ARTICLE
27 March 2024

Does Spouse Visa Have Better Alternatives?

KC
Kadmos Consultants

Contributor

Kadmos Consultants is a boutique immigration law firm specialising in all aspects of immigration to the UK and British citizenship. The firm was established in 2006 and has a reputation for the excellent customer care and uniquely high success rate both in private and business immigration.
It is received knowledge that if you are married to a British citizen, UK spouse visa is your default immigration option.
UK Immigration
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Does spouse visa have better alternatives?

It is received knowledge that if you are married to a British citizen, UK spouse visa is your default immigration option.

Although in the majority of scenarios this is the case, sometimes there are better options that shouldn't be ignored.

Here are some tips on the five factors you have to bear in mind when choosing the right immigration category.

1. How soon will you qualify for indefinite leave to remain

UK spouse visa leads to indefinite leave to remain after five years in this specific category. The five years cannot be combined with any other immigration option. In other words, time spent as a skilled worker, student, or global talent does not count toward the qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain once you have switched into the spouse visa route.

If any of the requirements of the spouse visa are not met, you may still get your spouse visa, or spouse visa extension. But in this case you would probably get your visa on the so called 10-year route which will delay your entitlement to indefinite leave to remain. For example, if you met the financial requirement but by the time you had to extend your visa, the financial requirement could no longer be met, you would get your extension under the 10-year route. If later you meet the financial requirement, you will be able to switch back into the 5-year route, but your eligibility for ILR under the 5-year route will start counting afresh.

If your partner is holding the ancestry visa to the UK, you are much better off applying for a dependent visa before your partner gets settled status. This is because dependants of ancestry visa holders have serious privileges in comparison to dependants of British citizens and persons settled in the UK. Dependants of ancestry visa holders qualify for ILR at the same time as the main applicant. There is no requirement to have spent a continuous period of five years in the UK before applying for ILR. There is no English language requirement. And the visa application fee is much cheaper than the spouse visa.

Dependants of a skilled worker visa holders are also in a somewhat better position than dependents of settled persons. The visa fee is lower in this immigration category. And if the main visa holder is a Health and Care worker, or working for the NHS, you may be exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) – a huge portion of the government fee associated with a visa application. You don't have to take the progressive English language tests until you are ready to apply for ILR. You don't have to meet the financial requirement as long as you can be accommodated in the UK without recourse to public funds. There is no risk of sliding down into the 10-year route. However, there are restrictions on your absences from the UK – an absence of more than 180 days in any 12 months interrupts continuity of your residence and your time starts counting afresh.

Dependants of the Global Talent visa holders are also in a better position than dependants of British citizens or persons with indefinite leave to remain. Again, this is because the visa fee is lower, there is no English language requirement or financial requirement for this visa. However, absences from the UK have to be limited to under 180 days in any 12 months if you are planning to apply for ILR after five years of residence.

2. How much will the visa cost

Although the Immigration Health Surcharge is the same across all visa categories (except for Health and Care workers and their dependents), the visa fees may differ significantly and this difference is often amplified by the number of applications for extension you have to make before you apply for ILR. UK spouse visa fee is higher than the visa fee for dependents of a skilled worker, UK ancestry or Global talent visa holders. Of these, dependents of persons with the Global Talent visa pay the least, although they may lose to dependents of ancestry visa holders on the time required to qualify for ILR.

3. Will you have to pass an English language test

If English is not your first language, the requirement to pass the language test may be a significant consideration when choosing the best visa option. An applicant for the spouse visa has to pass the English language test in speaking and listening at A1 level for the first application, at A2 level for an application for extension and at B1 level in the same two components for indefinite leave to remain and citizenship.

If you are applying for a skilled worker visa, you have to pass the language test at B1 level in four components – speaking, listening, reading and writing. However, as a dependent of a person with a work related visa you don't have to pass the language test. This will not have any negative impact on your right to work in the UK.

4. Are you restricted regarding the time spent outside the UK

Spouse visa does not restrict the time spent outside the UK as long as you maintain your main home in the UK and your relationship with the British or settled sponsor is genuine and subsisting. It you spend considerable time outside the UK you may wish to have clearer defined rules even if this would include a restriction. As it is, you have to show that your home is in the UK and there are strong reasons of temporary nature why you had to spend time outside the UK. Such reasons can be related to care for a family member who is unwell, or a temporary work project outside the UK, or a course of study.

All other immigration categories, except dependents of ancestry visa holders, require continuous residence in the UK. This restrict the number of days you can be absent from the UK in any 12 months to 180 days. Longer absences would interrupt continuity of your residence and your qualifying period for ILR will start counting afresh after your return from the prolonged absence.

5. What fall back options will you have

What happens if your marriage breaks down or the reason underlying the grant of your visa no longer exists. You can switch into sponsored employment route from virtually any immigration category, provided you have a UK-based sponsor who is offering you a job in a skilled occupation and is prepared to pay you in accordance with or above the prescribed minimum pay rate for this job.

Time spent in some immigration categories can be combined as a continuous period leading to eligibility for indefinite leave to remain. Such categories are Skilled Worker, Scale-up, Global talent, Representative of an Overseas Business, Minister of Religion or International Sportsperson.

Other immigration categories cannot be combined with anything else and you have to spend the complete qualifying period in this category. These include the spouse visa, dependent partner in any work related route, and UK ancestry visa.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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