Applying for a spouse or ‘Partner’ visa to the UK is a complex process at the best of times. When you apply from the USA there are particular ‘features’ unique to the USA, which can make the whole process yet more confusing. Here I de-mystify the process of applying for a spouse visa from the USA.
If you want an in-depth guide into the spouse visa application more generally, then our A Very Useful Spouse Visa Application Guide remains by far the most comprehensive guide out there. But here, we will focus in on what you need to know to make a successful application specifically from the USA.
Can I enter the UK on my US passport and apply for a spouse visa from within the UK?
No! Although USA nationals are classed as ‘non visa nationals’, which means you can enter the UK as a visitor without a visa, if you do so you are still classed as a ‘visitor’. Visitors are specifically excluded from ‘switching’ from within the UK to the spouse or Partner. You should apply from the USA (or wherever you are living and hold lawful residence in).
How far in advance of my intended travel date can I apply for my spouse visa?
When you apply for your visa, you must input the ‘Date you plan to arrive in the UK’. This can be a maximum of three months in advance. Your initial visa will be valid from this date (or a later date if your visa is not processed until after your intended date of travel).
How long does it take to process my spouse visa?
The standard service can take up to three months. If you buy Priority Settlement service, then this can bring you a decision within two months. There have been recent reports of quicker decisions, but do not bank on it. These timeframes apply from the date of the biometrics appointment, not the date of application.
What is the difference between an Application Support Centre and a Premium Application Centre?
When you apply you can choose to have your application processed through an Application Support Centre or a Premium Application Centre. The Application Support Centres are operated by the Department of Homeland Security and operate across a wide range of locations.
Premium Application Centres are run by VFS Global, are fewer in number and operate in the major cities.
If you go through an Application Support Centre, then you can choose the Priority Settlement service as a standalone product. This will cost you an additional $747. Importantly (and annoyingly), if you go through a PAC then you cannot buy the Priority Settlement on its own, instead you must buy VFS’ bundled package, at a whopping $2,000 (which includes other services which, frankly, are of limited value).
At what stage in the process do I choose my visa centre location?
After you submit your application, you must register with VFS Global, regardless of whether you want to use an Application Support Centre or Premium Application Centre. At that stage, you can choose your location, and whether you want to go down the Application Support Centre or Premium Application Centre route.
Do I have to submit documents in person, or can I upload them?
If applying through an Application Support Centre, then your only option is to upload your documents. If you are applying through a Premium Application Centre then you can upload or, for an additional fee, staff at Premium Application Centre will scan your documents.
Do I have to post any documents?
Yes. After you attend your biometrics appointment, you will need to post your passport, stamped appointment letter and evidence of Priority Settlement (if purchased) to an address in New York. You no longer need to post all supporting documents, just these documents mentioned.
It will usually save you a few weeks’ wait. However, if your case is considered ‘not straight forward’ then the Home Office advise against you buying this service. This would include if you previously overstayed your visa, had your visa curtailed or had a visa refused to any of the following countries: the UK; USA; Australia; Canada; New Zealand or a Schengen country (i.e. most EU countries), or if you have a previous criminal conviction.
What are the legal requirements for a spouse or Partner visa?
The key requirements for a spouse or Partner visa are set out in the Immigration Rules under a section called Appendix FM. I go through these in considerable detail in my spouse legal guide.
The requirements which by far are the most common causes of refusal are the Financial and Relationship requirements.
If you are not married or in a civil partnership then you must have cohabited for at least two years and will be expected to provide evidence of cohabitation in the form of utility bills, a tenancy agreement and bank statements, with documents in either individual names or joint. Beware, that even if you are married (or in a civil partnership) and have already been cohabiting, then you are still expected to provide the same kind of evidence of your cohabitation, covering the last two years.
You must satisfy the requirements that your relationship is ‘genuine and subsisting’ and that you ‘intend to live together permanently in the UK’. If you have not been cohabiting that then you may also need to document evidence of how you keep in contact and evidence any visits to each other and holidays taken together.
The Financial requirement
Failing the Financial requirement remains a major cause of refusal. The standard threshold is £18,600, plus £3,800 for the first dependent child and £2,400 for each dependent child thereafter. You can rely on various income sources, including employment income, self-employment income, savings, and property income, to name a few.
Often applications are refused not because you actually do not have enough money, but because you have not provided the exact evidence they want to demonstrate you have enough/are earning enough money. My legal guide explains the precise requirements if you are relying on employment income or savings.
If you are a USA national, then you will automatically satisfy the English language requirement.
How much will my spouse visa cost?
The cost of the visa itself is £1,523. You must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which will be £1,200. The optional Priority Settlement Service is £573 when bought as a standalone product through an Application Support Centre. Remember, if you are applying through a Premium Application Centre then you cannot buy this on its own but must buy the Premium Settlement Package, at $2,000. There is a plethora of other services which VFS offer as add-ons (many of dubious use), if applying through a Premium Application Centre.
How can we help?
At Truth Legal we create regular blogs and detailed guides to help individuals understand the complex requirements and processes for visa applications. We hope these will help you if you are going it alone.
However, given the high visa and NHS fees, the lengthy waiting times, and the general high stakes involved with relocating to another country, you might just want us to handle the application for you.
We offer a variety of services tailored to your needs. Our two main services are:
Initial consultation and case review
This involves taking detailed instructions (in person/phone/video con) then providing tailored, detailed written advice. Our letter will include a document checklist and we will fully explain the application process.
Full representation in the application
Full representation is the most comprehensive service and involves an initial consultation and case review followed by us fully preparing your application and doing any further work up until you get a decision on your application.
Full representation includes:
Initial consultation and case review
reviewing all supporting documents
setting up the online form and reviewing prior to submission
Drafting a detailed letter of representations
Assisting with the submission of the application itself
Guiding you through the submission of supporting documents.
Going ‘on record’ with the Home Office so that all communication comes through us
You may pay for the costs of the initial consultation, before deciding whether to proceed with the full representation service (with the fee for the initial consultation being deductible from the Full Representation fee).
Our fees are considerably cheaper than most city law firms. We usually offer fixed fees, so you know exactly what you are paying. Unlike many UK organisations providing immigration services, we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
We offer a free, no-obligation initial discussion to check whether your proposed spouse or Partner visa application is likely to succeed. We can then give you a tailored quote.
Our team is headed up by Louis MacWilliam. Louis is an immigration solicitor and has specialised exclusively in immigration for the past 12 years. He also lectures immigration law part-time and is a leading immigration expert.
At Truth Legal we have a team of legal experts ready to help you with your questions and concerns. To get in touch, please complete the form below on this page to send an enquiry or call us now on 01423 788 538.
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