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.
The spouse visa UK processing time in 2020 is between 2-3 months (on average). This is the time it takes for the Home Office to decide your application.
The Home Office provide helpful tables like the following (in the case of Manilla, the Philippines):
|Spouse visa UK processing time in 2020||2-3 months (on average)|
|5 days||12% of cases decided|
|10 days||12% of cases decided|
|15 days||28% of cases decided|
|30 days||50% of cases decided|
|60 days||90% of cases decided|
|90 days||96% of cases decided|
|120 days||96% of cases decided|
“Where can I find out more information relating to the visa that I am going to submit?”
We have created several detailed and comprehensive guides covering a range of visas.
If you are submitting a spouse visa application from outside the UK, check out our spouse visa UK 2020 guidance.
If you are submitting a spouse visa application from inside the UK, check out our FLR(M) visa 2020 guidance.
If you are submitting an unmarried partner visa application from outside the UK, check out our unmarried partner UK visa 2020 guidance.
If you are submitting a fiancé(e) visa, check out our fiance visa UK 2020 guidance.
Unfortunately, it may be the case that the Home Office have not published the specific spouse visa UK processing times in 2020 for the country that you are applying from.
Unlike that of the UK visitor visa, the information regarding spouse visa processing times is somewhat limited!
So you will be asking…
How Do I Find Out The Processing Time For A Spouse Visa UK for MY Country?
For those who are submitting the application from outside the UK, check this link.
For spouse visa applications that are made from inside the UK, the Home Office do not offer a similar tool.
If you are submitting the application from inside the UK, as we discuss in our FLR(M) Visa 2020 guidance (by the way, a FLR(M) visa is essentially a spouse visa that is being submitted from inside the UK), it generally takes 6-8 weeks for the Home Office to process the application.
From the dropdown list, choose the location that the application is being submitted from.
This will be either the applicant’s country of nationality or country of residence.
‘Settlement Visas’ will be the correct option here.
OK. It is likely that after you have reached this step, you do not see ‘Settlement Visas’ – sorry!
Whilst the Home Office used to give up-to-date information for the majority of countries, this is not the case anymore.
Just so you know, if you are only interested in applying for a spouse visa UK, ignore the ‘Visit Visas’, ‘Points Based System Visas’ and ‘Other Non Settlement Visas’ options.
This is because partner visas do not fall under any of these categories.
After selecting ‘settlement’ (if it is indeed there) you should see something like the above screenshot.
4 Reasons Why Your Spouse visa UK Application Might Have A Shorter Processing Time
Home Office caseworkers have targets that they have to meet.
In other words, they will have to process a certain amount of applications each and every week.
Following from this, some factors will lead to applications being processed faster than others.
This is something that we often experience as our applications tend to come back quicker than the standard stated timeframes (not-so-subtle brag).
The following are some factors that will likely reduce the spouse visa UK processing time in 2020:
#1 Having a well-written supporting letter
This is something that we talk about quite a lot on this website – for good reason!
Having well-written supporting letters gives the Home Office worker a good outline on how you meet the different requirements.
In addition to this, a well-written supporting letter tells the Home Office caseworker that, unlike the majority of UK spouse visa applications, you actually know the requirements and the relevant documentation that must be submitted.
The result of this is that it is less likely for your application to be chucked at the bottom of the Home Office caseworker’s pile.
As an OISC regulated UK immigration law firm, we provide professionally written supporting letters for both the applicant and sponsor (UK partner) that are tailored according to the information you provide us with our Spouse Visa DIY Application Pack Service.
(p.s. as part of this service, we include detailed document checklists that not only identify the required documents, but also the Immigration Rules as they apply to certain documents).
#2 The applicant has never been refused a UK visa
Those who have previously been refused a UK visa tend to face increased scrutiny when they submit subsequent applications – especially when they are applying for a similar type of visa that has previously been refused.
Example: Jacky is a Canadian national who has been issued two UK visitor visas and a Tier 4 (Student) visa.
When Jacky applies for her UK spouse visa, the fact that she has a good UK immigration history (she complied with all of the conditions for her previous visas) and has never been refused a UK visa, means that her case is more straightforward than if she has been refused a UK visa.
Therefore, because of this, the Jacky’s spouse visa UK processing time is likely going to be quicker than if she has been refused several UK visas.
#3 The application includes clear photocopies
You will be glad to know that the new online application process for both out-of-country and in-country spouse visa applications allow you to keep your original documents and to instead submit copies.
This change is especially welcome considering the amount of original, precious documents that the Home Office have lost over the years!
When you submit your supporting documents, please sure that the copies that you do submit are clear and that the copies cover the whole document.
