Spouse and Unmarried Partner Visas: entry, switching, extension, permanent residence and settlement in the UK.

Family visas are one of the main visa categories we work with, as the founder, Natalia Andrews, experienced this immigration route herself. We have been – successfully – helping foreign spouses and partners of British citizens for almost 10 years (and that’s not counting our own experience). We have helped customers from the USA, Mexico, Brazil, India, Russia, Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria, Thailand, and many other countries for applications both in the UK and from outside the UK.

Since we happened to work under both old and new Immigration Rules (before and after 9 July 2012), we can offer a unique insight into how the Rules were changing over the years and how to make your application successful under the most recent rules. We specialise in detailed analysis of meeting the Financial Requirement (£18,600 threshold), more on which below.We have had so much successful experience that we have also been offering professional training to other immigration advisers and solicitors, and our training is accepted as part of compulsory professional development.

You can apply for this visa on the basis of your marriage to a UK citizen or to someone with permanent residency status on the UK. Most commonly, we are approached by a British husband or wife, who is applying to sponsor a foreign spouse/partner to settle in the UK, often accompanied by the partner’s child. It is also common in our practice for a British-foreign couple to be returning to the UK together, after living or working abroad, such as in Australia/New Zealand, USA/Canada, the Middle East, Asia, and also Russia (we can also read Russian-language documents).

Who is an Unmarried Partner? We are often asked this question, so you can be considered unmarried partners if you have lived together for at least 2 years.

For detailed advice the best way to start is to book our Advice Session. You can also Contact us or read our Testimonials page.


ENTRY TO THE UK (Entry Clearance application):

We can help with preparing your application, including the online visa application form; check your documents, original or scanned copies, depending where you/your sponsor or documents are; write a cover letter and generally guide you throughout the application process, so you would have someone to turn to with all your queries. At the end of this process the applicant (who needs a visa) will have to submit all the documents, and biometrics (fingerprints), to a British Embassy or visa centre in the country of residence. We always say: “It is not difficult to hand over the papers, the challenge is to have the rights documents on the day!”

Although the application process is similar or the same in most countries, there is a different process in the USA (fingerprints are submitted to the US authorities), Nigeria, Gambia and some other African countries as well as some Caribbean countries (fingerprints – to a local UK visa centre, documents – to the UK Home Office).  


SWITCHING (Leave to Remain application):

Although we often say “switching” (and it even appears on some Home Office policies), it is not a legal term. It simply means changing a visa category while in the UK, as opposed to leaving the UK and applying abroad. Examples: switching from a Tier 4 Student visa or Tier 5 visa.  

Here we can prepare your application, i.e. advise on the documents, complete visa application form, make sure your documents are in order, and then submit to the Home Office on your behalf, using postal or same-day service. You can read more about benefits of using Same-day service here.


EXTENSION (Leave to Remain application):

Extension is another unofficial term we (and the Home Office) use. It means extending your stay in the UK in the same category, such as Spouse visa extension after the initial visa. We provide “one-stop shop” services, as described in the Switching section above.


PERMANENT RESIDENCE (Indefinite Leave to Remain application):

Also known as PR and ILR, this is the last step in the visa route for spouses and partners (last before British Citizenship). Again, we provide “one-stop shop” services, and this application can be also be submitted using same day service if you need to have a decision (and your passport) promptly.


FINANCIAL REQUIREMENT (£18,600 threshold):

We at 1st 4Immigration have extensive experience and expertise (that's why are 1st) with assisting with all types of cases involving the £18,600 threshold as well as exemption from it (not to be confused with Exception). Employment, including variable earnings and combination of both partners’ income, savings, pension and various combinations (i.e. employment income from one partner and savings from the other, pension and savings etc).

