Can a fiancé visa ease the way for a spouse visa?
With the press full of the wedding of Prince Harry to American Meghan Markle, and news that she will apply for British Citizenship, other couples in transnational relationships must be wondering if there are lessons they can take from the relationship. In particular, whether there is some secret to coming to the UK as a fiancé, with a wedding planned (albeit not a royal wedding!). Many of the best Immigration solicitors in London regularly advise people on obtaining either a fiancé visa or a spouse visa, often in the context of an eventual application for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship. In this blog we look at applying for a fiancé visa and then switching to extend your stay under a spouse visa,
What is a fiancé visa?
A fiancé visa is a permission to come to the UK for 6 months in advance of your wedding or civil partnership. It may be the first step in your journey to settle in the UK with your partner. The fiancé visa falls under the umbrella of the ‘family visa’. If your application is successful, you will have permission to stay in the UK for 6 months.
Applying for a fiancé visa
To apply for a fiancé visa, you have to be able to prove a number of things.
- That you are both 18 or over
- That your partner is either a British Citizen, is settled in the UK – holding either Indefinite Leave to Remain, or proof of permanent residence, or is either a refugee or has humanitarian protection in the UK.
- That you intend to live together, permanently in the UK
- That you are engaged to be married or intend to enter into a civil partnership
- That you will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving
- That you have a good knowledge of English
- That you can support yourself and any dependants
- That any previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended
Applying in the UK
If you’ve met your partner while in the UK on a different visa, it may be possible to switch to a fiancé visa, although if you are in the UK on a visitor visa, the usual rule is that you must go back to your home country and apply from there. You may also need to apply from outside the UK if you want to settle in the UK, but met your partner while he or she was visiting your home country, or when you were both in another country, rather than meeting in the UK.
Finances, and working on a fiancé visa
You won’t be able to work if you are in the UK under a fiancé visa. In order to meet the requirement that you can support yourself and any dependants, you and your partner have to be able to demonstrate an annual income of £18,600. This minimum income requirement was introduced by Theresa May in 2012, while she was Home Secretary. It’s estimated that 40% of working people in the UK can’t satisfy this requirement – it’s certainly a hurdle that we as British Citizenship lawyers come across regularly when talking to clients about a family visa generally, or fiancé visa specifically. It may be necessary for your partner, or someone else, to complete a Sponsorship Undertaking – agreeing to support you during your visit.
As you are applying for a visa of 6 months, you shouldn’t have to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge to access health care services through the NHS.
Applying for a spouse visa
Once you have a fiancé visa in place and you have come to the UK to get married or to enter into a civil partnership, you can apply to extend your stay as a spouse. A spouse visa is usually granted for 2.5 years, after which you can apply to extend your stay on this basis. Many of the requirements for a spouse visa are the same as for the fiancé visa. You will also need to satisfy the requirement that you and your partner are legally married or civil partnered. If you have married/civil partnered in the UK this should be straightforward to prove. Talk to one of our London immigration solicitors to find out more about switching to a spouse visa once you have obtained a fiancé visa.
A spouse visa is granted for more than 6 months so the Immigration Health Surcharge may apply, and you may have to pay to be able to access health services through the NHS, in addition to satisfying the minimum income requirement.
With a fiancé visa in place, you can come to the UK and get married. This could well ease your route to obtaining a family visa as a spouse and to then apply to settle in the UK by obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Like many aspects of the UK Immigration rules, applying for permission to stay in the UK with your fiancé or intended civil partner is not always straightforward. OTS Solicitors are highly ranked in the Legal 500 for Immigration matters. Our London immigration solicitors have many years’ experience advising clients on Immigration matters, and you can be assured of some of the best advice on Immigration law available in London if you book a consultation with us. You can contact us on 0203 959 9123 to make an appointment.