Spouse Visa – Family Union

Spouse visa is for family union purposes. It facilitates individuals to come and live with their partner in the UK permanently. Their dependent children can also come together. It differs from other types of dependent visa, such as dependants of Skilled Worker, Student, in that:

  • the UK partner is typically a settled person or EU national with pre-settled status,
  • the family intend to live together in the UK permanently, rather than only for work or study or accompanying purposes. 

If approved, the applicant is likely to be granted a visa for an initial period of two years and nine months. They need to apply for an extension before its expiry, and if successful, will be granted further permission to stay for two and a half years. After continuously living in the UK for five years and upon meeting other requirements, the applicant may be eligible for settlement (indefinite leave to remain).

Criteria for a spouse visa

Status of UK partner

The UK partner whom the applicant intends to join must be one of the following:

  1. a British Citizen;
  2. a person with settled status in the UK (indefinite leave to remain/settlement);
  3. an EU/EEA/Swiss national with pre-settled status in the UK*;
  4. a person with protection status (humanitarian reason);
  5. a person under ECAA route (Turkish nationals).

* If the applicant started living in the UK with their partner by 31 December 2020, or joins them later and makes the application within 90 days of arrival, they may be eligible under EU Settlement Scheme which does not entail meeting the financial and English requirements.  


The applicant must be the UK partner’s

  1. spouse;
  2. civil partner; or
  3. unmarried partner, where the couple have been living together for least two years.

In this case, evidence is required to show that their relationship is similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years, such as proof of cohabitation, shared financial responsibilities, etc.

If the couple are not married/registered, nor have been living together for two years, they cannot apply for a spouse visa directly. The applicant may apply as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner if that is the case. 

There are two options:

Option one is to apply for a marriage/civil partnership visitor visa. It allows them to give notice and get married/registered in the UK within 6 months. The applicant would then need to return to his/her country of residence, and with the marriage/civil partnership certificate, apply for a spouse visa to come to live in the UK.

The second option is to apply for “fiancé(e) visa”. It entails similar requirements as the spouse visa, including meeting the financial and English language requirements. The “fiancé(e) visa” is only valid for six months and the couple should get married or registered in the UK within the timeframe. In contrast to marriage/civil partnership visitor visa mentioned above, the applicant may apply for a spouse visa whilst in the UK following their marriage/civil partnership registration.


The applicant must show that they and their partner have sufficient financial means to support their living in the UK without recourse to public funds. The minimum gross annual income* required is:

£18,600 for partner applicant only

£18,600 + £3,800 for partner applicant, with first child

and additional £2,400 for each additional child

* Please note that the Home Office has announced plans to raise the income threshold to £29,000 from Spring 2024, and to £38,700 in 2025.

Couples need to demonstrate their income covering the period of at least 6 months prior to the application. Typically, only sustainable income that are received in the UK will be counted. As such, for applicants coming to the UK, their oversea employment incomes cannot not be counted as they will be leaving their job when they come to the UK.

The minimum income requirement can be met in 5 ways:

  1. Income from employment. 

This is usually the UK partner’s income, unless the applicant already has permission to work in the UK. The documents required depend on the type of employment (fixed salary or non-salaried), the duration of employment (whether with the same employer for over 6 months), the presence of any leave or breaks in employment in the last 12 months and other relevant factors.

  1. Non-employment income. For example, property rental income, interest, dividends, maintenance payments, ongoing allowances, insurance payments, etc. The specific evidence required varies based on the type of income.
  2. Self-employment income and employment income from a specified limited company (shareholders consist of family members and fewer than 5 other shareholders).

For this category, a range of evidence is required, including personal accounts, business accounts, company and individual tax returns, business partners’ unique tax reference, business registration, statements of account, registration documents, VAT certificates, audited/unaudited account and others.

  1. Income from any State pension, occupational or private pension received by the applicant or the partner.
  2. Cash savings. 

If the minimum income requirement cannot be met by the first 4 ways, the applicant can use cash savings to make up the deficit. However, it cannot be combined with category 3 above – Self-employment income and employment income from a specified company.

The savings could be of the applicant or the partner or combined. It must be held for at least 6 months continuously prior to the application. The calculation is conducted using the formula below:

[minimum requirement] – [available income]

then [the result] X 2.5

then [the result] + £16,000

= [the cash saving required]

For example, if the applicant is applying alone, with no children, he/she would need minimum income of £18,600. If the UK partner is earning gross annual income of £12,000, then, the calculation would look as follows:

(£18,600 – £12,000) = £6,600

£6,600 x 2.5 = £16,500

£16,500 + £16,000 = £32,500

The applicant would need £32,500 cash savings to make up the income to meet the financial requirement. 

The calculation above applies to the initial application and the visa extension of two and half years. A lower requirement for cashing savings applies at settlement application.

English and Life in the UK

The applicant needs to meet specific English language requirements on each application: initial application, extension and settlement. The test only involves Speaking and Listening. The requirements are:

  • Initial application CEFR Level A1
  • Extension CEFT Level A2
  • Settlement CEFT Level B1 + Life in the UK test

English requirement can be met in other ways apart from taking a test, such as being a national of majority English speaking country or holding a degree equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree in the UK. 

The English requirement does not apply in the following scenarios:

  • Applicants who are aged 65 or over, or 
  • Applicants who have a disability or under exceptional circumstances which prevent them from meeting the requirement at the time of application.

Costs and Processing Time

For the initial application and extension application, as of January 2024, the Home Office application fees are £1,846 if the application is made outside the UK, or £1,048 is the application is made in the UK. For settlement (ILR), the application fee is £2,885. The fees are payable by each applicant, including children.

All applicants are also required to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS), currently £1,035 for adults and £776 for children, for each year of their stay in the UK until settlement.

As spouse visas are a type of visa which leads to settlement, it can take up to 6 months for the Home Office to make a decision. Priority service may be available in some countries at an additional fee of £500.

Other situations:

Relationship breaks down

If the relationship breaks down before the applicant has settled, the spouse visa will be cancelled to 60 days, or will expire if less than 60 days. The visa holder must leave the UK before the end of the 60 days or the expiry date unless they can successfully apply to stay under other routes.

An exception is if the relationship broke down permanently due to domestic abuse caused by the UK partner, the spouse visa holder therefore could potentially apply for settlement directly. Relevant evidence is required, including police records, court order/judgment, medical records, witness statements, divorce documentation, and others.

Bereaved partner

If the UK partner dies while their partner is already living in the UK and holding a spouse visa, the bereaved partner may be able to apply for settlement directly. 

Not meeting all requirements

If the applicant cannot meet the financial requirements or English requirement, under exceptional circumstances, they may still be able to apply for a spouse visa, which is commonly called Spouse Visa 10-year route (to settle).

The exceptional circumstances are a very high threshold. There must be “insurmountable obstacles” for the couple to continue their family life outside the UK. Refusal of granting a visa is most likely to entail a breach of human right Article 8 – right to respect for private and family life. Each application is considered on its own merits.

Under the 10-year route, both the English requirement and financial requirement are exempt. The applicant must prove the genuineness of relationship and demonstrate why their human right will be breached if they are not allowed to live in the UK.

If the application is successful, the applicant will be granted approximately two and half-year visa. They would need to apply for an extension every two and half years until they reach 10 years, when they may apply for settlement. Nevertheless, the same English requirement applies for all settlement applications, whether it is the 5-year route or 10-year route.

Expert Assistance

The detailed requirements for a spouse visa can be daunting. We are here to guide you through every step. Connect with us today for help on navigating you through the application process.