Upcoming Changes to Spouse Visas

On 4th December James Cleverley, the UK Home Secretary, announced a series of amendments to the UK immigration system. Amongst these changes was a proposal to increase the minimum income threshold for family visas (including spouse visas) from £18,600 to £38,700. At the time, it was unclear whether this would impact just new or existing applications, but subsequent updates have now clarified this point. We’re pleased to confirm anyone already on a spouse visa will have any future extension assessed based on the same income requirements as before. The latest statement on this matter is as follows:

“Those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold. This will also be the case for children seeking to join or accompany parents.”

However, existing spouse visa holders are not exempt from the upcoming increase in application fees and the immigration health surcharge.

What is a UK Spouse Visa Extension?

A spouse visa extension, often referred to as a spouse visa renewal, is a process that allows someone who is already in the UK on a spouse or partner visa to extend their stay beyond the initial period granted on their original visa. In official terms, it’s an application for further leave to remain. During the application process, you’ll need to substantiate that you remain in a genuine relationship, can financially support yourself, can adequately speak and understand English, and have abided by the immigration rules.

If you successfully apply for a spouse visa renewal, you will be granted a further 30-month (2.5 years) extension to your stay in the UK. This extension, combined with the initial period of 30 months (or 33 months if applying from outside the UK), should be sufficient for you to meet the 5-year residency requirements to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain. If, for any reason, you don’t qualify for ILR or don’t want to apply for it, you can continue to extend your Spouse visa indefinitely.

What are the Requirements for Extending my Spouse Visa?

The spouse visa extension application largely mirrors the process for applying for an initial Spouse visa. This means you’ll need to satisfy criteria related to your relationship, income, English language ability, and character. These areas must be addressed to ensure your Spouse visa renewal is successful.

The full requirements for extending your spouse visa are as follows:

Relationship Requirement – You must still be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner, a British citizen, a settled person, or someone with refugee/humanitarian protection status in the UK.

Financial Requirement – You and your partner must meet the financial requirement, which requires a combined income of £18,600. The figure will rise if you’re also supporting dependent children. Income can be used from employment, self-employment, savings or a blend of all three. Further details on the financial requirement can be found in our Appendix FM Guide.

English Language Requirement -You must demonstrate a basic command of the English language by passing an approved English language test at the A1 level or higher. Alternatively, you can hold a degree taught in English or come from a majority English-speaking country.

Accommodation Requirement – You must demonstrate that you have appropriate accommodation for yourself, your partner, and any dependants. The accommodation should be adequate and not overcrowded.

Character Requirement – You must demonstrate that you are of good character and haven’t violated any immigration rules or had any criminal convictions during your time in the UK.

 

Each of these areas will need to be clearly substantiated with the relevant supporting documents.

 

 

 

How Much Does a UK Spouse Visa Extension Cost?

There are 3 separate costs associated with extending your UK spouse visa. The first of these costs is the application fee, sometimes called the government fee. Currently, it costs £1,048 to extend your Spouse visa. The second cost is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which currently costs £624 per year for adults and £470 per year for children under 18. This fee is set to rise imminently to £1,035 per year for adults and £776 per year for children under 18. It’s important to note that you must pay the IHS fee upfront for the full 2.5-year duration of your Spouse visa extension at the time of application.

The final cost associated with a spouse visa extension relates to scheduling your biometric appointment. The price for these appointments can range anywhere from nil cost (free appointments) up to £250 for a short notice appointment. The price is typically determined by availability and the immediacy of the appointment. The only other potential fee to consider is the fee related to a priority service application, where a decision on your application is expedited. These priority services currently cost an additional £500 for a decision within 5 days or £1,000 for a decision the next working day. Fees for these appointments are also likely to rise imminently.

Spouse Visa Extension Processing Time

Processing times for spouse visa extensions fluctuate throughout the year, but it typically takes 8 to 12 weeks to get a decision back under a standard application. This timeframe is based on the date of your biometric appointment, not the date you first applied online. While you have an application pending for a spouse visa extension, you can continue to live, work, and study in the UK, even if your current visa has expired. However, you cannot travel overseas despite retaining your passport.

If you require a faster decision on your application for either travel, work, or personal reasons, we suggest utilising the priority services that UKVI offers. These services allow a decision to be made within either 5 working days or 1 working day, subject to the payment of an additional fee. See the costs section for further information on the cost of this service.

Applying for a UK Spouse Visa Extension

The process for applying for a UK spouse visa extension isn’t the simplest, and it’s very important you prepare ahead of time. Your application must be made before your current Spouse visa expires. If you allow the visa to expire, you must return to your home country and apply again from overseas. This will also restart the clock on your eligibility for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The following step-by-step guide walks you through the full process:

  1. Check Eligibility: To be eligible for a Spouse Visa extension, you must still meet the same original visa requirements, including the relationship status, financial requirement, English language requirement, and suitable accommodation. Additionally, you must not have breached any immigration laws during your stay in the UK.
  2. Timing: You should apply for the extension before your Spouse Visa expires, but not more than 28 days before its expiration date. Applying too early or too late can result in complications to your visa extension or any subsequent application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
  3. Online Application: Submit your application online using the FLR(M) form (Further Leave to Remain – Marriage) on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website. As part of the online process, you’ll need to provide personal details, information about your spouse, and details of your relationship and financial situation.
  4. Application Fee: The extension application fee is currently £1,048 for the Standard Service with an 8-12 week processing time. Alternatively, you can opt for a priority service that provides a decision in 1 working day after your biometric appointment. The cost for this priority service is £2,048. Additionally, you’ll need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of £1,560 (and £1,175 per child applicant), covering the 2.5-year extension period.
  5. Gather Supporting Documents: Collect the necessary documents to prove you meet the eligibility requirements. These documents should evidence your relationship, financial status, accommodation, and your knowledge of the English language. It’s important to ensure your documents are up-to-date, cover the correct time period, and are well-organised. These should then be uploaded via your UKVCAS account.
  6. Biometric Information: As part of the application process, you must provide your biometric information (fingerprints and facial image) at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre. You’ll schedule this appointment as part of the online application process.
  7. Attend the Appointment: Attend the biometric appointment at the UKVCAS centre, bringing your passport, BRP card, and appointment confirmation. Your biometric data will be collected at the appointment. This completes all your tasks for preparing and submitting the application.
  8. Decision: After submitting your application, biometric data, and supporting documents, you must wait for a decision. Standard processing times for Spouse Visa extensions are usually 8 to 12 weeks, but you can opt for a Priority Service (for an additional fee) to receive a decision within 1 working day of the biometric appointment.
  9. Receive Your New Biometric Residence Permit (BRP): If your application is successful, you’ll be issued a new BRP, valid for an additional 2.5 years. A secure courier will deliver the new BRP card to your home address within 10 working days of the approval email.

You need to apply for the extension of your spouse visa before your current visa expires, but you shouldn’t apply more than 28 days before its expiration date. Applying too early or too late can result in complications to any subsequent application for Indefinite Leave to Remain or your ongoing stay in the UK. In the worst possible scenario, you would need to leave the UK and reapply from your home country.