The following are the spouse visa UK requirements in 2023:
- You must submit a valid application
- You must meet the suitability requirements
- You must meet the relationship requirements
- You must meet the financial requirements
- You must meet the accommodation requirements
- You must meet the English language requirements
- You must meet the immigration status requirements (if you are applying from within the UK)
- You must submit a tuberculosis (TB) certificate (if you are applying from outside the UK in certain situations)
You must submit a ‘valid application’
If your application is not valid, the Home Office will treat your application as if you did not submit a spouse visa UK application at all.
To submit a valid application, you must:
- Complete the required sections of the 2023 spouse visa UK application form;
- Pay the spouse visa UK fees in 2023;
- Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS);
- Submit an approved proof of identity (a passport is usually submitted to satisfy this);
- Provide biometric information when asked (these are fingerprints, photos and signatures that are taken at the visa centre appointment);
- Provide a letter of consent from the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) (in certain situations where a child is applying).
A note to those applying for a spouse visa from inside the UK
If you are applying to extend the applicant’s stay in the UK, the valid application requirements are particularly important as not submitting a valid application can result in the applicant overstaying their visa.
We will now discuss Section 3C extensions as it is relevant to those applying to extend their current UK visa.
“What are Section 3C extensions?”
A common concern for partners who are applying from inside the UK is that the applicant’s visa will expire if the Home Office take too long to decide the application.
The effect of a Section 3C extension, however, is that as long as you:
- Submit the spouse visa UK application form (by paying the fees on the online application form website) before the current UK visa expires; AND
- Submit a valid application…
… the applicant is legally entitled to remain in the UK under the conditions of their existing visa while their application is being decided (or until their application is withdrawn).
- You are applying from inside the UK;
- You apply before the expiration of the current visa;
- But do not submit a valid application…
…any time you spend in the UK after the expiry of your visa awaiting a decision may be regarded as time spent in the UK illegally.
This can result in you getting deported, or even banned from the UK.
It is therefore important to understand the steps above and ensure that the application you submit is valid.
You must meet the suitability requirements
In short, this requirement assesses whether there is anything in the applicant’s character, conduct, immigration or criminal records that makes it unsuitable for them to be granted a UK spouse visa.
The requirements slightly vary depending on whether:
- The application is being submitted outside the UK (an ‘out-of-country application’); or
- The application is being submitted inside the UK (an ‘in-country application’).
Situations in which your application will be refused
S-EC.1.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules specifies that your application will be refused if your application is against the public interest – for these reasons:
#1 The Secretary of State has personally stated that you are to be excluded;
#2 You have been issued a deportation order that is still in place when you apply;
#3 You have:
(a) been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least 4 years after being convicted of a criminal offence; or
(b) sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least 12 months (but less than 4 years) due to a criminal offence, unless 10 years have passed since the end date of the sentence; or
(c) sentenced to a period of imprisonment of fewer than 12 months due to a criminal offence, unless a period of 5 years has passed since the end date of the sentence.
#4 Your overall conduct or character makes it appear that you should not be granted a spouse visa.
#5 You were asked but did not comply (without reasonable excuse) with a request to provide:
- A medical report (or a medical examination); or
- Biometric information.
#6 Medical reasons make it such that it is undesirable to grant you a UK spouse visa.
#7 You left or were removed from the UK as a condition of a caution issued by section 22 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the 5 years before the spouse visa’s date of decision.
Situations in which your application may be refused
S-EC.2.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules states that your application may be refused if any of the following apply:
#1 False documentation, representation or information has been submitted as part of your spouse visa application (whether you knew that this was the case or not);
#2 You have failed to provide important information during the spouse visa UK process;
#3 You were asked or were required to provide a maintenance and accommodation undertaking but failed to do so;
#4 You were convicted of an offence in the 12 months before the date of decision due to a non-custodial sentence or another out-of-court disposal that has been recorded on your criminal record, resulting in a grant of the spouse visa being conducive to the public good;
#5 Your past actions have caused serious harm or have shown you to be a ‘persistent offender who shows a particular disregard of the law’;
#6 Litigation costs have been awarded to the Home Office and you have failed to pay them;
Situations in which your application will be refused
S-LTR.1.1 of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules specifies that your application to remain in the UK will be refused if it is not in the public interest for these reasons:
#1 You have been issued a deportation order which is still in force;
#2 You have been convicted of an offence for which you have been:
i) sentenced to imprisonment for at least 4 years; or
ii) sentenced to imprisonment for less than 4 years but at least 12 months;
#3 Your offending has caused serious harm or you are deemed to be a ‘persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law’;
#4 It is undesirable to grant you a visa because of your previous conduct;
#5 You were asked to attend an interview but failed to do so;
#6 You were asked to provide information (including medically related information & physical data) but failed to do so;
#7 You were asked to undergo a medical examination but failed to do so.
