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A Comprehensive Guide to UK Family Visas

UK Family Visas allow eligible foreign nationals to join their family members in the UK for an extended period of 6 months or more. Our experienced immigration lawyers can guide you through the application process and ensure a smooth transition for you and your family.

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November 8, 2023

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UK Family Visas allow you to bring eligible foreign national family members to join you in the UK for an extended period of 6 months or more. Whether you want to bring your spouse, partner, fiancé, child, parent, or a relative you care for, we can help you navigate the application process and ensure a smooth transition for you and your loved ones.

Who can I bring to the UK on a UK Family Visa?

With a UK Family Visa, you can bring the following family members to the UK:

  • Spouse or partner
  • Fiancé or proposed civil partner
  • Child
  • Parent
  • A relative you provide long-term care for

What are the eligibility requirements for a UK Family Visa?

To bring a family member to the UK on a family visa, you must:

  • Hold a valid immigration status that allows dependent family members to come to the UK.
  • Be a UK or Irish citizen.
  • Have settled in the UK (ILR or Settled Status).
  • Have refugee status or humanitarian protection.

What are the different types of UK Family Visas?

There are a range of UK visas under the family visa route, including:

Contact our immigration lawyers today for a free consultation at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or complete our form to learn more about bringing your family to the UK.

UK Family Visa Eligibility Criteria

Achieving family reunification in the UK involves meeting specific requirements for both the UK-based family member (sponsor) and the family member applying for the visa. The exact criteria depend on the type of visa being pursued.

Sponsor Requirements

Valid UK Visa: The sponsor must hold a valid UK visa that allows dependent family members to join them. Examples include work visas, study visas, or business visas. Some visas, like the Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, do not permit dependants to accompany the visa holder; in such cases, dependants must apply separately.

Nationality or Settled Status: The sponsor must be a UK or Irish citizen, have settled in the UK (e.g., possess ILR or settled status), or be an EU national or a person from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein with pre-settled status (granted for individuals residing in the UK prior to January 1, 2021).

Turkish Businessperson or Worker Visa: Alternatively, the sponsor may hold a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa.

Refugee or Humanitarian Protection Status: Sponsors with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK are also eligible.

Family Member Requirements

Relationship: The family member applying for a UK family visa must be the sponsor’s spouse or partner, fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, child, parent, or a relative requiring long-term care.

Dependant Status (for Children): Children applying as dependants must:

  • Refrain from living an independent life
  • Remain unmarried
  • Reside with the sponsor (except if attending university or boarding school)
  • Financial Self-Sufficiency: Family members, excluding children, must demonstrate the ability to financially support themselves and their dependants in the UK.

English Language Proficiency: Sufficient knowledge of the English language is required.

Criminal Record and Security Clearance: A clean criminal record and no evidence of posing a threat to UK security are essential.

Seek Expert Guidance

Navigating the complexities of UK family visa requirements can be challenging. Consulting a family immigration solicitor can provide expert assessment of your eligibility, comprehensive information about the application process, guidance on required documents, and insights into processing times and fees.

Essential Requirements for Spouse and Partner Visas

The UK spouse visa/partner visa, under the Family Visa UK scheme, allows eligible individuals to join their partners in the UK and establish a life together. Applicants must demonstrate eligibility based on specific criteria:

Relationship Status: Applicants must be either in a civil partnership or marriage with their UK-based partner, or have been living in a relationship with their UK-based partner for at least two years.

Financial Requirements: The applicant and their UK-based partner must collectively show an annual income of at least £29,000.

English Language Proficiency: Applicants must demonstrate English language skills at level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

Visa Duration and Path to Indefinite Leave to Remain

Spouse/partner visa holders can initially stay in the UK for up to two years and nine months. This can then be further extended for two years and six months. After this period, applicants can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), allowing them to reside permanently in the UK.

Fiancé Visa

The UK Fiancé Visa allows an eligible fiancé, fiancée, or proposed civil partner to join their UK-based partner for up to six months to formalise their union through marriage or civil partnership. Applicants must meet the same English language and financial requirements as those for the Spouse/Partner Visa.

Upon completion of your marriage or civil partnership, you can transition to a full UK Partner and Spouse Visa. This visa grants you a two-year and nine-month stay, followed by a two-year and six-month extension. At this point, you become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), allowing you to permanently reside in the UK.

Parent Visa

The UK Parent Visa, under the Family Visa scheme, allows eligible parents to join their children in the UK and provide long-term care. Parent visa holders can live, work, and study in the UK alongside their children.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for a parent visa, the child must meet the following criteria:

Age: Be under 18 years old, or have been under 18 years old when the parent was first granted leave to remain in the UK.

