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What is a UK Spouse Visa?

A UK Spouse Visa, often referred to as a Partner Visa, is a visa designed for foreign nationals who are married to a British citizen or a person with settled or pre-settled status in the UK. The visa allows the foreign spouse to either come to the UK or remain in the UK if they are already here on another visa. The spouse visa provides many benefits and enables the holder to live, work, and study in the UK. Most importantly, it allows them to lead a normal family life with their spouse. 

The spouse visa is granted for an initial period of two and a half years, with a further extension for another two and a half years. This combined period provides sufficient time for the foreign spouse to satisfy the residence criteria for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under the 5-year route. Once ILR has been achieved, no further visas are required. The spouse can then proceed to make an application for British citizenship visa naturalisation if they so wish. 

A spouse visa should not be confused with a fiancé visa, which enables a foreign national to come to the UK to get married. The spouse visa is only obtainable once you are legally married, not before. There are a number of other key eligibility requirements, which we will explore in the rest of this guide. 

UK Spouse Visa Eligibility Criteria

To be able to qualify for a UK spouse visa, you need to satisfy all of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Spouse/Sponsor: Your sponsor (spouse) must be British or someone with settled status in the UK.  
  • Age: Both partners must be at least 18 years old at the time of application.
  • Relationship: The relationship must be genuine and subsisting. This means you must be in a legally recognised marriage and an ongoing bonafide relationship. All previous relationships must have permanently broken down.
  • Appendix FM Financial Requirement: The sponsor must meet the minimum income threshold of £29,000. Income can come from employment, self-employment, or a combination of these sources. Savings can also be used to supplement your income if it is below the required level. 
  • English Language Requirement: The applicant must demonstrate a basic command of the English language by passing an approved English language test at the A1 level or higher. Alternatively, this requirement can be satisfied by holding a degree taught in English or by being a citizen of a majority English-speaking country.
  • Accommodation: The couple must have suitable accommodation in the UK that isn’t overcrowded and meets the “adequate” standard defined by UK housing regulations.
  • Intention to Live Together: The couple must intend to live together permanently in the UK in a genuine relationship.
  • Health: Some applicants may need to provide medical documentation, such as a Tuberculosis Clearance Certificate.
  • Character: All applicants must meet the character requirements set by the UK government.

Each of these requirements will vary based on your individual circumstances. The requirements are impacted by your nationality, your country of residence, and whether any dependents are to be included in your application. There could also be additional requirements and complexities depending on the information you disclose in the application.

In the sections below, we take a closer look at some of these more complex requirements in further detail.

UK Spouse Visa Financial Requirement

The financial requirement is undoubtedly the toughest of the requirements to satisfy for a spouse visa. Recent changes that took effect on 11 April 2024 have significantly increased the amount of earnings or savings that you need to show. The exact requirements are detailed in Appendix FM – Financial Requirements, and the suggestion is that the minimum income requirement will further increase to £38,700 in early 2025.

The financial requirement requires you to demonstrate your ability to financially support your foreign spouse without relying on public funds. This is primarily done by proving you have an income of a sufficient level or a significant amount of savings or assets. All of the routes to satisfy the financial requirements are detailed below:

  • Income threshold: The UK partner must have a gross annual income of at least £29,000 or more from salaried, self-employed income, or non-employment income such as property income or pensions. All of this income must be declared to the tax authorities and supported by official documents.
  • Savings: If the UK partner is unable to meet the income threshold, they may be able to use cash savings to meet the financial requirement instead. The savings must amount to at least £88,500 or more and have been held in the UK for a minimum of six months.
  • Combination of income and savings: If the UK partner is marginally below the income threshold but has some savings, they can combine their income and savings to meet the financial requirement.
  • Sponsorship from a third party: If the applicant or their partner does not meet either income or savings requirements, they may obtain sponsorship from a third party, such as a family member or friend.
  • Exemption from Appendix FM Requirements: In some limited instances, applicants may be exempt from the requirements, for example where ‘insurmountable obstacles’ to family life continuing outside the UK exist.


This is a very complicated part of immigration and family law, and we suggest contacting our team to discuss your circumstances. Recent changes to the requirements have also added a further layer of complexity.

