In order to live with your spouse in the UK, as a foreign national you will need to apply for a UK marriage visa.
While you will naturally want to start the next chapter in your family life quickly and with minimal disruption and expense, the UK marriage visa application process can be complex and daunting. The UK Immigration Rules are strict about who can apply to come to the UK as a spouse, requiring extensive evidence to show that you meet the visa criteria.
In this guide for marriage visa applicants, we explain the requirements and application process you’ll need to follow to make a successful visa application.
What type of visa do you need to get married in the UK?
The marriage visa is part of the family visa categories. While the marriage visa is for spouses who are already married, other visas are available for those seeking permission to live in the UK on the basis of a personal relationship. These include:
- The marriage visit visa is a short-term visa for foreign nationals looking to come to the UK solely for the purpose of getting married or entering into a civil partnership. You must intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.
- The fiancé visa allows the fiancé(e) of a British citizen or anyone with UK settled status to come to the UK with the intention of getting married within the six month period of the visa. Once married, you can then apply for leave to remain under the marriage visa.
- The standard visit visa does not allow visitors to the UK to get married here; you must instead have been granted a marriage visitor visa. The visa is granted for a period of six months and you must intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.
What is a Marriage Visa?
A marriage visa allows foreign nationals to enter or remain in the UK where they are married to a qualifying ‘sponsor’. Your sponsor must be a British citizen or a person with UK settled status, ie someone who is living in the UK lawfully with no time limit on their stay.
The UK marriage visa is also referred to as a partner visa or spouse visa.
To qualify for entry to the UK, you will need to be granted entry clearance prior to your arrival.
Marriage visas are granted for in initial period of 30 months if applying within the UK, or 33 months if applying from outside the UK. You will need to make another application to renew the visa for a further 30 months.
After five years of continuous residence in the UK under the marriage visa route, you can become eligible to apply for UK indefinite leave to remain, and eventually British citizenship.
If you already hold a UK fiancé visa, work visa, or student visa valid for more than six months, you may be eligible to switch to a marriage visa.
If you are applying for a marriage visa from outside the UK, you are eligible for an initial visa period of 27 months. If you are already in the UK on a visa, you will be given extension of stay for two years.
You must complete two years as a spouse before being eligible to apply for leave to remain as a spouse.
You can apply for naturalisation after 12 months of indefinite leave to remain.
Children of the marriage who are under 18 years old are allowed entry to the UK as dependants, and can make their application at the same time as the applicant spouse.
How long does it take to get a spouse visa?
Spouse visa applications can take up to 6 months from outside the UK, or 8 weeks from within the UK. You may also be able to use priority processing for an additional fee if the service is available when making your application.
Applicants are advised not to book travel until you have received a visa approval from the Home Office.
The time it takes to make a decision on your application may vary depending on a variety of factors. Your processing time may therefore be days, weeks, or even months longer than the norm.
You don’t necessarily have a higher chance of rejection if you haven’t heard from the Home Office with an update. Errors in your application or supporting documents, the requirement for more evidence, the volume of applications the Home Office is currently processing, and other circumstances can all cause a delay in processing.
If the Home Office contacts you to submit additional supporting documents, your processing time inevitably lengthens.
How much does a UK marriage visa cost?
The Home Office fee for a UK marriage visa is £1,846 if you are applying from outside the UK, or £1,048 if you are applying from the UK.
Additional fees are payable over and above the visa application cost. In addition, the Immigration Health Surcharge is payable per year of leave for each applicant.
For the 30 month period of the visa if applying from within the UK, the Immigration Health surcharge will be £1560.
Applicants will also have to pay £19.20 for their biometric enrolment fee.
Am I eligible for a Marriage Visa UK?
You could be eligible to apply for a marriage visa if you satisfy the following criteria:
- You and your partner (sponsor) are 18 years old or over.
- You are a non-UK resident.
- Your partner is a British citizen or someone with UK settled status.
- You have met your partner in person.
- You have cohabited as a couple for the past two years.
- You plan to live together permanently.
- You are legally married or in a civil partnership recognised by the UK or if you’re engaged or hold a fiancé visa you intend to get married within 6 months of entering the UK
Marriage visa requirements
For you to apply, your partner or spouse must have status in the UK under one of the following:
- British or Irish citizen
- Have UK indefinite leave to remain
- Have refugee leave or humanitarian protection
- Have limited leave to remain under Appendix EU
- Have limited leave to remain under Appendix ECAA
You have met your partner
Your partner and you must have already met face to face. The prerequisite to have “met” entails being able to prove an in-person encounter that led to the formation of your relationship. The requirements for a marriage visa cannot be met just by meeting in person and then communicating via phone or writing.
