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Spouse Visa Requirements in the UK — What You Must Know

Are you looking to obtain a spouse visa in the UK and wondering about the requirements? Marriage to a British citizen (or individual who has settled or refugee status in the UK) has its perks, the most significant of which is the opportunity to live together and settle in the UK. To do that, the non-EEA (European Economic Activity) spouse needs to secure a spouse visa.

In this guide, we’ll go over the requirements needed to apply for a spouse visa in the UK. We’ll discuss the requirements in detail and what documents (or combination of documents) you can use to satisfy such requirements.

To obtain a Spouse Visa in the UK, you’ll need to be able to prove the following:

The relationship is genuine

Couples looking to apply for a UK spouse visa must be able to provide irrefutable proof that their relationship is real and subsisting.

The couple has sufficient financial resources to start a family in the UK

Couples need to prove that they have enough money to support a family in the UK without relying on public funds. In this regard, couples looking to start a family in the UK will need to meet any of the applicable income requirements:

● £18,600 per year for a couple with no dependents

● £22,400 per year for a couple with one dependent (+£3,800)

● £22,400 + £2400 per child per annum for couples with multiple dependents

Also, a couple’s combined cash savings can be leveraged towards meeting the financial requirement. Cash savings of at least £16,000 will help reduce the monetary threshold to support your spouse visa application. However, if you’re counting on your cash savings to make you financially eligible to start a family in the UK, then you’ll need at least £62,500.

An exemption on the financial requirements can be made if the UK partner is under permitted benefit— disability allowance, industrial injury benefit, war disablement pension, etc. In this case, the “adequate maintenance requirement” will apply instead of the financial requirement.

Simply put, theadequate maintenance requirement is a test designed to determine whether or not a family’s net income (after taxes, housing, and insurance contributions) meets or exceeds the minimum income required to support a British family of equivalent size.

Proof of suitable accommodation in the UK

Applicants for a spouse visa must prove that they have access to a property they’ve bought or rented that is exclusive to their family. Such accommodations must be suitable; it’s not overcrowded and built up to code as mandated by the1985 Housing Act.

Any proof of suitable accommodations will vary along with your circumstance:

● The couple plans to live in a UK property that they’ve bought or intend to purchase.

● The couple plans to live in a rented property in the UK.

● The couple plans to live in a property in the UK that is owned by their family or friend.

● The couple plans to live in a property in the UK rented by their family or friend.

Proficiency in the English Language

To start a family in the UK, applicants for a spouse visa must prove that they can speak and understand the native language. Hence you must take an English exam from a testing centre approved by the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. At the very least, an A1 Level English Language Certificate is required as proof of said proficiency.

A spouse visa applicant can be exempted from taking the English language test under the following conditions:

● The applicant is from an English-speaking country like the United States, New Zealand, and Canada.

● Over 65 years old.

● Struggles with a disability (mental or physical) that make it impossible for them to take the English exam.

● Possess an English-related academic degree (a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree) from a recognised university outside the UK.

You are a suitable applicant for a spouse visa

Last but not least, an applicant must be deemed “desirable” by the Home Office. This condition might seem vague, but you should be fine as long as you don’t fall short of the following:

● The UK government has never deported you.

● You have not been convicted of a crime that warranted significant jail time/criminal history.

● You have not displayed undesirable behaviour that would cast doubt on your suitability to possess a spouse visa.

● You haven’t failed to provide any information requested by the Home Office — interviews, personal or physical information, medical history, etc.

● You don’t have any medical condition (infectious diseases) that would make you unsuitable for life in the UK.

● You have not been removed from the UK for precautionary reasons within the last five years under the2003 Criminal Justice Act.

● You have not been tagged for providing false or misleading information to the Home Office.

● You have no outstanding debts to the Home Office (litigations) and the National Health Service (more than £500).

Other things that you’ll need to prove if you’re applying from outside the UK

As mentioned earlier, the application process for a spouse visa varies slightly if done from outside the UK. For one thing, applicants from certain countries will need to undergo a tuberculosis test to prove that they do not carry the disease.

