Meeting the Spouse Visa Adequate Accommodation Requirements
Applying for a Family Visa as a partner of a person already settled in the UK involves navigating a large number of immigration rules and eligibility requirements. In addition to meeting the complex financial obligations, one of the common questions we are asked relates to what is meant by 'adequate accommodation', and whether a studio flat meets the requirements. Thankfully, immigration Lawyers consider that proving the adequacy of accommodation is easier than proving the adequacy of income. A considerable amount of guidance is provided by the Home Office, including the detailed rules which are used by case officers to determine the merits of your case. In particular, Appendix FM: family member outlines what is meant by adequate accommodation, as we will cover below.
What does Appendix FM say about accommodation requirements?
Spouses applying for settlement under the 5-year route are required to meet a specific requirement for 'adequate accommodation'. E-LTRP.3.4 of Appendix FM states that "The applicant must provide evidence that there will be adequate accommodation, without recourse to public funds, for the family, including other family members who are not included in the application but who live in the same household, which the family own or occupy exclusively, unless paragraph EX.1. applies: accommodation will not be regarded as adequate if (a) it is, or will be, overcrowded; or (b) it contravenes public health regulations". Taken on its own, this information does not provide sufficient clarity, and will, understandably can leave many confused as to whether their own accommodation is of sufficient standard.
To improve the level of guidance available for applicants, in 2015, the Home Office published Appendix FM (Section 1.7A), 'Adequate Maintainance & Accomodation'. This document alone is 27 pages, highlighting the complexity of immigration rules, even for a single requirement such as accommodation. This guidance states that the accommodation:
- must be owned by the family own or for their exclusive occupation. This does not mean the whole property must be exclusively occupied, but at least part of the accommodation must be for the exclusive use of the family
- the applicant/sponsor and any dependants must have or will have exclusive use of at least the bedroom(s) required for the number, age and gender of members of the family unit - the rest of the property can be shared with others.
- Under the Housing Act 1985, there is a maximum number of people who can sleep in each room of the accommodation, as explained below.
How is accommodation overcrowding calculated?
According to the adequate accommodation guidance, there are three steps to determining if accommodation is overcrowded:
- Add up the number of people living in the family's accommodation - infants under one-year-old are not counted; children between one and 10 are counted as a half; everyone else is classed as one person.
- Add up the number of rooms used for sleeping - even if not all rooms are used as bedrooms, you should work out how many could be used for sleeping, including living rooms. Bathrooms, kitchens, and rooms under 50 sq. feet cannot be included.
- Compare the number of people with the available rooms - taking into account their ages, gender, and whether they are a couple.
As such, whether accommodation is sufficient from the standpoint of having enough rooms depends on the mix of people and room types available.
Will a studio flat meet the adequate accommodation requirement?
Based on the guidance above, a studio flat may meet the adequate accommodation requirement, however, this depends on the number of people in the flat, their relationships, and ages.
Taking these factors into account, a studio flat is fine for a couple and a child under the age of one. The Housing Act 1985 also states that for two people, the accommodation must have a floor area of 110 sq. ft. or more. If the property is rented, it is also advisable to gain permission from the landlord permitting two people to live in the studio flat.
It should also be noted that overcrowding may be permitted in very limited circumstances, including if there is a child who has just turned one, if the accommodation is of a temporary nature, or where the local authority has given specific permission for licensed overcrowding. It will be at the discretion of the Home Office case officer assigned to your case to determine whether these are acceptable and in accordance with the immigration rules. If these or similar circumstances apply in your case, it is highly recommended to seek the assistance of an immigration Solicitor who can advise you on the best course of action and/or ensure that a full explanation is provided to the Home Office.
Beyond the non-overcrowding requirements, you will need to ensure that the Home Office will not refuse your application on the grounds of any breach of public health regulations. While this is extremely unlikely, there are many flats and houses across the UK which do not meet the minimum requirement for habitation. Indeed, as of April 20202, any privately rented homes cannot be rented if the property has received an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of F or G, unless it subject to a statutory exemption.
When submitting your application for a spouse/partner visa under the family migration route, it is essential that you provide as much evidence that you fully satisfy the accommodation requirements. You will need to include a detailed description of the accommodation, including the number of rooms available. Also, make sure you provide your tenancy agreement and any specific permission gained from your landlord. There should leave no doubt in the mind of the case officer that there are sufficient rooms for sleeping given the number of people, their relationships, ages, and genders. Nor should there be any question that the accommodation is for the exclusive occupation of your family. By ensuring that you provide all of the evidence required, you will ensure you have the best chance of being granted your partner/spouse Visa under the family migration route.