Exemptions from the Financial Requirement

You are exempt from meeting the minimum income requirement if the UK partner receives disability or carers allowance. The following benefits receive this exemption:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme
  • Police Injury Pension
  • Child Disability Payment
  • Adult Disability Payment

While those receiving these benefits are exempt from needing to meet the specific minimum income requirements, you must still show you can house and support your spouse without recourse to further public funds.


Future Changes to the Financial Requirement

The increase in the minimum income requirement to £29,000 was just the first of three proposed rises. This change took effect on 11th April 2024. As of yet, no specific dates have been provided for the second and third rise. However, the media has been briefed that the minimum income will increase to £34,500 later this year and then £38,700 in early 2025.

UK Spouse Visa Relationship Requirements

It is important to demonstrate the legitimacy of your relationship as part of any partner visa application, and this is especially true for spouse visa applications. The requirement is to demonstrate a genuine and subsisting relationship between you and your spouse. In simple terms, this means you’re married, in an ongoing loving relationship, and you intend to live together and continue your relationship permanently in the UK.

To show all of these facets of your relationship, it’s important to provide documents that clearly demonstrate this. Therefore, any comprehensive application should include the following:

  • Legal Documents – Such as your marriage certificate and the birth certificates for any children. 
  • Relationship Based Evidence – This includes evidence of communication, photos, joint travel as well as letters of support from family and friends.
  • Joint Financial Commitments – Including joint bank accounts, mortgages, or property ownership. 
  • Personal Statements: Both partners should write personal statements detailing the history of the relationship, the circumstances of the marriage, and plans for the future in the UK.

Applications are assessed by caseworkers on a case by case basis, so it’s important to include as much relevant information as possible. However, applicants should not be tempted to submit every single document or correspondence they have as this can dilute the strength of your application. 

UK Spouse Visa Accommodation Requirement

One of the lesser-known but no less important requirements for a spouse visa is the accommodation requirement. Under this requirement, the married couple must prove they have adequate accommodation and plan to reside together in this accommodation during their time in the UK.

The requirements for suitable accommodation typically include:

  • Residence: The couple must have a residence in the UK suitable for their status as a couple. For many, this will be a rented or owned property. However, it is also possible to reside with relatives or friends.
  • Adequate Space: The accommodation must offer sufficient space to accommodate the couple and any other occupants without overcrowding.
  • Safety and Habitability: The accommodation must be safe, habitable, and free from hazards that could jeopardize the health or safety of its occupants.

At a minimum, it is expected that the couple will have their own private room, although shared bathrooms and common areas are permissible.

UK Spouse Visa Document List

This section will examine the documents required for a UK spouse visa application. It’s important to note that all applications are now made entirely online, and therefore, documents can only be submitted digitally.

The essential documents typically needed when applying for a UK spouse visa are as follows:

  • Passport(s): Provide your current and valid passport or an alternative accepted travel document.
  • Relationship Evidence: Present proof demonstrating the authenticity and sustainability of your relationship with your partner. This should include photographs, emails, travel records, and other relevant evidence showcasing your committed relationship over a reasonable period.
  • Marriage Certificate: Supply your marriage certificate alongside any other supporting legal documents and translations where necessary.
  • Financial Requirements: Provide evidence demonstrating that you and your partner meet the financial requirements for the visa. Depending on your circumstances, this may include payslips, bank statements, accountant letters, and tax documents.
  • Accommodation Details: Present evidence of suitable accommodation arrangements for both you and your partner in the UK. This could include a tenancy agreement, mortgage statement, or a letter from your host.
  • English Language Proficiency: Submit evidence confirming that you fulfill the English language requirement for the visa. This can include an approved English language test certificate or proof of exemption on the grounds of education or nationality.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Test Results: If you are from a country where TB is prevalent, you may need to provide evidence of being tested for TB.

The above documents are the minimum requirements for the visa. Where there is additional complexity, further supporting documents should be provided. First Migration’s specialist team can advise you on the specifics of your application.

UK Spouse Visa Application Fee and Other Costs

Applying for a UK spouse visa is a costly exercise that involves several different fees.  The cumulative cost runs into thousands of pounds, which is why it is so important to ensure your application is prepared correctly and approved the first time you apply.

