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Guide to UK partner visas

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By Shahjahan Ali


Published 03 November 2022


The partner visa route is open to a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner who wants to live with their partner in the UK. To be eligible for permission to enter or stay under this route the applicant’s partner must be:

  • a British Citizen in the UK;
  • present and settled in the UK;
  • in the UK with refugee leave or with humanitarian protection;
  • in the UK with limited leave under the EU Settlement Scheme; or
  • in the UK with limited leave as a Turkish worker or business person under Appendix ECAA.

A fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner can also apply for a visa under the partner route but they must meet slightly different rules.

What are the main requirements of the partner visa route?

There are a number of requirements which must be met in order to be granted permission to enter or stay under the partner visa route. These can be broken down into the following main categories:

  • Relationship requirements;
  • Financial requirements;
  • Accommodation requirements;
  • Suitability requirements; and
  • English language requirements.

Relationship requirements

When making a partner visa application, the applicant must be able to evidence their relationship with their partner by showing they both meet the following requirements:

  • they are at least 18 years old;
  • they have met in person;
  • they are in a genuine and subsisting relationship;
  • they are not closely related by blood or marriage;
  • they are in a valid marriage or partnership (where applicable);
  • they intend to live together permanently in the UK; and
  • any of their previous relationships have broken down permanently.

How to evidence the relationship

It is the applicant’s responsibility to prove the relationship requirements are met through submission of satisfactory supporting documents. Where an applicant is in a marriage or civil partnership this must be evidenced with a valid certificate.

Additional evidence showing joint responsibilities and/or cohabitation is recommended and these should span a period of time and cover as many instances as possible. Providing a number of corroborating items of evidence spanning a longer period of time will help to demonstrate a genuine and subsisting relationship. A couple who has not previously lived together or holds limited evidence of joint responsibilities can still evidence their relationship through evidence of meeting other family members, letters of support, evidence of holidays together, daily communication and photographs of the couple.

An applicant or their partner who has previously been in a relationship must demonstrate that relationship has permanently broken down. In particular, if they were previously married or in a civil partnership they must provide a decree absolute, final order of civil partnership dissolution or a death certificate to show that any prior relationship has permanently broken down.

Unmarried partners

An unmarried partner can still make an application under the partner route as long as they have lived with their partner in a relationship akin to marriage for a period of at least two years. The same relationship requirements must be met for unmarried partners but instead of submitting a marriage or civil partnership certificate, evidence of the two year period of cohabitation must be provided.  

Same sex partners

Partners in a same sex relationship are eligible to apply for a partner visa where all other requirements are also met. The same rules apply to same sex couples as they do to heterosexual couples which means that the partners will still need to be married, in a civil partnership or living together for over 2 years.

What are the financial requirements under the partner visa route?

In order to meet the financial requirements, an applicant must evidence:

  • an income of at least £18,600 per year from a specified source;
  • savings of £62,500; or
  • a combination of income and savings.

A number of different income sources can be used including employment, self-employment, pension and non-employment income such as income from property rentals, dividends or maintenance grants and stipends.

If an application is being made with a child who is also applying for leave under Appendix FM, the income threshold will increase by £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child.

Employment inside the UK for over 6 months

Where a partner, or an applicant with permission to work in the UK, receives a fixed annual salary for a contracted number of hours worked their gross annual salary can be used towards meeting the income threshold. They must currently be employed with the same employer for a period of at least 6 months to rely on this gross annual salary.

If the salary has changed within the relevant 6 month period then the lowest level of annual salary will be used toward meeting the income threshold. Where the gross annual salary is over £18,600, this will pass the income threshold and satisfy the financial requirements. If the salary is under the income threshold, it may be possible to combine the salary with another permitted source of income. This would include combining both the applicant’s and the partner’s income from salaried employment in the UK.

Income from employment with the same employer for less than 6 months can be used towards meeting the income threshold. However, where this type of income is relied upon there are further requirements that need to be met and additional evidence which needs to be submitted.

Cash savings

An applicant can either rely solely on cash savings to meet the financial requirements or savings can be used in combination with some of the other permitted sources of income, including salaried employment. Generally, only cash savings above £16,000 that are held by the applicant, their partner or both jointly can be used to meet the financial requirements. In calculating the amount of cash savings to be used toward meeting the financial requirement, savings above £16,000 will be divided by 2.5 to reflect the length of leave granted by the partner visa route. The amount left over after the division will be used towards the meet the £18,600 income threshold.