Dependency: Not live an independent life.

Residence: Be living in the UK.

In addition, the child must have one of the following immigration statuses:

  • British or Irish nationality
  • Settled status in the UK
  • Pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Lived in the UK for 7 years continuously, and it would not be reasonable for them to leave

Parental Responsibility

Applicants must have sole or shared parental responsibility for their child.

Visa Duration and Path to Indefinite Leave to Remain

Parent visa holders can initially stay in the UK for up to two years and nine months. This can then be further extended for two years and six months. After five years of residency, applicants can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), allowing them to permanently reside in the UK.

Child Visa

The UK Child Visa, under the Family Visa scheme, allows eligible children to join their parents in the UK. However, children may not require a family visa if at least one parent holds UK indefinite leave to remain (ILR). In such cases, it may be possible to apply directly for ILR.

Child Visa Eligibility

The requirements for a child visa depend on whether the child was born in the UK or not.

Children Born in the UK:

Under 18: Can be added to their parent’s next visa application as a dependant family member or apply separately.

Over 18: Can be added to their parent’s application as long as they are dependant on their UK-based parent.

Children Born Outside the UK:

  • Must prove dependency on their UK-based parent/s.
  • Must not be married or in a civil partnership.

Visa Duration and Path to Indefinite Leave to Remain

Child visas are typically granted in line with their parent’s leave to remain. Child visas can also be extended and can be used to gain settlement (ILR).

Adult dependant relative visa

The UK Adult Dependant Relative Visa allows eligible overseas relatives to come to the UK and receive long-term care from a specified relative residing permanently in the UK. This visa is intended for individuals who require assistance with daily personal and household tasks due to illness, disability, or age-related limitations.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an Adult Dependant Relative Visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:

Age: Be 18 years of age or older.

Care Requirements: Demonstrate a genuine need for long-term care to carry out day-to-day personal and household tasks.

Unavailability of Care in Home Country: Establish that the necessary level of care is not available or affordable in their home country.

Financial Support from UK Sponsor: Provide evidence that the UK-based relative providing care can financially support and accommodate them for at least five years without relying on public funds.

Visa Duration and Benefits

Adult Dependant Relative Visa holders are granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) once they arrive in the UK. This allows them to stay in the UK permanently and enjoy the same rights and privileges as British citizens, including the right to work, study, and access healthcare.

PBS dependant Visa

PBS Dependant Visas provide a pathway for eligible partners and children of individuals holding designated UK visas to join them in the UK. Embracing your family’s presence can enhance your overall experience in the UK, and PBS Dependant Visas facilitate this connection.

Eligible Dependants

The following family members can qualify as dependants under the PBS Dependant Visa scheme:

Spouses: Married partners, civil partners, or unmarried partners who have been in a relationship for at least two years.

Children:

Under 18 years of age, including children born in the UK.

Over 18 years of age, if they are financially dependent on the visa holder.

Additional requirements for children aged 16 or over:

  • Live with the visa holder (exceptions include full-time education at boarding schools, colleges, or universities).
  • Single marital status (not married or in a civil partnership).
  • No dependent children of their own.
  • Financial dependence on the visa holder.

Visa Duration and Path to Settlement

Dependant visa holders can reside in the UK for as long as the primary visa holder’s visa remains valid. If the primary visa holder extends their visa, dependants can also apply for extensions. Furthermore, when the primary visa holder becomes eligible for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), commonly known as settlement, dependants can also apply to settle in the UK, assuming they meet the eligibility requirements.

Ancestry Visa

The UK Ancestry Visa offers eligible foreign nationals with strong ancestral connections to the UK the opportunity to live, work, and study in the country. This visa is designed to foster a sense of belonging and cultural continuity for those with deep-rooted UK heritage.

Eligibility Criteria

Ancestry Visa applicants must meet the following criteria:

Citizenship: Be a Commonwealth citizen, a British overseas citizen, a British overseas territories citizen, a British national (overseas), or a citizen of Zimbabwe.

Ancestral Connection: Demonstrate that one of their grandparents was born in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man.

Visa Duration and Path to Settlement

Ancestry visa holders are initially granted a five-year stay in the UK. Upon completion of the five-year period, individuals can further extend their visa or apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), commonly known as settlement.

