Family Visa Applications

UK immigration rules generally allow spouses, unmarried partners, fiancés and dependent children to join a person who is either a British citizen or has settled status in the United Kingdom. Our immigration lawyers have extensive experience in advising clients in relation to family reunion visa applications.

If you would like to know more about applying for family members to come to the UK, get in touch with our team by calling 0345 872 6666, or by filling in our online enquiry form to request for a member of the immigration team to get back to you. 

How JMW Can Help

The UK government has laid down stringent requirements in relation to family applications. Due to our extensive contacts within the Home Office and visa-issuing posts worldwide, we are well-positioned to successfully and expeditiously manage these applications, ensuring the swift movement of family members.

As specialists in UK immigration law, JMW can offer a full service to clients that require advice and assistance with respect to their family immigration needs. Our immigration lawyers will prepare all documentation and liaise with the Home Office regularly to ensure a successful outcome.

With our office conveniently located in the heart of central London, we can assist clients based within the UK, as well as those overseas. We are able to provide services including document checking, assisting with applications made in the UK, and dealing with entry clearance applications made abroad.

Types of Family Visas

Marriage visitor visa

If you are presently outside of the UK, wish to marry here and do not intend to reside in the UK permanently after your wedding ceremony, you must get entry clearance and make an application for a marriage visitor visa. A marriage visit visa is only granted for a maximum of six months, after which you are required to leave the UK.

To qualify for entry clearance under a marriage visitor visa, you must meet the standard UK visitor entry requirements:

  • You are genuinely seeking entry as a visitor for up to six months
  • You intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • You do not intend to take up employment in the UK
  • You have sufficient money to support and accommodate yourself without recourse to public funds or taking employment
  • You can meet the cost of a return or onward journey

You must also show that:

  • You are free to marry
  • You intend to marry during your visit to the UK
  • You can be supported without working or having recourse to public funds during your visit
  • You intend to depart the UK before the expiry date of your visa
  • You have made arrangements to get married in the UK within the grant of your marriage visitor visa

Fiancé visa

If you are planning to come to the UK to get married or register a civil partnership with someone who is a British citizen or already settled in the UK, and you want to stay in the country afterwards, you will need entry clearance as a fiancé or proposed civil partner.

A fiancé visa grants you entry to the UK for a period of six months, during which time you are required to marry your fiancé in the UK. Once you are married, you can apply for a spouse visa from within the UK.

To qualify for a fiancé visa, you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • You and your future spouse are at least 18 years of age
  • You have met each other
  • You and your future spouse intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • You show that any previous relationships that you or your partner were involved in have ended, whether as a married or an unmarried couple
  • You provide evidence that you intend to get married in the UK within the six-month grant of the visa
  • You have enough funds to support yourselves (and any dependents) without claiming public funds
  • Your fiancé is earning a minimum of £18,600 per annum, or has savings to be able to sponsor you. The level of this financial requirement will increase if you are also sponsoring children as dependents
  • You have suitable accommodation available to you, your future spouse and any dependents
  • You are able to prove that you can speak and understand the English language. As part of your application, you will need to provide evidence to show that you either:
    • Are from a majority English speaking country
    • Have a qualification equivalent to a UK degree that was taught in English
    • Have passed an English language test from an approved test provider

Spouse/unmarried partner visa

If you are married or in a civil partnership with a person who is present and settled in the UK, you will be able to apply for permission to remain in the UK, providing that you meet the relevant requirements. 

Alternatively, if you and your partner have been living together for at least two years prior to the date of your application, you may be able to qualify as an unmarried partner.

The spouse visa enables you to work in the UK, and will initially be granted for a 30-month period. After spending five years on a spouse visa, you will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), as long as your marriage/relationship hasn’t ended and you can continue to meet the financial requirements. 

