What are the visa policies for spouses and civil partners under the UK immigration rules?


The United Kingdom immigration process is defined through a set of laws that exist to regulate immigration procedure for the government. The UK government makes all its decisions related to immigration on the basis of these laws as they are obligated to do.

The government department responsible for handling all cases related to immigration is known as the Home Office. Headed by the Secretary of State, the home office is responsible for making decisions on immigration cases of all visa categories (such as tier 1 entrepreneur, t1 graduate entrepreneur visa, t1 investor visa, UK business visa, student visa, visit visa etc.) which includes cases related to asylum and deportation.

For immigration laws in relation to family members of any individual including entry and settlement laws, the rules have been set forth in Part 8 of the UK Immigration Rules. The following blog describes laws related to family members and procedures that the Home Office follows while making these decisions.

What are the rules I should know related to spouses and civil partners before applying to enter or settle in the UK on this bases?

  • The UK government does grant any person entry into the country if they wish to enter as a spouse or civil partner of the applicant, and circumstances exist where either the applicant or his/her spouse or civil partner is under the age of 18. This is due to marriage of any person under the age of 18 being illegal in the UK; or
  • The UK government does grant any person entry into the country if they wish to enter as a spouse or civil partner of the applicant, and circumstances exist where either the applicant or his/her spouse or civil partner is in a polygamous relationship; and the applicant has another husband/wife who is, or has been at any time, in the UK with being possessing an entitlement certificate along with the right of abode.
  • Furthermore, it does not matter whether the right of abode has been granted under the Immigration Act of 1988 or not. The UK will still recognize a marriage as being polygamous even if at the beginning it was not; or
  • If the wife/husband of the applicant applying to enter or settle in the UK entered the country illegally, the marriage will not be considered under UK law and the illegal entrant will be removed; or
  • If the wife/husband of the applicant is in the UK as a visitor, their attendance will not be considered under the law.

Can I apply to settle in the UK as the spouse or civil partner of a person who is settled in the UK? 

Yes, a person is allowed to settle in the UK if his/her partner is currently settled or has been given permission to settle in the UK as a resident. The requirements for a person entering the UK under this route are listed as follows:

  • The person applying under this route is already married to the settled partner or a partner who has been granted right to settle in the UK; and
  • The person applying as the spouse/civil partner proves that he/she possesses the required English language skills to settle in the UK. This can be proved by taking an English language test approved by the Home Office/Secretary of State including a listening and speaking section. The document granted after the test must clearly state the name of the applicant along with the qualification that he/she obtained. It should be noted that the qualification obtained must be greater than level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference.
  • Furthermore, it should be noted that this rule can be exempted on the person applying if he/she is greater than 65 years of age or a physical/mental disability prevents him/her from fulfilling this requirement. This rule can also be exempted in exceptional and compassionate scenarios that the Home Office carefully assesses and decides on; and
  • The person applying is in possession of a degree that is recognized by the UK as being the equivalent of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD in the UK. Furthermore, evidence such as the degree itself should be showed as proof along with UK NARIC stating that the person’s degree meets the recognized standard. The degree must also have been taught in the English language; and
  • The person applying must have been married to his/her spouse or civil partner at least 4 years before applying to settle in the UK. The person should also prove his/her English language skills to the UK government by giving the test. Furthermore, the person applying should also demonstrate his/her ability to possess sufficient knowledge as to life in the UK; and
  • It must also be legally proved that the person has met his/her spouse/civil partner before applying for settlement along with proving to the UK government that the marriage will not end after the person has been granted residency. The Home Office will assess whether the marriage is genuine and will ask the couple to show that the marriage is long lasting; and
  • It must be proved to the Home Office that both parties are financially stable enough to provide for their accommodation and those of their dependants without the need to resort to public funds; and
  • The person applying is in possession of a valid entry clearance document that is needed to be shown during entry; and
  • The person applying does not fall to be refused entry on any of the grounds defined in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules. These rules, containing policies for all visa categories (such as tier 1 entrepreneur, t1 graduate entrepreneur visa, t1 investor visa, student visa, visit visa etc)  can be viewed at the government’s official website listed as https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-part-9-grounds-for-refusal; and
  • A person is considered to be settled if he/she is:
  • A member of the HM Forces serving in official capacity overseas
  • A member of HM Diplomatic Service
  • A member of the staff of the British Council serving overseas
  • A member of the staff of the Department for International Development

Am I allowed to enter the UK if my spouse or civil partner holds permanent residency in the UK?