Another thing to note is that some overseas visa centres (as well as various optional document submitting services such the new UK walk-in-service) insist quite strongly on A4-sized copies.
#4 The application includes all of the documents that should be submitted and these documents comply with the Immigration Rules
As we emphasised in our UK spouse visa guide, one of the biggest mistakes that partners make is relying too much on the automated document checklist that is generated by the online application website.
Unfortunately, the document checklist on the online application website:
i) does not always include all of the documents that you need to submit; and
ii) does not tell you what the Immigration Rules are regarding specific documentation.
Because the Home Office are particularly strict regarding these, if you do not submit all of the required documentation, or if the documentation that you submit does not comply 100% with the Immigration Rules, the Home Office caseworker will have to decide whether to:
i) Exercise their discretion and grant your application, despite not being fully compliant;
ii) Contact you to ask for the missing evidence (or evidence that complies with the Immigration Rules); or
iii) Refuse your application because not all of the required documentation has been submitted (or because the documentation submitted does not comply with the Immigration Rules).
Obviously, if you submit an application that includes all of the relevant documentation that complies with the Immigration Rules, the application is likely to be processed quicker because there are no decisions to be made – rather the Home Office caseworker must grant the application.
Special attention should be given to the financial requirements, as this is what usually the most troublesome aspect of UK spouse visas.
“How can I ensure that there are no delays or refusals because of financial documents?”
The best thing to do is to spend the time to read two or three particular sources of information, depending on your circumstances.
What is Appendix FM-SE?
Appendix FM-SE is the most important source of information that you should read regarding the financial requirement, as it is part of the UK Immigration Rules.
It will discuss two key aspects of your UK spouse visa, being:
i) What financial documents you should submit; and
ii) The rules that apply to certain financial documents.
What is Appendix FM 1.7?
Appendix FM 1.7 is the official Home Office guidance regarding the financial requirement for UK spouse visas and is a good starting point.
The good news is that it is written in relatively understandable English.
With this being said, reading this does not substitute the reading of Appendix FM-SE since Appendix FM-SE is the actual law that will be applied.
What is Appendix FM 1.7a?
Appendix FM 1.7a is a document created by the Home Office that discusses the adequate maintenance requirement, which is relevant where the UK partner receives what is known as a ‘permitted benefit‘.
It also discusses aspects regarding the accommodation requirement, such what constitutes ‘overcrowding’.
“How would Migrate.org.uk’s DIY Application Pack Service help us prepare the application?”
Our DIY Application pack service will provide you with a tailored document checklist and set of letter templates that are custom made in accordance with the information that you provide us.
It is a good alternative for full legal representation as it:
- Provides you with an comprehensive & detailed document checklist that lists the documents that are generally expected to be submitted
- Identifies the particular Immigration Rules that apply to certain documents (where non-compliance of which often results in refusal)
- Saves you time by providing you with a variety of professionally written letter templates that comply with the Immigration Rules
- Identifies the relevant sections in the Appendix FM-SE and Appendix FM 1.7 & Appendix FM 1.7a guidance.
Since our client’s results have been incredibly positive, we offer a 100% money back guarantee on this service.
Oh and, it also includes general email support from a qualified immigration advisor.
3 Reasons Why Your Application Might Have a Longer Processing Time
#1 If you have previously been refused a UK visa
As said above, a bad immigration history will mean that your application will face more scrutiny than if you have a good UK immigration history.
#2 If your application talks and references human rights
In UK immigration law, you will not have to meet all of the requirements (i.e. the financial requirements) if your case can succeed under human rights.
However, it should certainly be noted that human rights applications are complicated and it will therefore take longer for the caseworker to consider the relevant circumstances.
#3 If you submit an application with incomplete documentation
If you submit an application where documents are missing, this may delay the decision of the application.
This is because Home Office caseworkers have the right to request documentation where it has not been provided.
This is not to mean, however, that you should submit an application with incomplete documentation in the hope that they will ask for documents – it is also very possible for them to decide to refuse the application!
With this being said, it remains as important as always to make sure that all of the required documentation is submitted (our tailored DIY Application Pack service may help with this).
#4 If your application does not meet all of the requirements
If your application does not meet all of the spouse visa UK requirements in 2020, the most likely outcome is that your application will be refused.
However, there is also the possibility of the Home Office caseworker exercising their discretion and allowing the application (or requesting more information).
In such a case, this will obviously add to the processing time.
Can You Speed Up The Spouse Visa UK Processing Time?
The answer is (usually) yes.
This, however, will cost you more money as additional services will need to be paid (in addition to the Home Office spouse visa UK fee in 2020).
