Travel Restrictions for Spouse Visa Holders Applying for ILR or Citizenship
As a spouse visa holder living in the UK on the Family Migration (FM) immigration route, it is important to understand the conditions and restrictions imposed by UK Visas and Immigration. For most visas that provide a route to indefinite leave to remain (ILR), there is a specific requirement that stipulates a minimum amount of absence from the UK in the five years (or less in some cases) period before applying. In this article, we will discuss whether there are any travel restrictions imposed on UK spouse visa holders when applying for ILR and citizenship.
How long can a Spouse Visa holder stay outside the UK?
Absence restrictions for ILR
There is no restriction on the amount of time that applicants can spend outside the UK as a spouse visa holder when applying for ILR. This also applies to those on other forms of family visa, including for children, parents, and proposed civil partners.
The continuous residence requirements which stipulate that a visa holder must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any consecutive year during the ILR qualifying period only relates to the following visa types:
- Skilled Worker (and Tier 2 (General))
- T2 Minister of Religion
- T2 Sportsperson
- Representative of an Overseas Business
- UK Ancestry
- Global Talent (and Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent))
- T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker (Private Servant in a Diplomatic Household)
- Dependants and Child Dependants of the routes listed above, except for the UK Ancestry and Representative of an Overseas Business where there is no qualifying period of continuous residence for dependants.
While there is no stated restriction in the immigration rules on family visa holder absences, applicants should bear in mind that very long absences may give rise to a suspicion that your intention to live with your partner who is settled in the UK (or a British national) when applying for a spouse visa was not genuine. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you only take long absences from the UK when there is a genuine reason to do so, e.g., to care for an immediate family member in your home country or if you were unable to return due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Absence restrictions for citizenship
While there are no specific absence restrictions for spouse visa holders applying for ILR, there are for citizenship, hence if your intention is to become a British citizen, you will need to bear these in mind. To be eligible for citizenship as a spouse holder in the UK, you must not have:
- spent more than 270 days outside the UK during the three years before your application
- spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
The rules provide an exception, however, for those with a partner who works for the UK government; “You may be exempt from the residency requirements if your partner works abroad either for the UK government or an organisation closely linked to the government”.
What is the other Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements for Spouse Visa holders, including the financial requirements?
To be eligible for ILR as a spouse visa holder, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- have lived together since you last renewed your visa
- intend to continue your relationship after you apply
- have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year (this is increased by £3,800 if you have one child, and a further £2,400 for each additional child).
- pass the Life in the UK Test
- meet the English language requirements – this means that you must provide evidence of passing a recognised English qualification to the standard of at least level B1 in speaking and listening. Alternatively, you will meet this requirement if you have a degree taught or researched in English
What is the processing time for Spouse visa applications?
Spouse visa applications under the family migration route are typically processed within 12 weeks if applying outside the UK or eight weeks if submitted within the UK. You may also be able to apply using the Super Priority Service for an additional fee of £800, which will provide a decision by the end of the next working day.
Fees and document requirements for Spouse visa applications?
The application fee for a spouse visa application is £1,523 (for each person applying) if submitted outside the UK, or £1,033 if submitted inside the UK. You may also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge for each applicant; this equates to £624 per adult per year and £470 per child per year.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be required to provide some or all of the following documents/information:
- your current passport or other valid travel ID
- copies of the photo page and any visa or entry stamps in your previous passports
- a copy of your biometric residence permit, if you have one
- details of any previous immigration applications you’ve made
- details of any criminal convictions
- your national insurance number, if you have one
- your parents’ date of birth and nationality if you’re applying from outside the UK
- your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
- a certified translation of any document that is not in English or Welsh
- your partner’s details
- proof of your relationship (e.g., marriage certificate)
- proof that you meet the financial requirement (e.g., wages slips/bank statements)
- proof that you meet the English language requirement
- proof you have passed the life in the UK test.
What are the restrictions on extending your Spouse visa?
Your initial spouse visa will be granted for up to two years and nine months, after which it can be extended for a further two years and six months. To apply for renewal, you will need to be in the same relationship, living with your partner, and meet the eligibility criteria outlined above.
How can our Immigration lawyers help?
Our immigration lawyers can assist with your spouse visa, ILR, or citizenship application in several ways, including:
- Recommending the best visa route for you and your family
- Checking your application
- Preparing your application
- Preparing a covering letter for your application
- Preparing and checking your documents
- Handling a refusal of your application
- Dealing with UKVI on your behalf
If you need any assistance or just to discuss your case, speak to a member of our spouse visa immigration law team, who will guide you through the end-to-end process and ensure you have the very best chance of securing the immigration permission you need.