Situations in which your application may be refused
If any of the following apply, your application may be refused:
#1 You provided incorrect supporting documentation, or information or made incorrect representations as part of your FLR(M) visa application (regardless of whether you knew this or not).
#2 You did not mention relevant and important information in your FLR(M) visa application.
#3 You were asked to submit a maintenance and accommodation undertaking but did not do so.
#4 There are practical or legal reasons which result in you not being able to be removed from the UK.
#5 You have previously made false representations or failed to disclose material facts to obtain a document that indicates that you have a right to reside in the United Kingdom.
#6 Legal costs have been awarded to the Home Office for which you have not yet paid.
In summary, the suitability requirements are those that measure your application against the public interest.
If it is deemed that your current or past behaviour, or associations, pose a threat or danger to the public, your application will not be granted.
With the above being said, the suitability requirements only directly affect a tiny minority of applications.
If you think that one of the above may apply to your application, you should consider speaking with an experienced immigration advisor.
We will now discuss the next spouse visa UK requirement – the relationship requirement.
You must meet the relationship requirement
#1 To apply for a UK spouse visa, both you and your partner must be aged 18 years or over.
#2 The applicant must fall within a definition of a “partner” in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
The definition of a “partner” covers the following relationships:
- Married partners;
- Civil partners;
- Fiancé(e) or proposed civil partners; or
- Unmarried partners (Partners who have been living together in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least two years before the date of application).
These sub-categories are:
(ii) Civil partner visa applications
The requirements for applying as a civil partner are identical to applying as a married partner in all but name.
The only substantial difference is that you must submit a valid civil partnership certificate as opposed to a valid marriage certificate.
Our step-by-step application guide for out-of-country applications can be found here.
Our step-by-step application guide for in-country applications can be found here.
(iv) Unmarried partner visa applications
Our step-by-step application guide for unmarried partner visa applications can be found in our 2023 unmarried partner visa UK article.
#3 Regardless of the category applicable to your circumstances, you must demonstrate that:
- Your relationship falls into one of the definitions above; and
- Your relationship is genuine and subsisting.
#4 The sponsor (also known as the ‘UK partner’) must be one of the following:
- A British Citizen; or
- Present and settled in the UK; or
- Someone who has been granted Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme; or
- 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); or
- Holds the immigration status of having either refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK; or
- A person who is in the UK with limited leave as a worker or business person under Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay.
“What does ‘settled’ mean?”
Settled here includes those who have either:
- Permanent residency under EU law; or
- Indefinite Leave to Remain under UK immigration law.
“What about the ‘present’ requirement? My partner lives outside of the UK with me. Do I still meet this requirement?”
This requirement does generally not cause issues – even for sponsors who have been living overseas.
Where the UK partner lives outside of the UK and has expressed that they will be returning to the UK with the applicant if the application is successful, they will generally be treated as being ‘present’ in the UK.
#5 Both the applicant and the UK partner must intend to live together permanently in the UK.
If you and your partner have lived apart for any period, you should discuss this in your application as it may suggest that you and your partner do not intend to live together permanently in the UK.
#6 The applicant and UK partner’s relationship must not fall within the prohibited degree of relationship.
#7 Depending on your relationship with the person you are seeking to join or remain in the UK, you must also prove that:
- Your marriage or civil partnership is valid (if you are applying as a married or civil partner); or
- You are engaged, free to marry and are seeking entry to the UK to enable your marriage to take place within six months of entry in the UK (if you are applying as a fiancé(e)); or
- You have lived together akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least two years before applying (if you are applying as an unmarried partner).
#8 Any previous relationships of both the applicant and UK partner have broken down permanently.
Previous legally recognised relationships must be evidenced appropriately.
For example, previous divorces of the applicant and/or UK partner must be evidenced by submitting a copy of a decree absolute (or overseas equivalent).
What are the additional requirements relating to applicants in the UK on a UK fiancé(e) visa?
#1 If you were granted a visa as a fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner and your marriage or civil partnership ceremony did not take place during the validity of your original visa, you must provide:
- an explanation explaining the reasons why the marriage or civil partnership ceremony did not take place; and
- an explanation as to why your ceremony will take place within the next 6 months.
#2 You cannot apply to remain in the UK (using an FLR(M) visa) with a fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner unless you were originally granted a visa in that category with the same UK partner.
