Conditional spousal visa vs. permanent marriage visa (settlement)
Limited Leave to Enter / two-year provisional spouse visa
If you have been married or in a registered civil partnership for less than four years when your spouse or partner applies for a UK settlement visa, they will initially be granted a conditional, also known as provisional, spousal visa which grants the holder temporary permanent resident status and allows them to remain in the UK initially for two years. In general, conditional permanent residency is a two-year "testing period" before a foreign national who immigrates to the UK through a British spouse or partner becomes a full-fledged, lawful permanent resident. The purpose of conditional permanent resident status is to guarantee that only people who form real marriages and partnerships will obtain immigration benefits.
During the two-year probationary period, provisional visa holders receive most of the benefits that permanent residents do. For instance, they can work, travel in and out of the UK, and, most importantly, count the time they spend in the UK as conditional residents towards requirements for British citizenship.
After two years, your spouse can apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) which grants the holder permanent immigration status in the UK. You must demonstrate to the immigration authorities that you are still married and intend to continue living together. If you pass this second stage, your spouse or partner will be considered a permanent resident and will be permitted to remain in the UK indefinitely. The application for the permanent marriage visa must be submitted to the immigration department from inside the UK. If you do not submit this application on time your spouse or partner will lose legal status and may be required to leave the country.
Indefinite Leave to Enter subject to KOL requirement
If you have been married or in a civil partnership for more than four years and living together overseas during that time, your spouse or civil partner will normally be granted a permanent spouse visa. The general exception applies to spouses and partners between the ages of 18 and 65 who cannot demonstrate knowledge of English and life in the UK. This is known as the “KOL requirement.”
If the spouse is subject to the KOL requirement, they will initially be granted a two-year leave to enter. After the foreign spouse or partner arrives in the UK they can, at any point during the two-year period, take either a Life in the UK test or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course to satisfy the KOL requirement and immediately apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) to convert their temporary visa to a permanent or unconditional spouse visa (settlement in the UK).
Your spouse or partner may be eligible to apply for naturalisation to become a British citizen after living in the UK for three years. Most naturalisation applicants must have resided in the UK for at least six years as permanent residents before they can apply. However, spouses and civil partners of British citizens only need three years of UK residency to be eligible for naturalisation. Your marriage must be valid and you must have lived together for the entire three-year period. In addition to the physical presence requirements, numerous additional requirements must be met, including the minimum age and good moral character requirements.
Important Announcement: New UK Immigration Rules after 9 July 2012
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