If you are the spouse, or have a spouse, who was granted entry clearance on the basis of their relationship, you will be aware that the visa is issued for a maximum of 33 months. If you and your partner plan to continue living in the UK together, you will need to apply to extend your stay. There are a number of differences between applications for entry clearance and extensions, this article offers some guidance.
Similar to the relationship requirements for entry clearance, an applicant must prove to a satisfactory degree that they are in a genuine and subsisting relationship.
With entry clearance applications, the relationships will often span several borders, and so the documents necessary to evidence the relationship will generally consists of a marriage certificate, and a selection of photographs and correspondence. The difference with extension applications is the focus on cohabitation. It must be evidenced to the Home Office that once a spouse has entered the UK, they have legitimately lived with their partner.
This can be done in a number of ways, however the most clear-cut would be to provide six items of correspondence addressed to you and your partner at the same address over two years, as asked for at page 63 of the application form FLR(M). Interestingly, it was held in a case at the Upper Tribunal that the requirement to submit certain correspondence in specified terms is unlawful as it is only contained in the form, not within the Immigration Rules, which is not how law is made. This raises the important point that evidence of cohabitation is assessed in a holistic fashion rather than specified evidence. You may be able to satisfy this requirement by alternative evidence such as photographic or even statements by friends and family members.
When preparing an application for entry clearance as a spouse, an applicant must pass a basic English language test in speaking and listening before they are can apply for entrance, this is known as the level A1 test. It is a common error to believe that one has passed their English language already, and can submit their A1 level pass certificate. This would be incorrect, and not only because the test will have expired after two years.
On 18 January 2016, the previous Prime Minister announced plans to introduce a further English language requirement for partners and parents wishing to extend their leave in the UK, this is now known as the level A2 test. If an applicant submits anything below this, the application will be refused. Further, it is crucial to make sure you are taking an approved English language test.
The Immigration Rules on spouse visas are suspiciously quiet on the subject of absences, however this does not mean one may leave the country for as long as they please. The extent of absences an applicant has during their stay in the UK may affect extension applications as one may find it difficult to prove their intention to 'permanently reside together in the UK', if they are not often in the UK.
Further, once you have entry clearance, you will need to apply to extend your visa on either the 5-year or 10-year route to settlement. If you are looking to settle permanently in the UK and wish to apply for indefinite leave to remain, you will have to bear in mind that you may be refused if you have spent too long outside of the UK, as explained by the Home Office: "If the applicant, their partner or both have spent the majority of the period overseas, there may be reason to doubt that the couple intend to live together permanently in the UK. Each case must be judged on its merits, taking into account reasons for travel, length of absence and whether the applicant and partner travelled and lived together during the time spent outside the UK. These factors will need to be considered against the requirements of the Rules."
This article is but a fraction of what is required by the Immigration Rules under the Appendix FM, and offers the reader a brief guide to the less confounding non-financial aspects of extending a spouse visa.
If you are a spouse and would like more information tailored to your circumstances, we offer consultations and a full application service to provide advice and assistance on the best course of action to take to secure your status to the UK.
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