You must satisfy the financial requirement
The spouse visa financial requirements for applications that are made from inside the UK and from outside the UK are very similar and can be found in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
The spouse visa UK financial requirement in 2023 is something that many partners, unfortunately, underestimate because:
- You need to know exactly how you meet the financial requirement;
- You need to know exactly the rules regarding including and combining certain incomes; and
- You need to know exactly the specific rules regarding financial documentation.
For a more detailed account of the financial requirement, you may wish to read our financial requirement article here.
We also discuss commonly made financial requirement mistakes in our 3-part free video series.
It should first be noted that only applicants who are in the UK on a UK visa that allows them to legally work may include their employment and self-employment income towards the financial requirement.
The following are the spouse visa financial requirements that must be met for both in-Country and out-of-country spouse (partner) visa applications:
#1 You must provide supporting evidence in the requested format that shows your application meets or exceeds the minimum gross annual income.
This income can only derive from permitted sources, including:
- Employment in a specified or non-specified company;
- Self-employment in a specified or non-specified company;
- Cash funds;
- Pensions; and
- Other income listed under the “Non-employment income” category such as dividends or rental income.
#2 For most partners, the level of income required is £18,600, but this can change depending on the following:
i) Whether there are dependant applying children
If, in addition to the main applicant applying, you are also applying with dependent children (i.e., children under 18 years of age who are also applying for a visa) then you must show £18,600 for the main applicant (i.e., the dependant child’s parent) and an additional £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child.
Children who are British citizens do not increase the £18,600 minimum income threshold.
ii) Whether you are including cash savings
If you are relying solely on cash savings to meet the financial requirement, then the level of funds you must demonstrate will be at least £62,500 (depending on whether dependant children are also applying).
Cash funds of at least £16,000 but less than £62,000 can be combined with most sources of income to show you meet the financial requirement.
In this case, the level of cash funds that you hold will lower the minimum income threshold that applies to your application.
Detailed information about including cash savings towards the financial requirement can be found in our article “Cash Savings Guidance for 16000 – 62500+ Spouse & UK Partner visas in 2023“.
As the above link will discuss, equity in a property is not cash savings, nor is equity in stocks, investments & bonds.
iii) Whether the adequate maintenance requirement applies
If the UK partner (sponsor) receives a permitted benefit in the UK, then the minimum income threshold of £18,600 does not apply.
Rather, you must show that you meet the adequate maintenance requirement.
A brief account of the adequate maintenance requirement will be provided below but a more detailed account of this can be found in our article “Adequate Maintenance Guidance for UK visas [2023 requirements]”
The permitted benefits are:
- Disability living allowance;
- Carer’s allowance;
- Attendance allowance;
- Severe disablement allowance;
- Personal independence payment;
- Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme;
- Industrial injury disablement benefit;
- Police Injury Pension; and
- Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme.
The level of maintenance income required is calculated using the following formula :
A minus B is greater than or equal to C.
- A is the net income (after deduction of income tax and National Insurance contributions);
- B is housing costs (what needs to be spent on accommodation); and
- C is the amount of Income Support an equivalent family unit can receive in the UK.
The reason for this is that the Immigration Rules require sufficient income to be available for the entire family unit to be maintained without recourse to public funds.
This income must equal or exceed the level of Income Support a family unit of equivalent size can receive in the UK, which is C of the above equation.
This doesn’t seem straightforward at first, I know – but we provide a step-by-step approach that you can take to calculate the adequate maintenance test here.
“What if I do not meet the financial requirement when I submit the spouse visa UK application?”
If the application is being made from inside the UK, the financial requirement will not need to be met if a paragraph EX.1. exception applies.
“What is the paragraph EX.1. exception?”
The paragraph EX.1. exception applies where you have a genuine and subsisting relationship with a child (aged 18 or under, or aged 18 or under on the date of application) or with your spouse (partner), in one of the two specific situations below.
The two situations can be quite difficult to meet and there can be a lot of relevant laws regarding who can qualify under the paragraph EX.1. Exception.
Because of this, we will only briefly touch on it here.
Situation 1 – Where it is unreasonable to expect a child to leave the UK
In the case of a child who is living in the UK, it would be unreasonable to expect the child to leave the UK.
The relevant child must:
- Be a British Citizen; or
- Is living and has been living in the UK continuously for at least the past 7 years.
Situation 2 – Insurmountable circumstances
‘Insurmountable circumstances’ here will mean you cannot continue your family life with your spouse (partner) outside of the UK.
It is important to note that this standard is rather high and difficult to satisfy.
If either of the two exceptions applies, you will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK after 10 years rather than the standard 5-year qualifying period.
The paragraph EX.1. exception explained above does not apply to applications submitted outside of the UK.
