UK immigration law allows spouses, registered civil partners and de facto partners of British citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain an immigrant (settlement) class visa to live and work in the UK on a permanent basis. Non-EEA/EU nationals must apply for a partner or marriage visa, otherwise known as a spousal visa, for entry into the UK through a British Consulate or High Commission with jurisdiction over their place of normal and legal residence.
If the person you are sponsoring is already in the UK on a long term visa (one that is valid for more than six months), she or he may be eligible to apply for a spousal visa by making an application for further leave to remain from inside the UK. If your partner, husband or wife originally entered the UK on a fiancee (prospective marriage) visa or proposed civil partner visa and you got married or registered your civil partnership within six months of obtaining the initial visa, they can immediately apply for a two-year provisional spousal or partner visa from within the country.
Generally, in order to qualify for a settlement marriage or civil partner visa, you and your foreign spouse/partner must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:
- In order to sponsor a non-EEA/EU national for a UK marriage visa, the sponsor must be either a British citizen, or lawful permanent resident of the UK permitted to remain in the UK indefinitely. To be considered a UK permanent resident, you must be permitted to live and work in the UK indefinitely without restrictions on your stay. The qualifying sponsors must hold an indefinite leave to remain or right of abode in the UK.
- To qualify as a sponsor, you must demonstrate that you are present and settled in the UK or, if living overseas, expect to return to the UK to live before or at the same time as your spouse or partner arrives in the UK on a settlement visa.
- Unless you apply under the de facto partner visa category, you must be legally married or in a registered civil partnership, and your marriage or civil partnership must be valid under the laws of the country in which it took place and under UK laws.
- De facto (unmarried) partners must have been living together in a committed relationship for at least two years prior to the application for a settlement visa being submitted to the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
- You and your civil partner or spouse must be at least 18 years of age at the time of application for a UK marriage visa or civil partnership visa.
- You must have met your spouse or partner prior to sponsorship.
- Your relationship must be genuine and ongoing. You must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining immigration officials that you intend to continue living together after the settlement visa has been granted.
- One of the most important qualifying criteria is that you must be financially secure and have adequate accommodation arranged by the time your spouse or partner migrates to the UK on a settlement visa. You must assure the British government that you have the capacity to support the person you wish to sponsor and can afford to live in the UK with your family, including any dependents, without requiring any disbursements of public funds.
- Effective 9th July 2012, to sponsor a foreign partner or spouse with no children the new minimum threshold is £18,600. This rises to £22,400 if there is one dependant, £24,800 for two children, £27,200 for three (£2,400 for each additional child involved in any settlement application). Sponsors are required to provide evidence to show that they meet the new threshold standards, unless exempt from the financial requirement under the new Rules.
Bear in mind that the financial support and accommodation requirements are very strictly enforced by the UK immigration authorities. Inadequate financial documentation is the most common reason for initial denial of marriage and fiancee visas.
Important reminder: Effective 29th November 2010, applicants who are not citizens of a predominantly English-speaking country, are required to take the mandatory English language test prior to applying for a UK settlement visa as a fiancee, proposed civil partner, husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried (de facto) partner of a British citizen or lawful UK permanent resident.
Important Announcement: New UK Immigration Rules after 9 July 2012