You are legally married
If you are already married or in a civil partnership, this must have been a lawful ceremony and legally recognised in the UK.
Marriage outside of the UK must be verified by a document that is a reasonable substitute for a marriage certificate and is legitimate under relevant local law.
You are in a genuine relationship
The marriage visa application has been designed to identify sham marriages and fake relationships. As such, there is an onerous burden on applicants to prove that they are in a genuine, ongoing relationship with an eligible partner. This will mean gathering extensive proof.
As each relationship is different, there is no exhaustive list of evidence to provide. Taking professional advice will help ensure you are presenting the strongest case you can but in general, the following would usually be expected to be provided:
- Recent joint bank account statements.
- Joint mortgage or tenancy document to prove you are cohabiting and share responsibility for your main residence. This property can be in the UK or overseas.
- Photographs showing time spent together throughout your relationship such as holidays, family occasions, your wedding, children.
- Birth or adoption certificates of your children.
- Proof that you have travelled to visit each other throughout your relationship.
- Chat logs between you from social media/messaging apps.
The Home Office requires original copies. Any documents that are not in English must be translated into English and certified by professional translator.
The Home Office will also want confirmation that neither you nor your partner are already married to another person.
If you or your spouse have already been married, you must show proof that the marriage has terminated. In the UK, a civil court’s absolute decree must be shown as proof of a divorce. A divorce outside of the UK must be supported by a document that is a fair substitute for a decree absolute certificate and is legitimate under local law.
You may still be eligible for married visa even if you or your partner had already been married in the past but the marriage has not yet been formally dissolved. You’ll need to show proof that the new relationship is real and lasting and that the former one has ended irreparably.
You meet the financial requirement
You have to show that you and your partner are able to support yourselves financially once you move to the UK. To do this you have to show that your partner earns more than £18,600 per year before tax if you have no dependent children.
The financial threshold increases with each dependant child you have. The marriage visa minimum income threshold with one dependent child is £22,400. You need to add an additional £2,400 to the £22,400 for each additional child.
The types of income that can be relied on to meet the requirement include:
- Earnings (employment or self-employment)
- Savings of over £16,000
- Maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay
- Income from shares or rental property
If you are relying on a combination of savings and earnings, you will also need to show that you can support for the duration of the visa.
This is a complex area and taking advice will ensure you are able to present your circumstances effectively to establish that you and your partner are financially without claiming benefits.
If you do not meet the financial requirement, you may still be able to apply if one of the following apply:
- You have a child who is British or lived in the UK for 7 years and it would be unreasonable to make your child leave the UK.
- If you and your partner lived together as a couple outside of the UK, and there would be extremely major challenges that you and your spouse could not overcome.
- There are exceptional circumstances whereby a refusal of your application would amount to a breach of your human rights.
If you are already in receipt of certain benefits in the UK, you may be exempt from the financial threshold eligibility, but you will still need to show proof of adequate maintenance if you have dependants.
Claiming the following benefits, among others, could exempt you:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
The amount you will need to show as adequate maintenance depends on your specific circumstances; generally you would have to show at least £120 per week after accommodation. This increases if you have dependant children.
You intend to live together permanently
UK Visas & Immigration will need to be convinced that you and your spouse want to live together permanently in the UK in order for you to be eligible for a marriage visa.
When you first apply for a spouse visa, you must both state unequivocally that you will move in together permanently in the UK as soon as your application is approved, or as soon as your circumstances would allow it.
Time spent outside the UK must be limited, and with good reason, ot show your intention to live together permanently in the UK. Accceptable reasons for absences could include travel for business, vacation, school, or training.
If you or your partner spend the majority of your time abroad, this could raise concerns about your intention to live together in the UK permanently. The Home Office will take into account the duration of your absence, the reasons for your travel, and whether you and your spouse travelled and resided together while you were abroad.
Knowledge of the English language
You must satisfy the English language requirements. Applicants who want to live in the UK must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English.
You must pass an English speaking and listening test in order to be allowed to stay in the UK with your partner. Your qualification be only be considered valid if you take your English exam through an authorised Secure English Language Testing (SELT) Provider.
You will be exempt from the English language requirement if any of the following apply:
- You are a citizen of a majority English speaking
- You are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65
- You have a chronic physical or mental condition
- You have been awarded a degree from an institution where English was the primary language of teaching, instruction or research. Your qualification won’t be recognised unless UK NARIC confirms it.
You have adequate accommodation
You must provide confirmation of housing that complies with UK living standards as part of your application for a marriage visa. Your sponsor also has to demonstrate that they can afford to house you as well as themselves, and any dependents who plan to live in the UK.