We will now discuss the accommodation spouse visa UK requirement.
You must meet the adequate accommodation requirement
The spouse visa adequate accommodation requirement for both out-of-country and in-country applications can be found at E-ECP.3.4. and E-LTRP.3.4. of Appendix FM.
As we discuss in part 3 of our 3-part video series, accommodation cannot be prospective.
Therefore, the Immigration Rules will require you to provide documentation to show that there will be adequate accommodation for all persons living in the same household – even if not included in the application – without recourse to public funds.
Adequate accommodation constitutes accommodation which is not overcrowded and complies with public health regulations.
For in-country applications, however, the accommodation requirement does not need to be met if paragraph EX.1. of Appendix FM applies (which will result in having to meet a 10-year qualifying period before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain rather than the standard 5-year qualifying period).
We discussed the paragraph EX.1. exception earlier in this article here.
The paragraph EX.1. exception (discussed in this article here) does not apply to out-of-country applications.
You must meet the English language requirement
The English language requirement can be found under the heading “Section E-ECP: Eligibility for entry clearance as a partner – English language requirement” in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
You can demonstrate that you meet the required level of English in one of these ways:
#1 By being a national of a majority English-speaking country.
The following are majority English-speaking countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- the Bahamas;
- New Zealand;
- St Kitts and Nevis;
- St Lucia;
- St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Trinidad and Tobago; or
- The United States of America.
#2 By passing an English language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages with a Home Office approved provider.
We discuss English language test mistakes that partners make in video 1 of our 3-part video series.
#3 By holding either:
- an English-taught Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree awarded by an educational establishment in the UK; or
- An English-taught qualification taught outside the UK that is deemed by UK NARIC to meet or exceed the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree in the UK.
#4 By being exempt.
The following are generally exempt from the English language requirement:
(i) Applicants aged 65 or over;
(ii) Applicants who have a disability (physical or mental condition) which prevents them from meeting the English language requirement; or
(iii) Applicants who have exceptional circumstances which prevent them from being able to meet the requirement before entry to the UK.
For applications that are made inside the UK, the relevant rules can be found under “Section E-LTRP: Eligibility for limited leave to remain as a partner – English language requirement” in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
There are two main differences when compared to out-of-country applicants.
#1 Spouse (partner) visa applicants will be required to pass level A2 of the English test if they are extending their previously issued partner visa and are applying for an FLR(M) visa based on their relationship.
#2 The English language requirement for In-Country applications does not need to be met if the paragraph EX.1. exception applies.
The paragraph EX.1. exception does not apply to applications that are made from outside the UK.
You must meet the Immigration Status requirement (if you are applying from INSIDE the UK)
Most applicants already in the UK would probably prefer to extend their stay and submit an application for further leave to remain – also known as the FLR(M) application – from inside the UK.
Applying from inside the UK has certain benefits:
- The FLR(M) and spouse visa extension fees and costs in 2023 are cheaper;
- There is no tuberculosis (TB) test requirement;
- Applicants will normally be able to contribute their employment and self-employment earnings towards the financial requirement (depending on their current visa); and
- For applicants who are already inside the UK, it is much more convenient for them to make the application from inside the UK rather than having to return to their home country to make the application.
However, not every applicant is entitled to submit an FLR (M) application from inside the UK.
The reasons for this can be found under “Section E-LTRP: Eligibility for limited leave to remain as a partner – Immigration status requirements” in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
In a nutshell, the applicant cannot apply to extend their stay in the UK using the FLR(M) application if:
- they are in the UK as a visitor, or
- they were granted a visa in any other category for 6 months or less (except if they are in the UK on a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner visa); or
- they are on immigration bail (unless they arrived in the UK more than 6 months before the date of their spouse visa application); or
- they are in breach of any of the Immigration Rules (unless there are exceptional circumstances or the period of overstaying is permitted – remember Section 3C which we discuss here)
So, this essentially means that it is mainly only those individuals who are in the UK on a long-term visa that can submit an FLR (M) application from inside the UK.
“I am in the UK as a non-visa national. Can I apply from inside the UK?”
“If I am applying from inside the UK, when shall I apply?”
Knowing when to submit your FLR(M) visa application is something very important to know to avoid a possible application refusal and costly Home Office fees.
For those who are submitting a spouse visa application from inside the UK, we discuss when a spouse visa application should be submitted in more detail here.
Below is a brief overview of the situation.
First and foremost, we need to again clarify that the ‘date of application’ is the date that you submit your completed application form and pay for the FLR(M) fees in 2023 on the FLR(M) application form.