Family Reunion Visa

The UK Family Reunion Visa scheme allows individuals granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK to bring their immediate family members to join them in the country. This visa serves as a compassionate measure to facilitate family unity and provide a sense of stability for those seeking refuge in the UK.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify as a sponsor for a Family Reunion Visa, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Lawful Residence: Be lawfully resident in the UK.
  • Nationality: Have not yet gained British citizenship.
  • Immigration Status: Fall into one of the following immigration categories:
    • Refugee status
    • Humanitarian protection status (held for at least 5 years)
    • Admission to the UK under the Gateway Protection Programme
    • Admission to the UK under the Mandate Refugee Programme
    • Admission to the UK under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement (VPR)

Eligible Family Members

Only immediate dependent family members of a UK-based sponsor are eligible for the Family Reunion Visa. These include:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Unmarried or same-sex partner
  • Child
  • Adopted children

Visa Duration and Path to Indefinite Leave to Remain

Family Reunion visa holders can initially stay in the UK for five years. Upon completion of the five-year period, individuals can extend their leave to remain and apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) when eligible.

EUSS Family Permit

The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) Family Permit provides a pathway for family members of individuals from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein to join them in the UK. This scheme ensures that eligible individuals can seamlessly travel to the UK, gain entry upon arrival, and reunite with their loved ones without the risk of denial.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an EUSS Family Permit, your family member must have been residing in the UK by the end of 2020.

Visa Duration and Benefits

EUSS Family Permit holders are granted an initial six-month stay in the UK. During this period, they enjoy the freedom to travel within and outside the UK, pursue education, and engage in employment.

Path to Indefinite Leave to Remain

If you wish to extend your stay beyond six months, you can apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. Upon successful application, you will be granted pre-settled status, allowing you to reside in the UK for up to five years. Following the five-year period, you can apply for full settled status (settlement), granting you indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

If your family visa application is refused

A UK family member visa application can be declined for various reasons, which may include:

  • Insufficient evidence to convince the Home Office of the genuineness of your relationship.
  • Failure to meet the financial requirements.
  • Inadequate housing arrangements on the part of the UK-based sponsor.
  • Omissions or deficiencies in the submission of required information or documents.
  • Ineligibility based on certain criteria.
  • A criminal record with unspent convictions.

We understand that receiving a rejection notice from the Home Office can be deeply distressing. Our team of specialised family immigration solicitors can swiftly evaluate the grounds for refusal and provide guidance on the most appropriate course of action to secure a favourable outcome. Depending on the specific circumstances, we may advise you to consider reapplying, pursuing an appeal, initiating an administrative or judicial review, or exploring alternative visa options.

If you require assistance with bringing your family to the UK and obtaining a family member visa, please contact our immigration lawyers for a complimentary telephone consultation at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or via email at mail@staging.jpsimmigration.com.

What is the processing time for a spouse visa?

You can expect to receive a decision on your visa application within 12 weeks of attending your appointment at the visa application centre. The processing time may vary depending on the country you are applying from. If you need a decision quickly, you can pay an extra £800 for the Super Priority Service, which will guarantee a decision on the next working day in most cases.

Can I sponsor my partner if I don’t have a job?

You can sponsor your partner for a spouse visa even if you do not have a job, as long as you both meet the financial requirements. You can meet these requirements through savings or income from other sources, such as rental income and investments.

How long can I stay outside the UK on a spouse visa?

Under current immigration rules, there is no limit on how long you can be away from the UK on a partner and spouse visa. This is because family visa holders are exempt from the 180-day absence rule for gaining indefinite leave to remain (ILR). However, it is important to note that when you apply for a partner and spouse visa, you declare your intention to live in the UK with your partner. Prolonged absences may jeopardise your visa extension or ILR application.

How much savings do I need for a UK spouse visa?

To use savings to meet the minimum income requirement for a partner and spouse visa, you must have at least £16,000 in savings. If you have enough savings (£62,500), you do not need to show evidence of any income. When you submit your spouse visa application, you must make and sign a declaration of the source of your cash savings.

Can I work on a UK spouse visa?

Yes, you will have the right to work full-time or part-time in the UK on a spouse visa.

Can I claim benefits if I hold a spouse visa?

Spouse visa holders cannot claim state benefits, such as Universal Credit, tax credits, or housing allowance.

Can I add my child/children to my spouse visa application?

Yes, you can add your children to your partner and spouse visa application. You will need to pay an additional application fee and provide evidence that you meet the additional financial income requirements for your children.

Related Services

The UK Ancestry visa is designed for Commonwealth and British Overseas citizens whose grandparent was born in the UK, the
The Uk Adult Dependant Relative Visa, also referred to as the Adult Dependant Visa or ADR Visa, facilitates the entry
A UK Child Dependant Visa enables a child from abroad to reunite with a parent residing in the UK. Reach
A UK Dependant visa permits immediate family members of UK visa holders residing overseas to join them in the UK.