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In detail: UK Spouse and Partner visas

5-year route is a standard one, meaning you could qualify for permanent residence status after 5 years in the UK, not counting time spent on a Fiance(e) or other visas, such as a student one. The 1st visa is issued for 30 months (2.5 years) if you apply inside the UK, such as if switching from a Tier 4 or Tier 5 visa. Or for 33 months (2.5 years + 3 months) if you apply outside the UK. The 2nd visa is extension for further 2.5 years, then settlement.

10-year route is used when you have serious, exceptional circumstances why you cannot meet the Rules. It can be being unable to meet the Financial Requirement or if you are currently without a legal status in the UK (i.e. an overstayer). The 1st visa is usually for 30 months (2.5 years or 2.5 years+3 months), then you need further 3 visas, each for 2.5 years, meaning you can only settle in the UK after 10 years.  

Visa options: Spouse/Civil Partner or Unmarried Partner. Can also leave the UK and come back on a Fiancee visa.

Can switch from: most UK visas, such as any Tier, Fiancée, Partner 10-year route. Cannot switch from a visitor.

English: A1. If you are switching from a Tier 4 visa, you can use your UK degree.

Financial Requirement: income of £18,600 or savings of £62,500.

Most commonly met with: UK employment or self-employment; savings in the UK and/or abroad; PhD scholarship.=

Consideration time: 2 – 3 months on standard service but can be just 24 hours on a Priority one. 

Priority service available? Yes, 24-hours.

Outcome: visa for 2.5 years (30 months).

Right to work: Yes.

Next step: extension for further 2.5 years.

English: A2.  In some cases, you may rely on having met it during the last application.

Financial Requirement: income £18,600 or savings of £62,500.

Most commonly met with: Sponsor or Applicant’s UK employment or self-employment, the couple’s savings in the UK and/or abroad, pension.

Consideration time: 2 – 3 months on standard service but only 24 hours on Priority service. 

Priority service available? Yes, 24-hours.

Outcome: visa for further 2.5 years (30 months).

Right to work: Yes.

Next step: permanent residency (ILR) after 5 years if you are in the standard 5-year route. If you are in the 10-year route, then further extensions until you have spent 10 years in the UK (unless you switch to the 5-year route). You may not need to meet the Financial and English language requirements.

Visa options: Spouse/Civil Partner or Unmarried Partner. Can also leave the UK and come back on a Fiancee visa.

Can switch from: most UK visas, such as any Tier, Fiancée, Partner 10-year route. Cannot switch from a visitor.

English: A1. If you are switching from a Tier 4 visa, you can use your UK degree.

Financial Requirement: income of £18,600 or savings of £62,500.

Most commonly met with: UK employment or self-employment; savings in the UK and/or abroad; PhD scholarship.=

Consideration time: 2 – 3 months on standard service but can also use next-day service by a prior appointment.

Priority service available? Yes, 24-hour service or 5-working-day service. 

Outcome: visa for 2.5 years (30 months).

Right to work: Yes.

Next step: extension for further 2.5 years.

English: A2.  In some cases, you may rely on having met it during the last application.

Financial Requirement: income £18,600 or savings of £62,500.

Most commonly met with: Sponsor or Applicant’s UK employment or self-employment, the couple’s savings in the UK and/or abroad, pension.

Consideration time: 2 – 3 months on standard service but can be faster with optional Priority services. 

Priority service available? Yes, 24-hour service or 5-working-day service. 

Outcome: visa for further 2.5 years (30 months).

Right to work: Yes.

Next step: permanent residency (ILR) after 5 years if you are in the standard 5-year route. 

If you are in the 10-year route, then further extensions until you have spent 10 years in the UK (unless you switch to the 5-year route). You may not need to meet the Financial and English language requirements.

If you do not have a valid visa in the UK at the moment, we will explain your options and guide you on applying accordingly. Maybe you overstayed your past visa, came to the UK as a visitor and remained since, and would now like to obtain a legal status here. This includes situations if you were brought to the UK as a child and are now looking to legalise your stay as an adult. 

Options include applying under the 10-year route, which has a benefit of not leaving the UK but has a downside of being discretionary. It also means another 10 years to settlement. We will advise on your chances on success under the 10-year route, and if your application is successful, you could later switch to the 5-year route to speed up your path to settlement. 

You may also consider leaving the UK and applying under the standard 5-year route, assuming you and your British partner can meet the requirements including Financial Requirement £18,600. The downside is leaving the UK and being apart from your partner (and children, if applicable), plus the chance of being refused if you get the application wrong and then having to re-apply or appeal, ie more and more waiting. The upside is almost likely getting a visa approved if you and your partner meet the requirements, plus being put in the 5-year route, meaning twice sooner to settlement than under the 10-year route. 