We have particularly in-depth expertise of assessing income of self-employed people and business owners, we are immigration entrepreneurs after all! Terms like Corporation Tax Return, Dividends or Self Assessment are very familiar to us. We have vast experience with all types of cases for self-employed people: a sole trader (self-employed in HMRC terms), a limited company owner (a company based in the UK or overseas), a partner in a partnership or LLP, including a contractor / freelancer, working through an agency or umbrella company - you name it, we've done it!

In fact, if you Google "spouse visa self employed" our posts are likely to appear at the top, above the official Home Office links.

For detailed advice the best way to start is to book our Advice Session. You can also Contact us or read our Testimonials page.


If you are interested in how the Spouse/Partner rules developed, here is a “Before and After” table – what’s changed on 9 July 2012 (we prepared it in 2012 when the Rules changed dramatically, and it still feels like “new Rules”):


From 9 July 2012

Immigration Rules to be used:

Part 8 Family Members


Appendix FM

Spouse/Partner visa for 2 years, then permanent residency.

Spouses/partners who have been together for 4 years outside the UK were given a Permanent Visa straight away.

Spouse/Partner visa for 2.5 years, then extension for another 2.5 years, only then permanent residency after 5 years.

This has been stopped, eveyone now gets a 2.5 year visa, the extension for another 2.5 years and only after 5 years - a permanent visa.

Finances (income, savings) were required to be ‘adequate’. It was assumed that income should be high enough for the couple not to be eligible for the state welfare support (benefits).

Support from the 3rd party (such as parents) was allowed.

Minimum income threshold of £18,600per annum gross before tax; £22,400 for one child and an additional £2,400 for each further child being brought to the UK.

It can be from work, self-employment, rental income, pension or disability-related benefits. Savings can also be counted in addition or instead of earnings but only savings over £16,000 would qualify.

Support from the 3rd parties (such as parents) is no longer allowed.

This income test applies to all stages: 1st visa, extension, settlement.

Examples of supporting documents were provided but it was possible to submit other documents instead and generally, there was some flexibility and ‘common sense’.

For example, if you had no payslips you could have provided bank statements showing salary.


This is a major change, it may be only noticeable to the immigration professionals but will affect many applicants:

For the 1st time there are requirements for Spouses/Partners to provide specified documents only, in a specified format only and in most cases there will be no chance to provide alternative documents.

For example, if payslips and matching bank statements (showing payments corresponding payslips) are required then if you provide payslips only your application would be refused. And vice versa.


Missing documents or missing information: in some cases UK Border Agency would ask for the missing documents or to add missing info on the documents, such as a new work letter. People were given a chance to put the things right without a visa being refused and without losing a fee.


Follows from the above:

Now UK Border Agency would only give a chance to provide missing documents if they were a part of sequence. For example, if bank statements are provided for 12 months and a month ‘number 3’ is missing. Or if a letter from work provided but it’s not at the right format. Or if a photocopy of the documents is provided but no original.

However, UK Border Agency would NOT ask for a document which was not submitted at all meaning such applications may be refused without giving a chance to put the things right.

We predict there will be much more refusals of visas because there can be no more ‘If they ask I will send this document’. They won’t ask!  

Discretionary visas:

If the couple could not meet all the rules, a visa 'outside the Rules' was issued for 3 years, called Discretionary Leave to Remain. A spouse/partner would need an extension for further 3 years and then could apply for an ILR.

Family Life:

If the couple do not meet all the rules (such as overstaying or not being able to meet the Financial Requirements) but have compassionate circumstances or insurmountable circumstances preventing from living abroad, or often if they have a British child.

It is very similar to a discretionary visa but now it has been written in the Rules. If successful, it will be a Family Life visa for 2.5 years, then 3 extensions for 2.5 years at a time and after 10 years permanent residency (ie 10 years instead of 6 under the old rules).

It is also possible to switch from this Family Life visa to a ‘normal’ Spouse visa, even on same-day service, which was not possible before (the point of switching is reducing the waiting time for an ILR).

Contact us now or read our Testimonials page.