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Can I Add a Step Child As a Dependant on My Visa Application?

Every year, thousands of investors, skilled workers, family members, and students from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) move to the UK on a temporary or permanent basis. Whether you are applying as part of the points-based system (PBS) for a Tier 1, 2, 4, or 5 visas, a Start-Up, Investor or Global Talent visa, or a spouse visa under the family scheme, it is possible to bring your children with you to the UK. We are frequently asked if this also applies to step-children and whether the rules vary in such circumstances. In this article, we will outline the rules around dependant children visas, and how step-children are viewed from the perspective of the UK Home Office.

What is meant by a dependant child?

A dependant child from the standpoint of the immigration system is a child of a person who is lawfully settled or has a visa to remain in the UK. The child will not be classified as a dependant if they are married or in a civil partnership, have formed an independent family unit, or are leading an independent life.

The immigration rules state that in order to be eligible for a dependant child visa, the following must apply:

  • both of the applicant’s parents must either be lawfully present (other than as a visitor) in the UK or being granted entry clearance or leave to remain (other than as a visitor) at the same time as the applicant; or
  • one parent must be lawfully present (other than as a visitor) in the UK and the other is being granted entry clearance or leave to remain (other than as a visitor) at the same time as the applicant, unless:
    • The Main Applicant is the applicant’s sole surviving parent; or
    • The Main Applicant is the parent that has and has had sole responsibility for the applicant’s upbringing; or
    • There are serious or compelling family or other considerations that would make it desirable not to refuse the application and suitable arrangements have been made in the UK for the applicant’s care.

The rules followed by entry clearance officers when making decisions on dependant visas state clearly “any application made by a child where only one parent will be in the UK will not be granted unless the above circumstances are clearly and fully demonstrated. These rules are in place to ensure the safeguarding and welfare of the child is actively considered, preventing, for example, the unintended break-up of a family unit or child trafficking”.

Looking at these rules, it is easy to understand why there is some confusion regarding how step-children are viewed by the Home Office; for example, it is not clear whether ‘parent’ refers solely to a biological parent or not.

Can Step-children be Included in a Child Dependant Visa?

Yes, step-children can be included in a child dependant visa application, however, more evidence may be required in order to satisfy the Home Office immigration rules. As stated above, the Home Office has a duty of care to ensure that the decisions they make do not result in the unintended break-up of a family unit. In the context of a step-family, they will want to see evidence that family arrangements are such that the main applicant or their partner is legally responsible for the care and welfare of the child. As such, the applicant will need to provide clear evidence that they:

  • are able to financially support the dependant child
  • have responsibility for the day to day life of the child, including schooling
  • have permission from the other biological parent that their child can live in the UK

If there is any doubt that the main applicant or the dependant partner has legal custody and is responsible for the care and welfare of the child, then the Home Office may refuse the application or seek further clarification. It is for this reason that it is recommended anyone applying for a dependant visa for a step-child should seek the advice and assistance of immigration Solicitors in the UK who will ensure that all possible reasons for refusal are mitigated, and all of the evidence needed is provided.

Applying for a child dependant visa

In most cases, dependant children will be added to the application form of the main person applying for a visa in the UK. It is possible, however, to make a separate application for a dependant child visa. Making a later application for a dependant child/step-child is common where it is not practical for all family members to travel at the same time to the UK. The delay may also be necessary to put in place family legal arrangements with the other biological parent whose permission is required to allow the child to live in the UK.

Assuming that all of the necessary family arrangements have been put in place and are in writing, there are other requirements which must be met to secure a dependant child visa. Tier 2 and 5 applicants must show evidence of £630 for each dependant, which must have been held for at least three months before applying. Under the family visa route, the applicant must show evidence of earning an additional annual income of £3,800 (for the first child applicant), and £2,400 (for all subsequent child applicants), in addition to the £18,600 per annum minimum income requirement. The Home Office will also check that arrangements for the child’s care and accommodation in the United Kingdom comply with relevant legislation and regulations.

Final words

Blended families can add some complexity to UK immigration applications, principally because the Home Office will want to be satisfied that the necessary family arrangements are in place. They will want to ensure that in granting a child dependant visa, there is no risk that existing custody arrangements between the child and their other biological parent are not placed at risk. It is for this reason that preparing a successful application for a dependant child visa, where the main applicant is a step-parent, may require additional proof to satisfy the Home Office rules. As ever, the best advice is to secure expert immigration law advice before submitting your application.

Related Article: How to Bring a Dependant To Join You In UK

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