home Office fees and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

The Home Office fee will cost approximately £1,846 and the Immigration Health Surcharge £3,105.

I use the word ‘approximately’ because, as we discuss in our UK spouse visa fees 2024 article, the exchange rate used by the Home Office may result in you having to pay 5% above or below these figures.

Most commonly it is the UK partner that makes the payment but it’s also fine for family or friends to make the payment – the applicant does not need to use their card.


#10 You will then be redirected to either VFS or TLS website.

Whether you will be redirected to the VFS or the TLS website will depend on the country from which you are applying from.

When you have paid for the Home Office fees, you will automatically be given a reference number that starts with ‘GWF’. Take note of this.

It will be this number that you use to register for either the VFS or TLS website.

What is the point of the VFS/TLS websites?

The purpose of the VFS and TLS website is that it allows you to:

  • Upload your documentation; and
  • Pay for any additional services that you may like (between you and me, most of these additional services are pretty terrible).

step 14

Submitting the supporting documents

We discussed the various ways that documents can generally be submitted in this section here.

But now that you’ve paid the Home Office fee, you should have a much better idea about how you can submit your documents.

Of course, we would all prefer if the Home Office told us how the documents can be submitted beforehand, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

Please do not worry if you cannot submit the documents straight away.

What matters is that the documents meet the Immigration Rules at the date of application – not on the date that the Home Office receive the documents. 

step 15

Attend the appointment at the visa application centre

“What happens at the appointment?”

An overview as it relates to the visa centre from which you make your application can be found on the relevant VFS or TLS page.

In summary, the following will take place at the appointment.

1) Your biometric data will be recorded

‘Biometrics’ is the technical term for the recording of your fingerprints and photograph.

Your fingerprints will be recorded using a digital finger scanner.

Since the fingerprint scanner uses no ink chemicals or liquids, you will not end up with marked fingers.

Child applicants under the age of 5 will not normally have to have their fingerprints scanned.

Regarding the photograph, you will be provided with instructions such as ‘no sunglasses or tinted spectacles. All of that standard stuff.

2) The submission of documents, if you decide on submitting the documents at the overseas visa centre

Whether you are submitting documents at the overseas visa centre or not, in all cases, the applicant should bring a valid passport that has at least 1 page that is blank on both sides, or a travel document with you to the appointment.

You should also bring the document checklist that was automatically generated by the online application form.

Remember, you must read all instructions given. In most cases, the documentation provided to you by the Home Office will make it clear what you need to bring with you.

Make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes early to your appointment.

step 16

What happens after the visa appointment?

You will normally be notified when the Home Office has decided on your application via email.

In most cases, this email will just state that a decision has been made and will not let you know what the outcome of the application is.

There are normally three ways in which your passport (which will contain an entry clearance visa which will allow you to enter the UK) will be returned.

#1 You may be able to collect your documents in person


#2 You may be able to send a representative to pick them up for you

In such a case, the representative would normally need to provide a letter of authorisation that is signed by the applicant, and a copy as well as the application submission receipt.


#3 Your passport may be returned to you by courier

More information about how your passport is returned to you is on the relevant VFS/TLS page.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most difficult spouse visa requirement?

By far, the requirement that causes the most refusals is the financial requirement. It is therefore very important that you take the time to familiarise yourself with the Home Office guidance (& our free, detailed guides) regarding this.

Can I submit the spouse visa application without an immigration lawyer?

You can absolutely submit the spouse visa application without the help of an immigration lawyer - as long as you take the time required to really read into the spouse visa requirements (many of which we discuss in detail on this website).

Do I have to submit original supporting documentation?

Fortunately, the spouse visa process has changed so that submitting copies of the supporting documents is perfectly fine.

How do I submit the supporting documents?

The document submission procedure is something that varies from country-to-country. This is something that becomes much more clear as you progress through the spouse visa online application. You can, however, follow the instructions in this article to help you get a better idea regarding the options available to you.

Want help?

We hope that you found this guide helpful.

If you would like tailored written guidance for your spouse visa application (including a custom-tailored detailed document checklist and letter templates), we offer a £435 DIY Application Pack Service.

Alternatively, if you would like us to deal with your application from start to finish, we provide a Full Legal Representation Service.

This service is primarily offered by Ed Lowe who worked in the Home Office for 20+ years, with many of those years as a senior Home Office manager. Ed Lowe works with Matthew French and Wendy Foy, both of whom also worked in the Home Office.

uk spouse visa full legal representation

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