Click here for afull list of countries where applicants need to secure a tuberculosis certificate to support their spouse visa application. Note that this will take you to a page on the GOV.UK website that contains the pertinent information.

Most immigration experts would also recommend that applicants from outside the UK take an English exam (if possible) even if they fall under the exempted category. Obtaining English certification will be seen as proof by NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre) and will help strengthen your application.

UK Spouse Visa Requirements for 2020

Now that you have a good idea of what you’ll need to prove when applying for a UK spouse visa, we can go over the specific documents (or combination of documents) that you can use to satisfy each requirement.

Submit a valid UK spouse visa application

A valid application is perhaps the most crucial aspect of applying for a spouse visa in the UK. After all, unless your application is valid, the Home Office will tag yourself as “unsubmitted” regardless of whether the rest of your documents are valid or not.

The first document that the Home Office will review is the completed online application form for a UK spouse visa. Note that you’ll need to fill out the right application form depending on where you’re applying from.

Inside the UK

Outside the UK

North Korea

In addition to completing the correct application form, applicants must also submit their passport and other documents that can be used to verify their identity. Additional biometric information (fingerprints, signature and photos) will be taken during an appointment at a visa centre.

If you’re applying for a spouse visa from within the UK, then know that you must submit a valid application before your current visa expires. Once done, you can continue to stay legally in the UK on the basis that you’re waiting for a decision on your spouse visa application (under section 3C of the 1971 Immigration Act).

For a UK spouse visa application to be valid, applicants must also submit receipts to prove that the applicant has paid all pertinent fees.

Speaking of fees, you might be wondering how much you can expect to pay to apply for a UK spouse visa? Well, for one thing, there’s the £1,523 processing fee charged by the Home Office or £1,033 for in-country applications (as of 2020 and subject to increase every year). You will also need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £1,872 or £1,560 for in-country applications.

Note that the day that you pay for your UK spouse visa fee will be tagged as the start of your application date.

Other expenses that you would want to consider:

Property Inspection Report

£80 to £120

Title of Deeds


Priority Visa Service (optional)

£500 to £800 (availability depends on your location

Attorney fees (optional)

Upwards of £1,800

English test


Tuberculosis Test

£65 to £110

Bank statements

Depends on the bank (usually free)

Translation fees

Upwards of £300

You want to preserve copies of all the receipts as these can be used as evidence that you’ve submitted a valid application.

Documents to meet the relationship requirement

Any document that would prove that the applicant is married to or in a civil partnership with his/her UK spouse. Such documents include records of regular communication between the couple (letters, postcards, SMS, chat logs, etc.) The couple also needs to submit their travel documents as proof that they’ve met and that one has personally visited the other on numerous occasions.

Although not required, it is recommended that the couple take picturestogether in various stages of their relationship. They can then compile these pictures along with a summary of each photo. Such images will go a long way in proving that the relationship is indeed genuine.

Of course, the couple also needs to submit a marriage certificate or a civil partnership certificate (to marry once they reach the UK). If one partner has been previously married, a divorce or marriage annulment certificate is also required. If these documents are in a foreign language, they’ll need to be translated before submission.

When it comes to proving the authenticity of a relationship, the rule of thumb is to present as much evidence as possible. This might include sworn statements from family or friends, stating that they can vouch for the relationship. You can basically include anything that you can think of that’ll help prove that the relationship with your UK spouse is real.

You can also submit a supporting letter that sums up the development of your relationship as a couple and your efforts to meet the requirements for a spouse visa. If the applicant is from outside the UK, then the letter may also include a promise from the UK partner stating that he or she will support the applicant (financially).

Documents to meet the financial requirement

Applicants will need to submit documents that prove that they meet the financial threshold described earlier in this article. Note that if the applicant is from outside the UK or does not currently hold any UK visa, their income does not count towards meeting the financial requirement. Only the income of the UK-based partner is taken into account.

If the applicant holds a visa that allows them to work legally in the UK, their income can be added to that of their partner.

