In order to ensure that there is no time or money wasted on applying for a UK marriage visa, it is important to confirm that a foreign national wishing to settle in the UK is legally married to their British partner as the settlement spouse visa is only issued to married couples. Evidence of marriage must be provided through a valid marriage certificate as defined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The location where the marriage took place is not important, except for the fact that the marriage ceremony must be recognised as a valid form of marriage by the law of the country where it took place. Foreign marriages are best evidenced by an official marriage certificate along with an English translation, if required. Apostille (legalisation) is not required.
The UKVI recognises that there may be a few variations as to the way in which some cultures accept marriages and in the event that marriage was a religious or a customary ceremony which has not been registered with the civil authorities of the country in which it was celebrated, the marriage would need to be subsequently registered before a UK spousal visa application is made. This is particularly an issue for some applicants in India and Pakistan who mistakenly believe that unofficial marriage certificates issued to the couple after the traditional wedding ceremony will be accepted by the UKVI. This is clearly not the case as the UKVI only accepts certificates issued by the civil authorities. It should be noted that applicants in Pakistan are required to submit Nikah Namas that have been certified by the appropriate Union Council.
Applicants and their UK sponsors also need to ensure that any previous marriages have been dissolved and evidence of this would be by an original divorce certificate (“decree absolute” in the UK) or death certificate along with any translations, if applicable. The examining UKVI entry clearance officers (ECO) are bound by the immigration rules to consider whether the applicant and their sponsor where free to marry at the time of their civil ceremony. We have seen this issue with some potential clients in the Philippines who married their British spouse while still legally married to another person which constitutes bigamy. This fact alone is sufficient ground for refusing a UK settlement spouse visa application as even if the previous husband or wife is missing due to long periods of separation or presumed dead, an official annulment, divorce decree or death certificate must be provided.
In the event that there are any children involved that are being sponsored to come to the UK, then evidence of parental responsibility or sole responsibility as granted by the local court is required. If there are shared access rights or a shared contact order in place, it is vital to get the permission from the child’s second parent that the child can travel and remain permanently in the UK. Failure to do so can result in the settlement dependent child application being refused.
Finances required for the British citizen to sponsor their spouse
The sponsoring British Citizens and legal permanent residents must be earning at least £18,600 per year in order to bring a foreign husband or wife to the UK on a settlement visa (if there is a dependent involved then an additional £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for any other child being included in the application). This income can be from employment over the last ix months or under six months employment with evidence of having earned this amount in the last 12 months prior to applying. Alternatively, this base figure can also be evidenced through other sources of income, savings alone or combined with other sources, or self-employment over the last 12 or 24 months. This is not exhaustive and there are other ways that the income threshold can be met, such as through pension, rental income et cetera. The onus is upon the sponsor to prove that they meet the income threshold criteria to bring their family to the UK and not seek benefits in order to manage once their spouse has arrived. This means that at entry clearance stage only the British Citizen / settled person with ILR income can be included in the financial part of the application, unless the following applies:
- The couple are relying on joint savings or individual savings;
- The couple are relying on pensions, investments, shares et cetera ;
- The applicant and sponsor are both based in the UK and the applicant already has leave to remain in a different category which permits employment and is switching to a spouse visa inside the UK, i.e. Tier 4 or Youth mobility scheme visa holder switching to a spouse visa;
- The sponsor is in receipt of disability related benefits, in which case there are exemptions;
Mandatory tests for UK spouse visa applicants
English language test
For entry clearance as a spouse or civil partner, there must be evidence that the applicant has passed the speaking and listening modules of a test at level A1 or above, i.e. IELTS Life Skills test provided by British Council or Trinity College examinations in spoken English (for UK based applicants only). Visa applicants do not need to undertake reading or writing assessments. A person is deemed to meet the language requirement as a national of a majority English speaking country if they are a national of one of the following countries:
Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; New Zealand; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; United States of America.
If the applicant is not a national of the above countries the English language test is mandatory, unless the applicant meets the language requirement based on their academic qualifications; is over the age of 65 or there is no test centre in the country of application.
Tuberculosis (TB) screening
Depending on the country of application a TB test may need to be taken with evidence that the applicant is free from tuberculosis. The countries that are listed as a high risk of TB include Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Gambia, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, Zambia and some others. All applicants must be tested at a clinic that has been approved by the Home Office. There are countries that do not have approved testing centres so some applicants may need to get tested in a neighbouring country. TB clearance certificates are only valid for six months.
We offer a free initial consultation to help our clients understand the process of bringing a foreign partner or spouse to the UK on a settlement visa. If you wish to discuss your case with one of our UK marriage visa consultants, please call us or complete the online inquiry form which can be found on the right hand side of this page. We will get back to you within 24 hours.