Love conquers all; except the UK visa system. Every year, many couples endure forced separation because one party cannot obtain a UK Spouse visa. During her time in as Home Secretary, Theresa May towed a hard line on family members who wished to join their loved ones in the UK; ruthlessly tightening eligibility requirements and introducing the loathed £18,600 income threshold (more about this later).
This guide is designed to arm you with knowledge regarding the UK Spouse visa, so your chances of submitting a successful application are greater. It also covers off all you need to know about surviving the dreaded Spouse visa interview.
UK Spouse visa – The Essentials
If you are married to a British Citizen or a person who is ‘settled’ (i.e. has Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK and you wish to join him or her, then you must apply for a UK Spouse visa.
To be eligible, you must satisfy the following conditions:
- you must be over 18 years
- you and your spouse must have met each other and be legally married
- you must intend to live permanently with your spouse in the UK
- you must satisfy the English language requirements
- the spouse who is ‘settled’ in the UK must be earning a minimum of £18,600 per year or have enough savings to support you both. More funds are required if you plan to bring dependent children with you
- the settled partner must have suitable accommodation for you and any children coming with you
The definition of legally married
When deciding whether or not a marriage that has taken place overseas should be recognised in the UK, immigration officials will ask the following questions of the marriage:
- is the type of marriage one recognised in the country in which it took place?
- was the actual marriage properly executed so as to satisfy the requirements of the law of the country in which it took place? (This relates to the requirements for the marriage ceremony itself).
- was there anything in the law of either party's country of domicile (at the time of the marriage) that restricted his/her freedom to enter the marriage?
If the answers to the above questions are respectively, "yes", "yes" and "no" then the marriage is valid whether or not it is polygamous.
The £18,600 income requirement
The ‘settled’ UK partner who is sponsoring their spouse to come to the UK must meet the minimum income requirement if a UK Spouse visa is to be granted. The minimum income the sponsoring partner must have is £18,600 per annum, rising to £22,400 if they have one child and £2,400 for every additional child.
Cash savings can be used to meet any shortfall in income. They must have originated from any legal source but must have been owned by and been under the control of the person and/or their partner for at least six months prior to the date of application.
The funds cannot be derived from a loan or credit facilities.
Gifts from third parties are permitted, provided that the funds have been held in your bank account for at least six months and the source is declared. Gifts are to be distinguished from promises of third-party support, which are not acceptable.
The amount of cash savings required to meet the shortfall in income is onerous (to put it mildly). The first £16,000 of savings is not counted towards the shortfall figure. If you currently live overseas, your savings over and above £16,000 needed to meet the £18,600 threshold must be multiplied by 2.5. The only way to clearly explain this is by offering an example:
Let’s say your sponsoring partner has been working for his or her employer for six months and earns a gross annual salary of £14,500. The shortfall from £18,600 equals £4,100. This figure must be multiplied by 2.5, which equals £10,250. Therefore, you and your spouse must have savings of £26,250 (£16,000 + £10,250) to meet the income threshold. Why so high? Because, if you remember, the first £16,000 of savings does not count (this is known as the ‘base’).
The spouse visa interview
If UK Visas and Immigration suspects that your marriage is not genuine, you may be asked to attend a spouse visa interview. These can be a stressful situation for a couple, because even if you know your marriage is a genuine love match, being put in a situation where you know you are being judged can cause anyone’s nerves to get the better of them.
The types of questions you may be asked include:
- When and how did you first meet your husband/wife?
- Did he/she write or call you; how have you communicated?
- When did your husband/wife propose to you?
- What religion is your husband/wife?
- What are your husband’s/wife’s hobbies or what does he/she do in his/her spare time?
Signs that will raise a red flag as to the sincerity of your marriage include:
- you and your spouse have not spent much time together
- you married shortly after you met, or before meeting in person
- neither of you speak a common language
- there are many differences in your age, religion, culture and education
The bar has been raised significantly for those seeking a UK Spouse visa. It is therefore imperative to seek legal advice as a couple to ensure your application and supporting documentation are put together correctly and in such a way that an appeal under human rights grounds can be made if UK Visas and Immigration officials refuse your application for some reason.
By investing in experienced legal advice at the outset, your chances of living together happily ever after in the UK will dramatically increase.
Sultan Lloyd Solicitors is regarded as one of the best immigration and family law firms in the West Midlands. To find out more about successfully applying for a UK Spouse visa or attending a Spouse visa interview, you can contact our Birmingham office on 0121 248 2850. Our friendly and approachable immigration law team would be happy to make an appointment with you.