If you are applying from outside the UK
The VFS website looks like the following:
When you are on this website, it is very important to make sure that you are in the right section.
This is because the VFS has different versions of pages depending on the country you are applying from.
Let’s take the United States as an example.
The VFS site provides us with the following information relating to the US:
A priority service for settlement applications (i.e. spouse visas, fiancé(e) visas), unmarried partner visas) will cost 765 USD. This equates to approximately £600.
They will aim to decide your application within 30 days from when you submit your biometric information at the visa centre.
To use the example of Pakistan, the VFS site tells us:
PKR109685 as the fee for the priority service for settlement visas. This equates to slightly more than £600 at the time of writing.
They will also aim to decide the application within 30 days from when biometric information is submitted at the visa centre.
Top tip 1: If you are having trouble finding the specific page for the country from which you are applying from, replace the letters ‘pk’ in the following link for the letters that represent your country: https://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/pk/en/premium-services/priority-visa-for-settlement
Top tip 2: Make sure that the priority visa service in question specifically covers ‘settlement’ visas. Usually, there are two priority services offered, one for non-settlement visas and one for settlement visas. It is the settlement visas that you probably want!
If you are applying from inside the UK
If you want to speed up the process, you will be provided with the option of doing so after you have paid the Home Office fee via the new online FLR M website here.
After you have submitted your application via this new website, you will be sent to the Sopra Steria website where you will be asked to book your appointment to attend a visa centre in person.
After this, you can choose to pay an additional fee so that your application is decided quicker. You will be able to choose from the following three services:
- A standard service where your application will be decided within the normal timescale;
- A ‘priority’ service, where you would expect to hear back from the Home Office within 5 working days; or
- A ‘super priority service’, where you would normally hear the decision on the next working day.
Since the new online application website will allow you and your partner to keep your passports, you may decide that you do not need the priority service.
WHEN should you pay for priority service that will speed up the process time?
For out-of-country applications, it is advised to not pay for the priority settlement visa service if one of the following apply:
- You have been refused a visa for the UK, and/or;
- You have overstayed a period of leave in the UK, and/or;
- You have been deported, removed, or otherwise required to leave the UK, and/or;
- You have been refused leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office, and/or;
- You have committed a criminal offence in any country.
- You have had leave to remain in the UK curtailed by the Home Office, and/or;
- You have been refused leave to enter the UK, and/or
- You have been interviewed, detained, or prosecuted by the police for any offence in the UK or elsewhere, and/or;
- You have been refused a visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America, or the Schengen countries, and/or;
- You have an unspent criminal conviction in any country, and/or;
In the above cases, there will be no guarantee that they will be able to speed up the spouse visa processing time to within the stated standard of 30 days.
Can I keep my passport whilst the Home Office processes my application?
If you are applying from inside the UK
In the new online application for FLR (M) visas, you and your partner should be able to keep your passport.
If you are applying from outside the UK
In some cases, yes.
You should check the VFS website for the particular country that you are applying from.
Example: Asia is applying from Pakistan. She checks the VFS website and sees this service ‘Keep My Passport When Applying’
This service was listed for PKR 6500, which equates to about £36 at the time of writing.
Frequently asked questions
When does the spouse visa processing time start?
For standard (non-priority) applications, the time will start when the Home Office receive your application. For priority services, this generally starts when you attend the visa centre and provide the supporting evidence.
How Do the Home Office Contact You To Give You Progress Updates?
They generally don’t. In the majority of cases, you will hear back from the Home Office when they have decided your application. In some cases, where they would like more information or documents, they would get in touch. You would then have a certain amount of days to provide this information or documentation.
My visa will expire if the Home Office take long to reach a decision. Is this a problem?
This is something that is commonly worried about but, in the vast majority of cases, it should not be. This is because of a piece of law called Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1941.
“What is Section 3C of the Immigration Act?
In plain English, this simply means that if you submit your application whilst you have a valid visa (i.e. your visa has not expired yet), then you will have ‘continuing leave’ whilst the visa is being decided.
Example: Shazia was first granted entry to the UK on a Tier 4 (Student) visa. She applied from her home country of Pakistan. Her visa had an expiry date of 20th December 2020. As long as she submits the online application before the 20th December 2020, she will be fine – even if the Home Office take 1 year to decide. This is because Section 3C.
The spouse visa UK processing time is probably much longer than you hoped for – sorry!
Depending on whether you are willing to spend a couple hundred £s, you will probably be looking at a waiting time of 2-3 months.
If you want professional immigration help for £285, we can provide you with a tailored document checklist and letter templates so you can make the best application possible.