Are you wondering how to move back to the UK with a foreign spouse?
We’ve got the details to make the process as smooth as possible…
Love can happen when we least expect it — it’s one of the great joys in life.
But what happens if we meet the man or woman of our dreams while an expat overseas and then want to return to the UK?
Marrying a foreign partner abroad and moving back to the UK with a foreign wife or husband can mean jumping through hoops.
Here’s our guide to cutting through the red tape and moving back to the with your foreign spouse if you are a British citizen…
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How to get a UK Visa for your Foreign Spouse
A family member who joins you in the UK based on your right to stay in the UK is called a ‘dependant’, and you are known as the ‘sponsor’.
The first step to successful immigration is obtaining a ‘spouse visa’.
Applications for a spouse visa can be made from either inside or outside of the UK, and must be completed online at the GOV.UK website.
This visa allows married partners of UK citizens to immigrate to the UK because they are married to someone who is ‘settled in the UK’ — i.e. a person who is ordinarily resident in the UK and has no immigration restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK.
This means that if the UK national has been living outside of the British system for some time, he or she must first re-enter the system, i.e. return to the UK ahead of their spouse, and register with all relevant institutions such as National Insurance and council tax to get flagged as fully resident again.
The spouse visa gives the foreign husband, wife or civil partner the right to live and work in the UK for 2.5 years, after which time they must reapply.
After 5 years of living in the UK on a spouse visa, they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain which entitles them to stay in the UK without any time restrictions — providing that you are still married and living together permanently in the UK and continue to meet the maintenance requirements.
Having a spouse visa does not allow a foreign spouse to claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance that are paid by the UK government.
The cost of a spouse visa is £1,523.
Here’s a great video on the background of the UK spouse visa:
To apply as a partner or spouse, you and your partner both need to be 18 or over and intend to live together permanently in the UK after you apply.
You will need to prove that you are in a civil partnership or marriage that’s recognised in the UK and that you’ve been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years when you apply.
The foreign spouse will also need to prove that they have a good knowledge of English, either with a recognised academic qualification, or by successfully passing an approved English language test with at least a CEFR level A1 in speaking and listening.
Applicants of 65 years or over, and nationals of the following countries are exempt from the proving their knowledge of English:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Income Rules for Foreign Spouses
The foreign national must also prove that they can financially support themselves and any children they have.
The minimum income requirements are that you and your partner have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year.
If any children are entering the UK who aren’t British citizens or EEA nationals, the minimum income requirement is raised by £3,800 for your first child, and £2,400 for each subsequent child you have after your first child.
Cash savings can be counted as income if they total more than £16,000.
If you’re using income from self-employment or employment, you’ll need to prove you or your partner received that income for 6 months or more.
Is it Different if we have Children?
You can add children to your application as dependants if they are under 18, or were under 18 when you first applied and do not live an independent life.
Any child over the age of 18 will need to make their own visa application.
As previously mentioned any children added to the application will augment the visa fees.
What Happens if Your Application is Rejected
If you have been refused for a UK Spouse Visa by the Home Office, it is most likely due to insufficient documentation or evidence of a genuine relationship, or that you don’t meet the income requirements.
In the event of your application being rejected, it is possible to make an appeal if you are told you may do so in your visa decision letter.
Here are the necessary steps for the appeal process:
- In the case of an appeal it is a good idea to seek professional advice from either a solicitor, immigration adviser, or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
- When you’re ready to make your appeal the first stage is to send off the application form given in your initial refusal. This must be done within two weeks if you’re in the UK and within 28 days if you’re elsewhere.
- The next stage is to take the appeal to the First-tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber. This allows you to provide additional documentation or argue that the evidence given is sufficient to prove your relationship with your foreign spouse. You can ask on your appeal form for a decision to be made either just on the information in your appeal form and any documents supplied to the tribunal, or at a physical hearing that you or your representative can attend. The tribunal is independent of government but it will incur fees of £140 with a hearing and £80 without. A judge will listen to both sides of the argument before making a decision.
- Wait for the decision of the Tribunal. You will receive this by post or you can collect it in person. If you win your appeal the Home Office will revise its decision based on any new evidence given and may even reimburse your court fees.
- If you lose your appeal you can ask for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) under certain circumstances. These are if you believe that the tribunal didn’t follow the correct procedures or apply the correct law, or had no evidence to support its decision. Appeals to the Upper Tribunal must be made within 14 days if your are inside the UK, and 28 days outside of the UK.
Moving back to the UK with a foreign wife or husband can be a stressful experience, but provided you meet all the requirements and follow the procedure correctly, you have every chance to succeed with your visa application.