All of the following fees are applicable for spouse visa applications:

  • Application Fee: The UK Spouse Visa application fee is £1,846 if you’re applying from outside the UK and £1,048 if you’re applying from within the UK. This fee is non-refundable, regardless of the outcome of the application.
  • Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS): As well as the application fee, an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) needs to be paid online when the application is submitted. The IHS fee is £1,035 per year for adults and £776 per year for children. Initial spouse visas issued in the UK are valid for 2.5 years, so the total IHS cost comes to £2,587.50 for an adult and £1,940 per child applying. For those applying outside the UK, the visa length is 2 years and 9 months. For IHS purposes, this is rounded up to 3 years, so the total IHS cost for overseas applications is £3,105 for an adult and £2,328 per child applying. 
  • Biometric Enrolment Fee: You may be charged a fee when submitting your biometric data (fingerprints and facial image) at a visa application centre. This fee varies depending on the country and centre, but typically ranges from £100 to £200.

In addition to the above fees, you may incur additional charges if you require an English language test certificate, tuberculosis test, or translation services. There is also an additional fee to pay if you want to expedite your application by using a priority service. The availability of these services varies dramatically by location.

UK Spouse Visa Processing and Decision Waiting Times

The processing time for a UK spouse visa fluctuates based on multiple factors. These include seasonal factors, such as application volumes, along with application-specific factors, such as the completeness of the application and the need for additional information or documents. Processing times also differ by country, with UK-submitted applications typically processed more quickly.

The UK government processes 90% of spouse visa applications within 12 weeks, which is a realistic timeframe based on our experience. Nevertheless, some overseas applications may take up to 24 weeks to process. If you require a quicker turnaround then you’ll need to pay an additional fee for the priority service (subject to availability). Under these services, you can receive a decision within either 1 or 5 working days.

Application Process for a UK Spouse Visa

The application process for a UK spouse visa follows the standard online process of all UKVI applications. While the online application is a crucial part of the process, it’s the preparatory work that really makes the difference in securing a visa approval. The following is our step-by-step guide to making a successful spouse visa application:

  • Gather Necessary Documents: Collect all the required documentation to support your application. This should include all the documents listed in the earlier sections, along with any other relevant documents specific to your application. It’s important to read the supporting guidance notes, immigration rules, and appendices to ensure you’ve not missed anything.
  • Complete the Online Application Form: This form (formally known as VAF4A) is found on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website. Ensure all information you provide is accurate and consistent with your supporting documents.
  • Select a Biometric Appointment Date: You must then select a date to enroll your biometric information. It’s at this point you can also select Priority Services, subject to availability.
  • Pay the Application and IHS Fees: Once your application is ready to submit, you must pay the Application Fee and Immigration Health Surcharge. If you’re opting for a Priority Service you will also need to pay these fees at this point.
  • Submit the Application and Upload Supporting Documents: Before your biometric appointment, you must upload your supporting documents as electronic PDFs via the UKVI website.
  • Attend Biometric Appointment: You’ll need to provide your biometric information (fingerprints, signature, and digital photograph) in person at your local visa application centre.
  • Wait for a Decision on Your Application: Your application is now fully submitted and you’ll need to wait for it to be allocated to a caseworker and assessed. Processing times vary by location but are typically in the range of 10-12 weeks. By selecting a Priority Service you’ll ensure a decision within a much quicker timeframe. 
  • If you applied outside the UK: If approved, collect your passport stamped with the 90-day (validity) Entry Clearance Visa paper vignette and travel to the UK to join your spouse. 
  • If you applied in the UK: If approved, you will receive an approval email. A new BRP Visa ID card will be sent within 10 working days of the approval to your home address. 

A spouse visa application is neither a short nor straightforward process. However, if you follow the relevant guidance and immigration rules, there’s no reason your application can’t be successful. If you’re unsure of the exact requirements or if there are complexities associated with your application, then we urge you to get in touch. Our dedicated and specialist team will be happy to speak with you and explain how we can make a difference on your application.


UK Spouse Visa Extensions

The initial spouse visa is granted for 2 years and 6 months for applications made within the UK and 2 years and 9 months for applications made overseas. After this time, you will need to apply for a further extension if you want to remain in the UK and reach the required period of residence to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The criteria for an extension is largely the same as for an initial application. You must demonstrate your ongoing relationship, adherence to all immigration rules, and, importantly, earnings above the minimum threshold based on the criteria when you made your initial application. Successful applicants will be given an extension for a further 2 years and 6 months, thereby meeting the 5-year residency threshold for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

If you want to find out more about spouse visa extensions, we suggest you read our comprehensive spouse visa extension guide.