To qualify for a UK spouse/unmarried partner visa, you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • You and your spouse/partner are 18 years old or over
  • You have met each other and have been legally married or lived together for at least a two-year period
  • You intend to live together permanently
  • Your UK sponsoring partner must earn more than £18,600 per year, or have enough savings to be able to sponsor you. The minimum financial requirement is higher if they are also sponsoring dependent children
  • You have suitable accommodation for you, your spouse/partner and any dependents
  • You prove that you can speak and understand the English language. As part of your application, you will need to provide evidence to show that you either:
    • Are from a majority English speaking country
    • Have a qualification equivalent to a UK degree that was taught in English
    • Have passed an English language test from an approved test provider


I have a British/settled UK spouse and am on a visa - am I eligible to apply to remain?

If you entered the UK in a different immigration category (for example, a Tier 4 student), you may be allowed to switch into the category of a spouse or civil partner if you have been given more than six months’ leave to remain since your most recent admission to the UK.

I am on a visa in the UK - do I need permission to get married from the Home Office?

The certificate of approval scheme was abolished in 2011; however, if you and your partner are both in the UK, and either of you is subject to immigration control, you will be required to give notice at a designated registry office, which in turn will need to make a referral to the Home Office. The Home Office will then investigate whether the marriage is genuine and provide approval for marriage in the UK.

I am married to someone that is British/settled in the UK, but my visa has expired - can I apply to stay?

In order to remain in the UK as a spouse or civil partner, you must have valid leave to remain or enter, with the exception of a visitor visa. Simply marrying a British citizen or person that is present and settled in the UK does not automatically change a person’s immigration status. In order to change this, they must submit a formal application to the Home Office for further leave to remain. 

If there are sufficient reasons and merits in your case, it may be possible to apply for permission to stay in the UK even when your visa has expired, on the basis of a discretionary leave to remain application.

How do I apply for leave to remain as a spouse/civil partner?

At JMW, we can assist clients in making applications both in the UK and abroad. For those applying in the UK, applications can be made online. Meanwhile, those applying at a UK visa issuing post abroad can complete an online entry clearance application and book an appointment with either a VFS Global or TLS contact in your country of residence.

How long does it take the Home Office to process my visa application?

Processing times vary depending on whether they are made in the UK or abroad. For applications made overseas, the average processing time is 12 weeks from the date biometric information was provided in support of your application to the Home Office. However, there may also be an option to purchase a priority settlement service, which would reduce the processing time of your application to six weeks.

Once your application has been successful, you will be issued with a decision letter and your passport will be endorsed with a 30-day temporary visa, which permits you to enter the UK, running from your notified date of travel. 

Upon arrival in the UK, you will have 10 days in which to collect a biometric residence permit (BRP) containing your visa from a specific Post Office. If the BRP is not collected within this time frame, the visa may be cancelled.

For applications submitted in the UK, cases normally take eight weeks to be processed. Those opting for the Home Office 24-hour service or five-day service will be able to have their case considered either the following day or five days after they have provided their biometrics.

Will I be able to work if I am granted a leave to remain as a spouse/civil partner visa?

Yes, if you are successfully granted a spouse/civil partner visa, you will be given the full right to work with no restrictions. You will also be able to undertake self-employment and studies, or you may choose not to work in the UK as long as you are still able to meet the financial requirements to qualify for an extension of your leave as the spouse of a person present and settled in the UK. 

How long can I stay in the UK if my visa is granted?

Initially, permission to stay will be provided for 30 months if made in the UK, or 33 months if the application was made abroad. A further extension for 30 months will be required in order to be eligible for continuous residency as part of the settlement criteria.

What happens if my marriage breaks down before I apply for settlement?

In the event of your marriage breaking down during the probationary period, it is not possible to remain in the UK under the spouse or civil partner category, unless you are able to satisfy one of the exceptional circumstances.    

Talk to Us

If you need help applying for visas related to your family, our solicitors are here to help. Contact us today by calling 0345 872 6666, or by filling in our online enquiry form to ask a member of the immigration team to get back to you.

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