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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

When can you apply for a spouse or partner visa from inside the UK, and when do you have to leave the UK to apply?

16 December 2019 Jack Freeland Blog

There is often confusion surrounding the circumstances in which you can remain in the UK to apply to switch on to a spouse visa, and the circumstances in which you are required to leave to UK to apply from abroad. This post will consider the relevant spouse visa rules and procedures for those currently in the UK; explaining when you can apply from inside the UK, and when you have to leave to apply from abroad.

Switch from inside the UK

Those who are currently in the UK may be able to remain in the UK to apply to switch on to a spouse visa if they have leave to remain on a visa that is valid for at least six months at the date of application. The relevant provision can be found in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules and states that, to apply for a spouse visa from within the UK, the applicant must not be in the UK:

  • as a visitor; or
  • with valid leave granted for a period of 6 months or less, unless that leave is as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, or was granted pending the outcome of family court or divorce proceedings.

Therefore if you are in the UK on a fiancé visa, work visa, student visa or any other visa valid for more than six months, you may be able to switch on to a spouse visa. You cannot switch to a spouse visa if you are already in the UK and were initially admitted for a period of less than six months – for example if you were initially admitted as a visitor or prospective student.

Example – fiancé visa

Fiancé visas are initially granted for a period of 6 months during which you are required to marry your British or settled fiancé in the UK. Those who are in the UK on a fiancé visa and are married within the 6 month period can apply to remain in the UK and switch on to a spouse visa after getting married. They will have to apply in the same way as any other applicant in the UK with valid leave to remain; being granted a fiancé visa previously does not provide any expedited or reduced application at the spouse visa stage.

Those who do not marry within the first 6 months of entry can apply for an extension of their fiancé visa, but the application will need to be accompanied by a reasonable explanation as to why the ceremony hasn’t happened yet.

Entry Clearance

If you are currently in the UK as a visitor, or with leave that is valid for a period of 6 months or less, then you must leave the UK and return to your country of origin to make your spouse visa application from overseas. This is known as applying for entry clearance to the UK.

Example - marriage visit visa

This is a visa for couples who wish to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK. The visa allows entry in to the UK for a period of up to 6 months to allow the applicants to get married in the UK. After the marriage has taken place within 6 months of arrival, the couple cannot apply to extend the visa in the UK or apply to remain in the UK and switch on to a spouse visa. Your partner does not need to be a British citizen or settled in the UK to apply. It is essentially a visa solely for the purpose of visiting the UK to get married, and nothing more.

If you have been married in the UK to a British citizen or person settled in the UK whilst on a marriage visit visa, then you will have to leave the UK to apply for your spouse visa from overseas.

If you are in the UK and are looking for assistance with your spouse or partner visa application, contact us today for expert advice on how best to proceed with your application.

 

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