Understandably many people who come to the UK as students or temporary workers form relationships here and may want to marry or form a civil partnership. We look at how they might be able to switch to a spouse or civil partner visa in the UK.
Who can switch into a spouse visa?
Anyone who was granted a visa (Entry Clearance of Leave to Remain) for six months or more in total can apply for a spouse visa in the UK. Tier 4 students and Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa holders are included and switching from these categories is quite common. However, if you marry in the UK you are not required to switch into a spouse visa and you may be able to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain sooner by staying in your current visa route.
Those holding visitor visas are specifically excluded from switching in the Immigration Rules so will generally have to leave the UK to apply from their home country. Applicants holding visitor visas can expect to be refused unless there are very strong human rights reasons. This is not covered further here and anyone considering this should seek specialist advice.
When can I apply?
You can apply as soon as you are married if you meet all other requirements. If not yet married or in a civil partnership, you will need to give notice at least 28 days before the date of the marriage or civil partnership and as this notice period can be extended to 70 days. You should allow enough time to complete these formalities before you apply to switch visas.
These notice periods don’t apply to marriages outside the UK – each country will have their own rules. The UK government website has a helpful tool to provide information about getting married overseas.
Can I switch into a fiancé visa?
No. The fiancé visa route is only for those applying from overseas who wish to come to the UK to marry or form a civil partnership within six months.
What about cohabiting partners?
You can also apply as a cohabiting partner provided you can show evidence of having lived together in a relationship “akin” (meaning equivalent or very similar) to marriage for two years before the date of application. The Home Office will generally be very strict about this and would refuse the application if you had only been living together for 23 months. Certain absences, e.g. to visit sick family or to work away from home might be accepted during that time.
What are the requirements?
There are requirements in relation to:
- Suitability including your conduct and immigration history
- English Language
More details about these requirements are given in the Home Office guidance.
Financial requirement – special points when switching
If you currently hold a visa which allows you to be employed this income can be considered when calculating whether you meet the financial requirement. It may be possible to combine your income with your sponsor’s depending on the category of income they have.
For student visa holders, their employment will have been restricted (generally a maximum of 20 hours) during term time but unlimited outside of terms and once the course has finished.
If the visa applicant or their sponsor receives an academic maintenance grant or stipend this can be included to meet the financial requirement if it will be paid for a further 12 months or full academic year or if it will start within three months of the application being submitted. Tax free amounts are counted as the pre-tax (gross) figure. For example, a tax-free grant of £15,800 will be enough to meet the financial requirement of £18,600.
What is the application process?
An online application will need to be completed and submitted with visa fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge.
The Home Office has implemented a new process where all applicants must attend a UK Visas and Citizenship Application Centre to submit their biometric information (fingerprints and facial scan). Application documents can be uploaded to a UKVCAS account before the appointment. For optional additional fees this can be done at the visa application centre. The applicant can keep all documents including their passport whilst a decision is being made.
If the application is successful a visa will be granted for 2.5 years. If all the requirements of the Immigration Rules are met this will be on the 5-year route. After a further extension for 2.5 years it should be possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
What if my current visa expires before I receive a decision?
If you make a valid application for the new visa before your current visa expires you will be entitled to continue to live in the UK with the same visa conditions until a decision is made on the new visa, even after the date the visa expires. This means you will be able to continue to work. Your employer will be able to update their right to work checks using the reference number from your online application.
How long will it take?
The standard processing time is eight weeks. In some cases the Home Office may decide the case is more complex and it may be six months or more before a decision is made.
Applicants can choose a processing time of 24 hours for an additional fee.
The above is provided for information purposes and should not be relied on as advice in relation to your specific situation. You should check the Home Office site for specific guidance and any changes to UK Immigration Law.
Please contact us if you need further advice or assistance with switching into a spouse visa. You can find out more about our services and our fees.