To discuss further, please start from Booking a consultation here.  

If you have a visa as a Spouse/Partner or Parent in the 10-year route, you can switch to the standard 5-year route. Instead of waiting for 10 years to qualify for settlement, you can qualify after 5 years on 5-year-route visas. You can switch as soon as you meet the requirements, you don’t have to wait until the current visa expires. 

Example 1: you did not have a valid visa in the UK (ie you were an overstayer), applied for a Partner visa, were granted a leave in the 10-year route. You and your partner can now meet all the requirements for the standard 5-year route visa, so you can switch anytime, thus beginning “your” 5-year qualifying period towards Indefinite Leave.

Example 2: you had a UK visa, such as Tier 4, it was about to expire but you and your partner couldn’t meet Financial Requirement £18,600 to switch to a standard Spouse/Partner visa. You were granted a leave in the 10-year route instead. One year later you and/or your partner have income of £18,600 and can switch to the 5-year route. 

There are more examples, to discuss your situation please book advice session with us here. 

This is an unexpected side effect of the 10-year route! If you are in the standard 5-year route, you would not like to extend this qualifying period beyond 5 years. Why would you? It would mean more applications, more Government fees and health surcharge payments (for a full visa every time, even if you only need a year). Yet some migrants end up ‘switching’ from the 5 to 10-year route. Or rather being switched – involuntarily and unintentionally. 

For example, you had a Spouse/Partner visa. Then applied for extension but the visa officers concluded you hadn’t  met the requirements. They cannot just refuse, they are obliged to consider all circumstances including family life. Since it wasn’t your first application as a Partner (ie not switching from another visa), it is likely you would not be refused but put into the 10-year route instead. 

Of course, having a visa under 10-year route is better than no visa, especially if you indeed couldn’t meet the requirements (usually, Financial). If, however, you made a technical mistake (missed some documents or miscalculated earnings), and it could have been corrected (by adding documents or adding savings), then a refusal would have been better. You could re-apply, correcting the mistakes, and continue in the 5-year route, even with the loss of Government fee, although health surcharge would be refunded. Or you could have appealed, saving on Government fee but delaying the process potentially by a year. 

In other words, with a refusal you would have had options. With being involuntary put into the 10-year route, you cannot appeal (as there is no refusal), cannot re-apply with the same application. You can switch back to the 5-year route but that’s another full Government fee and full health surcharge!

It is, therefore, important to prepare your case carefully!

Qualifying period: 5 years in the UK on the Spouse and/or Unmarried Partner visas – standard route. 10 years in the UK under the 10-year route, or 10 years of legal stay on any visas, whichever is sooner. 

English: B1 for all.

Life in the UK Test: Yes for all.

Financial Requirement: income of £18,600 or savings of £34,600.

Most commonly met with: Sponsor or Applicant’s UK employment or self-employment, the couple’s savings in the UK and/or abroad, pension.

Consideration time: 6 months on standard service or can also use Priority services by appointment.

Priority service available? Yes, 24-hour service or 5-working-day service. 

Outcome: Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Right to work: Yes.

Next step: British Citizenship.

Decision on the next working day after the appointment, as opposed to waiting – and worrying – for several months. We book an appointment for you, we upload the documents beforehand and ‘hold your hand’ throughout the whole process. You can keep your passport during the processing time.  

24-hour service is available for in-UK applications: switching to a Spouse or Unmarried Partner visa from Tier 4 / Student and other permissible categories; applying as a Spouse after being on a Fiancée visa, extension after initial 2.5 years; settlement after 5 years. Not available under 10-year route. 

Standard service is also available and takes approximately 6 months for ILR, or 2 – 3 months for switching and extension. You can keep your passport during the processing time! Our How It Works page has more.  

Applications outside the UK: standard service takes approximately 3 months, priority – approximately 1.5 – 2 months.

Decision on the next working day after the appointment, as opposed to waiting – and worrying – for several months.  We book an appointment for you, we upload the documents beforehand and ‘hold your hand’ throughout the whole process. You can keep your passport during the processing time.  

24-hour service is available for in-UK applications: switching to a Spouse or Unmarried Partner visa from Tier 4 or Student visa, Graduate or Work visa and other permissible categories; applying as a Spouse after being on a Fiancée visa, extension after initial 2.5 years; settlement after 5 years. Not available under 10-year route. 

Standard service is also available and takes approximately 6 months for settlement, or 2 – 3 months for switching and extension. You can keep your passport during this time! Our How It Works page has more.  

Applications outside the UK: standard service takes approximately 3 months, priority – approximately 1.5 – 2 months.