For example, if cash funds are solely being relied upon, an amount of at least £62,500 in cash is required;

(£62,500 – £16,000) / 2.5 =  £18,600

Additionally, when relying on cash savings the following requirements must be met:

  • the bank/savings account the funds are held in is a current, deposit or investment account;
  • the account is held is a financial institution regulated by the appropriate regulatory body for the country in which that institution is operating;
  • regular bank statements are provided;
  • the statements cover the necessary time period required in the Immigration Rules;
  • the savings are held in cash (or their cash value is clear);
  • the savings can be immediately withdrawn (with or without penalty);
  • the funds are under the control of the applicant and/or their partner for the necessary time period required in the Immigration Rules;
  • the source of the funds is legal; and
  • the source of the funds has been declared.

What are the accommodation requirements?

There must be adequate accommodation available to the partner and the applicant (and any other family members living with them) which is owned by either the partner or applicant or it is occupied exclusively by them. This means that where an applicant and their partner are sharing accommodation, part of the accommodation must be for the exclusive use of the partner, applicant and any dependants.

Accommodation will not be adequate if it is overcrowded or contravenes public health regulations. Whether accommodation is overcrowded will be measured against either the room standard, where the sleeping arrangements in the accommodation are assessed, or the space standard, where only a permitted number of persons can sleep in accommodation of a certain size. If either of the standards are not met then the accommodation will not be deemed adequate.

Is there an English language requirement?

An applicant under the partner visa route will need to evidence their English language abilities in speaking and listening. The level an applicant will need to evidence, known as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level, depends on whether they already hold leave as a partner and are extending their permission to stay in the UK or if they are making an initial application as a partner. Initial applications as a partner need to meet a CEFR level of A1 or above. Applicants who are making an application to extend their stay after an initial period of leave as a partner will generally need to meet a CEFR level of A2. Generally, the correct level can be evidenced by taking an approved English language test at an approved test centre and obtaining an English language test certificate.

English language test certificates are only accepted as evidence of English language ability where the test meets the following criteria:

  • it is on the list of approved English language tests
  • it has been sat at an approved test location
  • it has been awarded in the two years before the date of application

It is important the correct test is taken as it is possible to undertake the wrong test at the correct test centre. Applicants will need to check the latest list of approved tests and approved testing locations before booking their test.

A national of a majority English speaking country automatically meets this requirement and is not required to provide any further evidence of their English language ability. A degree that was taught (or researched) in English can be used to evidence English language ability if the qualification:

  • is academic (not vocational or professional);
  • is deemed by Ecctis to meet the recognised standard of a bachelor’s or master’s degree or PhD in the UK. Where a degree was not obtained in the UK, this is evidenced through a Ecctis certificate; and
  • has been taught in English or has been delivered in a majority English language speaking country (excluding Canada).

An applicant may be exempt from the English language requirement if they;

  • are aged 65 or over;
  • have a disability which prevents them from meeting the requirement; or
  • there are exceptional circumstances which prevent them from being able to meet the requirement.

Suitability requirements

Even where all of the partner visa requirements are met, an application may still be refused on the grounds of suitability. Generally, an application will be refused on the grounds of suitability where the applicant has previously be convicted of a serious criminal offence, has provided incorrect details or false documents as part of an application or where excluding the applicant would be conducive to the public good.

It is advisable to seek legal advice before making a partner visa application where there are relevant factors which may affect an applicant’s ability to meet the suitability requirements.

How long is the partner visa granted for?

Partner visa applications made from outside of the UK will be granted permission to enter the UK for a period of 33 months. Applications made from within the UK for leave to remain as a partner will be granted permission to stay for a period of 30 months.

Does a partner visa lead to settlement?

If all the requirements of the partner visa are met then the partner visa will be granted on the 5 year route to settlement. This means that after 5 continuous years in the UK as a partner an applicant may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain assuming all the other eligibility requirements are met.

A partner visa can still be granted if some of the requirements are not met but a refusal would unreasonably lead to a child leaving the UK, or where there are insurmountable obstacles to a couple continuing their relationship outside of the UK or other exceptional circumstances exist. However, in these instances the partner visa will be granted on the 10 year route to settlement.

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Please note that this article is not intended as legal advice and is for information purposes only. Individuals requiring legal advice should seek advice from a qualified professional.