So the date of application for your FLR(M) application must be before the expiration of your current UK visa.
If you are currently in the UK on a spouse (partner) visa and wish to submit an FLR (M) application for further leave to remain, the date of application should not be more than 28 days before your current spouse (partner) visa expires.
The reason for this is to avoid submitting another (unnecessary) FLR (M) application in the future to reach the 5-year qualifying period.
“What is the 5-year qualifying period?”
This is the amount of time you must live in the UK before you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the spouse (partner) route, which is the next stage of the process.
If you are currently in the UK on a fiancé(e) visa or on another type of visa (i.e. Tier 2 (General) or a General student visa (Tier 4) and wish to submit an FLR (M) application for further leave to remain, the date of application can be at any time before the expiration of your current visa.
“And what about the 5-year qualifying period here?”
Non-partner visas do not count towards the 5-year qualifying period that is required to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under the spouse (partner) route.
“Does my appointment at the visa centre have to be before my visa expires?”
Unless stated otherwise in the official Home Office correspondence, there is no time limit in which you must make your appointment, although we recommend not leaving it too long.
With this being said, it is of course important to remember that the date of application is before your current visa expiry date.
“What if my visa expires whilst I am waiting for the Home Office to make their decision?”
This is fine because of Section 3C.
As long as you submit a valid FLR (M) application and the date of application falls before the expiration of your current visa, you will be legally allowed to stay in the UK under the same conditions as your most recently issued visa until the date your FLR (M) application is decided or withdrawn.
You must also meet the Tuberculosis (TB) requirement
Partner visa applicants who are making an in-country application will not need to take a Tuberculosis (TB) test.
If you are making the spouse (partner) visa application from outside the UK, you may have to take a TB test, if you are habitually resident in one of the listed countries.
The test for TB generally takes the form of a chest X-ray.
If the result is not clear, you may also be asked to give a sputum sample (phlegm coughed up from your lungs).
If your test shows that you are free from Tuberculosis, you will be provided with a certificate that you must submit in your spouse visa application.
The certificate that will be issued to you will be valid for 6 months.
It’s worth also pointing out that the following individuals will not need to be tested and will therefore not have to provide a Tuberculosis certificate:
- Diplomats accredited to the UK;
- Those who are classed as returning UK residents and have not been away from the UK for more than 2 years; and
- Those who have lived for at least 6 months in a country where TB screening is not required by the UK and have been away from that country for no more than 6 months.
“What about children?”
All children must see a doctor who will decide if they need a chest X-ray.
Children under 11 years of age will not normally be tested, however.
You must take your child to an approved clinic and complete a health questionnaire.
If the results show that your child does not have TB, you will be issued a TB certificate which must be included with the visa application.
“What about pregnant women?”
Pregnant women can choose:
- an X-ray with an extra shield to protect her and her unborn child in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters; or
- a sputum test – there may be an extra fee and you could wait up to 8 weeks for results; or
- to wait to take the TB test after the delivery of the baby.
Spouse visa UK requirement FAQs
When do the spouse visa requirements have to be met?
The spouse visa requirements have to be met on the ‘date of application’. The date of application is the date that you pay the Home Office fees on the online application.
Is there a requirement to continually satisfy the requirements for the duration of the visa?
No. There is no requirement to continually satisfy all of the requirements for the duration of the visa. What matters is that the requirements are met when you pay the fees on the online application.
What is the most difficult spouse visa requirement?
The most difficult spouse visa requirement is undoubtedly the financial requirement. This is because the Home Office adopt an overly strict stance with regards to financial documentation in particular.
What happens if I do not meet all of the requirements?
Unfortunately, if you do not meet all of the requirements, it is likely that your application will be refused.
Unfortunately, far too many partners do not invest the time required to submit their spouse visa applications.
In light of the significance of the visa for both you and your partner, please ensure that you spend enough time familiarising yourself with the spouse visa requirements.
This is especially because the requirements are strict and very specific in some areas.
We are a fully regulated OISC immigration law firm and we provide a range of services.
Our full legal representation service involves our advisors processing your case from start to finish.
This service is primarily offered by Ed Lowe (who worked in the heart of the Home Office for 20+ years).
Ed works alongside Wendy Foy and Matthew French – both of whom also worked for the Home Office.
On the other hand, we offer a unique DIY Application Pack service where we will provide you with a tailored set of:
- Document checklist(s) (which also contain the relevant document-specific Immigration Rules); and
- Letter templates.
As part of this service, we also offer general email support.
Since the feedback from our customers has been so overwhelmingly positive, we are so confident that our application pack will help you successfully process your spouse visa that we offer a 100% money-back guarantee.