With such a mix of countries represented, it is not uncommon for expatriate-heavy hubs such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Hong Kong to be the backdrop for match-making of people from very different countries.
If you’re British but your spouse is not, you may well have a mid- or long-term plan to move to the UK. If so, you will need careful consideration of the requirements of your spouse by the UK authority and plan accordingly.
Present uncertainties about the composition of the British government, as well as Brexit, may see the exact requirements change in the next year or so. But it’s still worth getting to grips with the overall T&Cs and how this might impact your life.
This short summary is restricted to circumstances where you have been a British citizen either from birth or secured during your life, are not living currently in the UK and your spouse/civil partner is over 18 and from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
There are two steps to permanent residency. First is the ‘family of a settled person’ visa to enter and live in the UK for at least six months. After at least five years with that status, they can apply for settlement – what’s called an ‘indefinite leave to remain’ visa. This month – June 2017 – is the earliest your spouse can apply for settlement.
First stop: six months or more
Since the ‘family of a settled person’ visa will see your spouse ‘join’ you in the UK, it will mean you will have to go to Blighty ahead of them and register with all relevant institutions to flag yourself as fully resident again, such as National Insurance and council tax.
The visa will allow your spouse to work and study, though not claim public funds.
It can be applied for online – hooray
They must prove they’re over 18
They’re likely to have to pass an English language test. Current or former crown dependencies typically aren’t required to do this – including the US – but check for specifics.
Your spouse must prove that you’re married or are civil partners
They must prove you will live together in the UK and have accommodation without public funds. This means you together have £18,600 per year. This rises to £22,400 if you have a child and £2,400 for each additional child. If it’s just the two of you, then either you have £18,600 in savings, or you’ve started a job in the UK with that minimum annual salary before your spouse’s application begins. There are exceptions to proving this if you or your partner has to claim disability benefits.
Any child brought in must be under 18; they must mention on your application but applied for separately.
Provide your passport and leave a clean page for the visa. Also, supply previous passports and a – cough! – tuberculosis report.
Applying for this visa will cost Joining your partner £1,464. The application process takes around 12 weeks, though the website encourages you and your spouse to check with the spouse’s country for processing times.
Arguably this is the most onerous of the two visas. Your spouse is probably new to the UK authorities, school-style tests, and they will go through their backstory thoroughly, hence the previous passports. Previous, successful UK visit visas certainly won’t harm the process.
If you, the British citizen, must start work at their UK job prior to a valid application of the spouse, how might this affect things? Where will you stay during that time, and how long before the application by your spouse? Will you be supporting the spouse with the UK job, or the spouse’s Dubai/Singapore/Hong Kong job largely supporting you?
Permanent settlement beyond this
There are two different routes depending on which length of time has passed with the ‘family of a settled person’ visa – five, or ten years. The two-year route was canned in 2012, so essentially the government has tightened up on the number of people per year who can apply for settlement – those at two years will have to wait.
Your spouse must prove that you’re married or civil partners. The GOV.UK website states that you must have been together at least two years, though this may be a legacy requirement from the pre-2012, now-expired two-year route.
They must pass the standardised English language test, and the Life in the UK Test, relating to its history and culture. They also must have an entry clearance.
If going down the five-year route, your spouse – as before – must show you together can live and maintain a home without public funds. The earnings minimum is the same for the ‘family of a settled person’ visa above, though the ten-year route doesn’t require such proof of funds.
The GOV.UK website has the form to download and fill out if the above rings true with your situation, and a checklist system to ensure it’s complete. You spouse will also need to submit your fingerprints and a valid photograph.
Permanent settlement – children
Children under 18 must either hold or have had a valid UK visa.
If you two are the parents, children can apply for settlement on your spouse’s form. Similarly, they can apply this way if the British citizen is not the other parent but the other biological parent is either dead, the spouse has sole responsibility or what GOV.UK calls ‘compelling reasons’ for settlement.
You must prove they live with you
As above, there must be proof the child is dependent on you as a couple and can be supported in the UK without public funds.
Children over 18 must meet the same requirements as those under-18, and may also need to pass the culture and language tests
They must have or have had permission to be in the UK as your spouse’s dependant, and your spouse has permission to be in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or settled person
The current fees for this second visa are £2,297 by post and £2,887 in person. Though your children can apply on the same form, the fees will increase as if they’re separate applicants. So your spouse plus two children applying by post will be 3 x £2,297 = £6,891.
This is a brief summary of married couples living abroad. Continue to double-check the relevant website and the helpful checklists, including the specifics regarding the five- and ten-year route options, what’s called Chapter 8 of the immigration directorate instructions.