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, ‘Appendix FM applications’ 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 for an application under ‘Appendix FM’
  • The applicant’s original passport
  • A copy of the sponsor’s passport (and evidence of ILR if applicable)
  • 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
    • The credentials of the translator
  • 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:
    • Scanned at your visa appointment, or
    • When applying from certain countries it can all be scanned at a centre here in the UK arranged by your sponsor or immigration advisor (depending on the country you are applying from they may be able to attend a scanning centre in person with the documents, or post the documents to a specified address to be scanned); please note that you will still need to attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre in your country for fingerprinting, having your photo taken, and handing over your original passport; or
    • A system of uploading your own scans of documents is also being implemented gradually.
  • UKVI now accept copies of documents versus requiring the originals; however, online print-outs of bank statements are the exception to this, those printed at home need still to have a bank stamp on every page to be authenticated, or you can have the bank print the statements for you in branch (or sent to you by post/mail).

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, and taking your documents to a scanning centre where applicable/desired.  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

Valid as of May 2019

Leave a comment

  • Jessie S. says:

    Hi Nikki de Prey, I have a question that I have not yet been able to find online. I am from the U.S. and I am in the process of retrieving the “Spouse Visa” to live in the U.K. with my new Wife and I understand that I could go to the U.K. Up to 6 months but must return to my country. My question is, are we able to apply for our “Spouse Visa” when I am visiting/touristing during that 6 months stay? Or can we apply for the “Spouse Visa” before I go and still visit for 6 months, will it still process that way? Or must we wait for the “Spouse Visa” to fully process before I go at all? You’re advice would be appreciated. I’m unsure of the regulations for that specifically.

    • nikki says:

      Hi Jessie, you cannot apply for any UK visa from within the UK if you are in the UK as a visitor. If your application is already in process then UK Visas and Immigration must have your passport, so you’ll not be able to travel even as a visitor until you hear back? If they don’t have your passport for some reason, just be aware that visiting for 6 months when you have a British spouse and are hoping to move to the UK eventually is risky – the immigration officer you see on arrival might not be satisfied that you will leave again, as they know how hard it is to get the spouse visa due to the financial requirement, so entry is certainly not guaranteed, and I have heard of many people being put back on a flight to where they came from after hours of being held and questioned, not fun! If you have already applied for your spouse visa then I advise just waiting until that comes through. If you have not yet applied, and you want to risk traveling to the UK beforehand, just be sure you carry with you any evidence you can provide that you will be leaving again (evidence of a job to go back to, property you own, evidence of how you meet the financial requirement for the spouse visa etc etc, as well as a return flight).

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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.