Yes, any person who has a spouse or civil partner permanently settled in the UK can legally enter the country on this basis given the following circumstances:

  • The person entering the UK cannot stay for a period greater than 27 months on his/her initial application.
  • The person applying as the spouse/civil partner proves that he/she possesses the required English language skills to settle in the UK. This can be proved by taking an English language test approved by the Home Office/Secretary of State including a listening and speaking section. The document granted after the test must clearly state the name of the applicant along with the qualification that he/she obtained. It should be noted that the qualification obtained must be greater than level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. Furthermore, the person applying should also demonstrate his/her ability to possess sufficient knowledge as to life in the UK.

Furthermore, the UK government also possesses the right to refuse entry of the applicant depending on whether the requirements of the applicant are met or not.

What are the requirements to apply for an extension on the period of stay if I entered the UK as the spouse/civil partner of a settled person?

  • Entry was previously granted to the person as the spouse or civil partner of a settled person for a period equal to or greater than 6 months, unless the couple was engaged and not yet married; and
  • The person applying for extension must still be married to his/her spouse or civil partner on the basis of who he/she entered; and
  • The person applying for an extension has not violated any of the Immigration Rules of the UK; and
  • The person has not overstayed past his/her legal limit that was allowed for him/her. However, a period less than or equal to 28 days past the legal limit is generally allowed.
  • The person seeking extension is not the subject of a deportation order, or has not been recommended to be deported; and
  • The couple must prove to the Home Office that they intend to live together after extension is granted on a permanent basis as they did so before. They must also prove that the marriage is long lasting; and
  • It must be proved to the Home Office that both parties are financially stable enough to provide for their accommodation and those of their dependants without the need to resort to public funds after extension is granted; and
  • The person applying as the spouse/civil partner proves that he/she possesses the required English language skills to settle in the UK. This can be proved by taking an English language test approved by the Home Office/Secretary of State including a listening and speaking section. The document granted after the test must clearly state the name of the applicant along with the qualification that he/she obtained. It should be noted that the qualification obtained must be greater than level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference. Furthermore, the person applying should also demonstrate his/her ability to possess sufficient knowledge as to life in the UK.
  • Furthermore, it should be noted that this rule can be exempted on the person applying if he/she is greater than 65 years of age or a physical/mental disability prevents him/her from fulfilling this requirement. This rule can also be exempted in exceptional and compassionate scenarios that the Home Office carefully assesses and decides on; and
  • The person applying is in possession of a degree that is recognized by the UK as being the equivalent of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD in the UK. Furthermore, evidence such as the degree itself should be showed as proof along with UK NARIC stating that the person’s degree meets the recognized standard. The degree must also have been taught in the English language.

The extension can be granted to the person applying under this category for a period of 2 years the first time. The Home Office possesses the right to grant or deny entry based on whether the person has fulfilled the above mentioned requirements or not.

Can I apply to permanently settle as the spouse or civil partner of a person already settled in the UK?

Yes, spouses or civil partners are also allowed to apply for permanent settlement given the below listed requirements are adequately met:

  • The person has first completed his/her 27 months of the original temporary stay that is required. After that, the person must also have completed the 2 years on the extension that he/she was granted. When both of these requirements of time period are met, the person is eligible to apply for permanent settlement; and
  • The person has completed a 2 year period of stay in the UK as the spouse/civil partner of a refugee or someone who was granted humanitarian protection by the UK; and
  • The person must still be the spouse or civil partner of the person who he/she applied to stay with his/her original application; and
  • The couple is in possession of sufficient funds that they will use to provide for their own accommodation, along with the accommodation of their dependants. This must be done without the couple needing to resort to public funds; and
  • The person applying to permanently settle has proved his/her English language skills in addition to proving that he/she possesses sufficient knowledge as to life in the United Kingdom; and
  • The application for permanent stay does not fall on any of the grounds for refusal listed in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules of the UK.