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UK family immigration: settlement spouse visa for married couples

Spouses of British citizens and permanent residents may apply for a settlement spousal visa, commonly referred to as a marriage visa, to join their husband or wife in the UK on a permanent basis, provided all eligibility criteria and conditions are met as defined by the Home Office. As every year or quarter brings in new immigration changes there is no doubt that rumours of changes and meaning of the UK immigration rules fill many perspective applicants with dread or uncertainty. For this reason we have decided to discuss this topic in some depth to allow our readers to get to grips with the basic foundations of the Home Office policies and UK marriage visa process in general.

How to apply for a UK marriage visa?

The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is responsible for deciding spouse visa applications from those who wish to settle in the UK by virtue of marriage. The UKVI staff members process applications at the British Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions around the world. However, most UK-visa issuing offices are not directly involved in accepting applications from visa applicants. The Home Office has formed partnerships with VFS and TLS contact, private companies whom the UKVI outsource in order to assist with processing of biometric data (e.g. finger scans and visa photographs) at local UK Visa Application Centres (VAC) with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of normal and legal residence. It is important to note that VACs are not directly involved in the decision-making process as all UK marriage visa applications are forwarded to the appropriate British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission for processing. VAC clerks are not allowed to give legal advice or otherwise assist visa applicants aside from collecting biometric data and sending a complete spousal application to the UKVI for review.

Visa applicants must attend the biometric appointment at the time and date that they had selected when completing a UK marriage visa application on the official UKVI website and their fingerprints will be taken and submitted to the UKVI as part of the final package. It should be noted that in some countries applicants are not required to bring their UK sponsor’s documents to the local VAC. Instead, sponsoring British Citizens and UK permanent residents must forward their supporting documents, including financials and accommodation, directly to the UKVI. This is primarily in applications from Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and some parts of the Caribbean, including Jamaica. In all other circumstances, the complete application and evidence should be brought to the VAC and they will forward it to the appropriate British High Commission or Consulate for processing.

If there is any reason as to why the applicant cannot attend the appointment, i.e. awaiting documents arriving from the UK to support the application, it may be best to track the documents they are waiting for and then change the appointment online at least 48 hours in advance. Changing the appointment in a timely manner means that the applicant will retain the visa application fee they paid and they can attend the appointment on another day, when they have received documents they are waiting for from the UK, or when they are certain that they can attend the appointment.

The successful applicants will be able to come to the UK after the settlement spousal visa is granted and they must collect their biometric residence permit (BRP) within 10 days, which will be sent to the post office local to the address of their British spouse, as indicated on the initial visa application form.

UK marriage visa application fee

The current marriage visa application fee for all applicants seeking entry clearance to the UK as a spouse or civil partner is £956 per visa issued. This fee includes the visa application submission online and the appointment for the biometrics and documents submission at a local UK Visa Application Centre (VAC). This fee does not include any priority / expedited services or passport return services. Settlement priority service applicants (10 – 15 day turnaround) can expect to pay the equivalent of £360 extra. Any dependents are required to pay a separate application fee.

In addition to the base UKVI application fees, effective 6 April 2015 non-EU nationals applying for a settlement spouse visa to join their husband or wife in the UK are required to pay a mandatory NHS surcharge in the amount of £200 per year that the person will be in the UK, i.e. total of £600 for marriage visa applications made from outside the UK and £500 for “in country” applications. There are some exemptions to the rules which will again be reviewed by the UKVI later this year, but for now the exemptions are that based on the reciprocal arrangements with Australia and New Zealand meaning that nationals of Australia and New Zealand are exempt from the health care surcharge requirements. Australians and New Zealanders applying for a UK settlement spousal visa still need to obtain an IHS reference number, although they are not required to pay for it.

Whether an applicant is required to pay or exempt from the NHS healthcare surcharge a reference number (IHS) should still be obtained and this will be provided once they have completed an online application form as part of the process. The NHS payment must be made on the same official website as the visa application page and the price that will have to be paid for the surcharge will automatically be calculated. As with any payments made, there should always be a receipt provided and a copy of the payment confirmation should be retained for personal records.

Free initial consultation

The risks and possibilities of making an immigration application for a foreign spouse to settle in the UK on a settlement visa should not be taken lightly. We have full comprehension of the UK immigration rules and the fact that it can be very difficult to keep in step with the Home Office policies as a layperson, when it is constantly being amended, reviewed and changing, not to mention the rumours or expectations of how the rules work and numerous firms to chose from, can leave one feeling completely overwhelmed. From the moment we provide a free initial consultation until your loved one arrives in the UK on a settlement marriage visa, you will have our full support. We believe that asking is learning and learning is the only way to benefit yourself and others around you. This is why we encourage our clients to ask questions at any point they feel that they are lost, as this is what support really means to us, providing the answers for you and your foreign partner.

If you wish to sign up for a detailed consultation to discuss your eligibility in more detail, please complete our brief online assessment form on the right hand side. One of our immigration advisers will contact you within 24 hours. There is no fee for your initial UK marriage visa consultation.

Read next: Eligibility requirements for settling in the UK as a spouse of a settled person

UK family immigration: settlement spouse visa for married couples
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