Among the documents that a couple can submit to support their application for a UK spouse visa includes the following:

Payslips and bank statements for the last six month (must not be older than 28 days from the date of application).

● A letter from the employer stating that the payslips provided are genuine.

● If you’re meeting the financial requirement through cash savings, you must provide information on where the money was sourced.

Documents for meeting the accommodation requirement

If you’re applying for a spouse visa from within the UK, then know that you don’t have to meet the accommodation requirement. However, that would also increase your ILR period to 10 years, instead of the usual 5.

If you’re applying for a spouse visa outside the UK, then you must submit documents that prove you meet the accommodation requirement. Otherwise, your application will be denied.

Some of the documents that you can submit to meet the accommodation requirement include the following:

Tenancy agreement

Title deeds

Mortgage documents

A letter from a friend or family providing the couple with accommodation

Property inspection report

Documents to meet the English language requirement

This requirement only applies if you’re applying from outside the UK. Spouse visa applicants will need to submit an English proficiency certificate (at least A1) from an accredited testing centre.

If you’re applying from a primarily English-speaking country (United States, New Zealand, Canada, etc.), then that alone meets the English language requirement.

Similarly, applicants that hold an academic degree in English (Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD) can get certification from NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre) to meet the English requirement.

Documents to meet the suitability requirement

There are no specific documents that you can submit to meet the suitability requirement. This is something that the Home Office will need to investigate on their end using all the information you’ve provided in your application.

Of course, if you’re applying from outside the UK, then any document that would vouch for your suitability for life in the UK, will help. For one thing, you can include a certification from local law enforcement agencies stating that you have no criminal record.

What’s most important when it comes to meeting the suitability requirement is that the Home Office doesn’t find anything about you that might be construed as a threat to the public. This includes past and present behaviour, affiliations and any record of crimes or misdemeanour.

What other documents do you need for a spouse visa application?

If you’re applying for a spouse visa from outside the UK, then know that you will also need to meet what’s called the TB (Tuberculosis) requirement, mainly if you hail from certain countries.

To test for tuberculosis, applicants will need to undergo a chest X-ray or sputum examination. If the results show that you’re negative for the disease, then you will be given a Tuberculosis certificate that you can include in your application.

It’s important to note that the list of documents cited above (or even on your spouse visa online application form) is not exhaustive. So don’t think that approval is guaranteed just because you’ve submitted everything on the document checklist. For this reason, it is recommended that couples work with an immigration specialist who can advise them on other documents that they can submit to strengthen their application.

Here are a couple of other things that you should know that UK.GOV doesn’t mention on their online UK spouse visa application page:

● Applicants must commission a UK-recognized accountant to prepare company accounts (if any). That person must be affiliated with the UK Institute of Financial Accountants.

● If you hold shares in a company and add it to your employment income, you will need to include as much information about the company.

Answers to Frequently-asked Questions about Applying for a UK Spouse Visa

Can I work in the UK with a spouse visa?

Yes, you can, and the freedom to work in the UK with no restrictions is one of the most significant perks of holding a spouse visa.

What happens if my UK spouse visa application is denied?

The email containing the Home Office’s decision to refuse your application will state whether or not you have the right to appeal the decision. If so, you can submit additional information or documents to prove your eligibility, preferably with an immigration lawyer's help.

Can I get a refund on my visa fees if my application is refused?

No. Visa processing fees and all other pertinent fees are non-refundable regardless of the Home Office’s decision.

Do I need to submit original documents for the application?

No. Clear copies of documents will do and subject to authentication by the Home Office.

What is the most difficult part of applying for a UK Spouse visa?

Meeting the financial requirement. It’s the most common reason for refusals by the Home Office. After all, they would want to make sure that they’re bringing in families that can support themselves in the UK and make useful contributions to the state.

Can I settle in the UK if I have a spouse visa?

No. A spouse visa does not confer “settled” status in the UK and is only valid for up to 33 months. That said, you can renew the visa for another 30 months to meet the 5-year qualifying period for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and settle in the UK for good.

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