A Step-by-Step guide to Settlement Visas!

This guide is for partners of either British Citizens or British residents who hold Indefinite Leave to Remain, who are outside the UK.

Settlement visas (also known as partner visas or ‘to join family’) can be a cause of great stress to try to understand. The financial requirement is complex, and a comprehensive list of other documents required can be hard to find.

So let me help!

Before I start, here’s some terms I’ll be using:

  • ‘Applicant’ = the non-British partner who needs the visa
  • ‘Sponsor’ = the British partner
  • ‘UKVI’ = UK Visas and Immigration
  • ‘Entry Clearance Officer’ = the officer assessing the application.

So, bearing in mind that each person’s situation is unique, here is a guide that at least gives you the basic idea:

  • An online application form – choose ‘settlement’ ‘settlement’ then ‘marriage (if going to the UK to get married and then apply to stay)/wife/husband/civil partner/unmarried partner’, whichever applies; note, the date you pay for your visa when you submit this online form becomes your ‘date of application’, which can be key for the financial requirement documents (see below)
  • Appendix 2 – this is a form you complete by hand, that covers the history of your relationship as well as what accommodation arrangements you’ll have in the UK, plus the all important details of how you’ll meet the financial requirement (see more below)
  • The applicant’s original passport
  • The sponsor’s original passport (and evidence of ILR if applicable), or a certified copy of it
  • Depending on which country the applicant is applying from the applicant may need to get a TB test done at a UKVI authorised clinic
  • Marriage or Civil Partnership certificate if married/Civil Partners; or evidence of a wedding taking place if engaged and wanting to marry in the UK; or evidence of having lived together for 2 years if applying as unmarried partners
  • Divorce or death certificates if either partner has been previously married or in a civil partnership
  • Evidence that your relationship is genuine – UKVI want to be satisfied that the applicant has not just married the sponsor, for example, to obtain a visa for the UK, but that it is a genuine relationship; there is no pre-set documentation you must provide, but the following is a good guide:
    • Cards sent to each other
    • Itineraries from travels together
    • Photos together from over the course of your relationship
    • Evidence of contact when apart such as e-mails, phone bills, Skype history, Viber history, Whatsapp etc etc
    • If you are living together, bills or other items addressed to you both at the same address across the time you’ve been living together outside the UK
    • ….and so on and so forth.
  • I usually recommend to my clients that the sponsor write a letter also, confirming support of the application and giving an outline of the history of the relationship
  • Evidence of your accommodation in the UK on arrival – if staying with friends or family this could be a letter from them, plus evidence of ownership (mortgage statement, deeds); in certain circumstances a housing report may also be required to confirm the condition of the property and that there will be no overcrowding (local UK Councils often offer this service, known as a Property Inspection Report, and plenty of private companies do too)
  • English requirement – the applicant must demonstrate a level of English (‘A1’ of the Common European Framework of Reference, speaking and listening only); if not from a majority-English-speaking country this could be demonstrated with a degree certificate if it was taught in English and is considered to be equivalent to a UK degree in academic level (this must be certified by two certificates from UK NARIC), or by taking an approved English test
  • Financial requirement – herein lies what is generally seen as the most complex issue! The sponsor must demonstrate an income of £18,600 in order to sponsor the application. The main ways to meet the financial requirement are:
    • The sponsor earns £18,600 in the UK with the same employer for 6 months (or with multiple employers for 12 months)
    • The sponsor earns £18,600 outside the UK for at least 6 months and has a job offer in the UK at £18,600 or more to come to
    • Either of you has £18,600 annual income from property rental or other assets, or pension income
    • Either of you has significant savings held for 6 months – £62,500 if relying on savings alone, which can come from the sale of property, or can be a gift from family (but not a loan)
    • For further details see here
    • Please note, the mandatory documents for each scenario for meeting the financial requirement are extremely specific, not only the documents required but the format those documents must be in – Nikki’s phone consultation is a good service for talking this through
  • If any of your documents are not in English they must be officially translated showing:
    • Date of translation
    • A statement that it is an accurate translation of the original
    • The full name of the translator or authorised official from the translation company
    • Signature of the above
    • Contact details of the above
  • If applying from the USA you will mail your document package to an address in New York once you have been fingerprinted (booked via the online application form) and so also need to provide a return courier airbill purchased from UKVI’s commercial partner, VFS Global
  • If applying from elsewhere your application may be processed in Sheffield in the UK, in which case you may have some options for how to submit the documents (either scanned at your appointment or posted to Sheffield), and you may also need to provide a pre-paid return shipping envelope, see either VFS Global or TLS for your country as procedures differ across the world (these are UKVI’s commercial partners who operate the Visa Application Centres across the world)
  • If you are required to post your documentation, or to leave your originals at your Visa Application Centre, UKVI also like you to provide a full set of photocopies of your documents; there are some documents you may not require back, such as print-outs of Skype history or e-mails, in which case no need to provide copies of these (if you have the option of your documents being scanned at the appointment then there is no need to provide copies unless you have any documents which are not paper sized or are laminated, and hence would not go through a feeder scanner)
  • Where you are required to post the originals, the best way to present your documents is in two piles – one pile of originals, and a separate pile of copies for them to keep (if applicable, see above); ideally just use a bulldog clip to attach each of the two piles, whilst folders and plastic wallets might look nice it will just take the Entry Clearance Officer extra time to pull items out of the folder/wallets, and so in fact is not necessarily helpful to them.

I mentioned that each person’s situation is unique, and hence I find that many clients benefit from a 30-minute phone consult to talk through the above list and what it might look like for their situation, see here.

That is sometimes enough to set people in the right direction, but if you would like more assistance you may wish to then come back to me for a full document review of everything prior to submitting it. I will assess it in one sitting as if I am the Entry Clearance Officer (which I was in a former life!) and write you a full feedback report of things to add or amend prior to submission. Or for those who want the comfort of being led through from start to finish I offer a ‘full service’, where I will walk you through it step by step, with as much access to me as you want, as well as providing you with a supporting letter from myself.  For fees see here.

I hope this has been helpful, and look forward to hearing from you if I can be of further help!

Nikki de Prey

Feb 2016

Updated Sept 2018

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About Nikki de Prey

de Prey Consulting is an immigration consultancy based in Edinburgh, UK. Nikki advises clients on the variety of visa applications for entering or remaining in the UK. For more information read about her background in About dPC.