The Home Office will request the following as evidence of adequate accommodation:
- a description of the accommodation where you and your spouse plan to reside
- proof you can afford to pay for your family’s accommodation
- evidence showing the property has enough rooms for everyone to stay there
How many rooms you require will depend on the number of dependants you have that will be living with you. Specifically, each member of your family must have an individual room on the following basis:
- a living room can be counted as a bedroom
- the couple can share the same bedroom
- any dependent children under 1 do not need their own room
- any dependent children aged 1-9 years old are counted as ‘half a person’
- any dependent children aged 10 years or over are counted as an adult
- any dependent children aged 10 years or over of the opposite sex cannot share a bedroom
Nationals of certain countries, as specified by the Home Office, will have to show proof of a TB test to apply for the marriage visa.
The test involves a taking scan of your chest and you may also be asked to provide a cough-up sample.
If the test is clear, you will be given a certificate which you should use with your visa application. The certificate is valid for six months from the date of the x-ray.
Children under 11 are not usually required to take the TB test, but they must be seen by the the medical professional who will advise of this.
Marriage visa supporting documents
The Home Office will look for strong indications of ongoing communication, affectionate displays, companionship, emotional support, and a genuine concern for one another’s well-being.
The Home Office will require proof of cohabitation in addition to a marriage certificate. It is preferable to use official documents, such as those from banks, landlords, government agencies, utility companies, or healthcare providers.
The documents should have recent dates and come from a variety of sources. Ideally, documents should be signed jointly by you and your spouse. You might also rely on documents that were sent to you both separately at the same address.
Other documentation establishing cohabitation, such as receipts or invoices for orders addressed to one or both couples at their shared property, may be submitted if it is not possible to produce just official records.
It is also feasible to present unofficial proof of a connection if you and your spouse have not been living together for a very long time. Photographs taken over the course of your relationship, documentation of activities you have enjoyed doing together, vacations you have taken together, time spent with family and friends, records of communication between you two, or documentation of significant moments in your relationship could all fall under this category.
As was already mentioned, the Home Office will be looking for convincing proof of an actual and ongoing relationship. The House Office may do additional checks, interview you and your spouse, or schedule a home visit if it has concerns about the sincerity and sustainability of your relationship. Your application for a spouse visa will be rejected if there are good reasons to believe that your connection is genuine or ongoing.
Switching to the marriage visa
If you already reside in the UK with your spouse or partner, you may apply to change your immigration status to a marriage visa.
With the exception of fiancées or proposed civil partners, you will not be permitted to change categories if you are a tourist or if your visa was granted for a stay of less than six months.
Additionally, if you have breached the Immigration Rules, you are ineligible to petition for this status (a period of overstaying of less than 28 days will not be taken into account).
If your marriage visa is approved
If you have applied from outside the UK, you will be given permission to enter the UK within a 30-day period. You will have a 10-day window following your arrival in the UK to get a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
You can apply for another 30-day entry visa if you don’t arrive in the UK during this window of time. However, there will be an additional cost.
If your marriage visa is refused
If your application is denied, take legal advice promptly. It will be important to understand the grounds for refusal and to determine if the Home Office followed the correct process and were reasonable in coming to their decision, and to understand if you can appeal.
Renewing your marriage visa
The initial marriage visa lasts two and a half years. To retain your lawful status as a partner you will have to apply to extend your visa for a further two and a half years. It’s important to do this before your current visa expires to avoid overstay issues.
The renewal process will require you to prove that you continue to meet the visa criteria.
If you are granted a second period of leave as a partner, after your five years in total under the marriage visa, you become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
What happens to your marriage visa if your relationship ends
It’s crucial to notify the Home Office as soon as possible if you decide to break up with or divorce your partner because this could affect future visa applications.
The Home Office will issue what is known as a Spouse Visa curtailment because the length of your leave depends on your relationship. This will typically give you ample time to submit a new application via a different method in order to remain in the UK or go, but you will need to move swiftly.
Marriage visa FAQs
How long do you have to be married for spouse visa UK?
You must have been living together for at least two years to be eligible for the spouse visa, among other requirements that must be met.
Can I stay in the UK if I get married?
To get married in the UK as a visitor, you need a marriage visitor visa. This allows you to stay for up to 6 months but you must leave the country at the end of your stay.
What do you need for marriage visa UK?
To apply for the marriage visa, you will need to provide proof you are in a genuine relationship and that your partner qualifies as a sponsor, and that meet the visa requirements including English language ability, accommodation and meeting the financial threshold.
Can I get a UK visa if I marry a UK citizen?
If you marry a UK citizen, you do not automatically obtain UK immigration rights. You must instead apply for a UK spouse visa to be able to join your partner long-term.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.