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Applying for a UK Visa as a Family

The UK is a highly diverse and multicultural nation and as a result every year, thousands of people from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) apply to enter and remain in the country to be with their loved ones. Whether it is a spouse applying to join their partner who has recently secured a job in the UK, an elderly relative who requires care which is not available in their own country from a family member, or a child wishing to join their parent, it is important to understand the routes available, and how to make a successful application.

The UK immigration family visa route is specifically designed to allow family members to join British citizens and those who have settled in the UK. It is also possible to apply for a family visa to join individuals who are in the UK as a refugee or with humanitarian protection.

Who is Eligible to Apply for a UK family visa?

The UK family visa system is open partners/spouses, children, parents, and adult dependant relatives. However, in order to make a successful application, it is necessary to meet the eligibility requirements; in brief, these are as follows:

Partner/spouse family visa

  • The applicant’s partner must be a British citizen, have settled in the UK, or have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
  • They must be married or in a civil partnership, have been living together for at least two years, or be planning to get married within six months of arriving in the UK
  • The applicant must meet the English language requirement and must be financially independent

Under this route, a visa will typically be granted for 2.5 years (or six months for a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner), at the end of which you can apply to further extend. After five years, the partner who has entered the UK will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (assuming they meet all of the other criteria for doing so).

Parent family visa

Under this scheme, parents can apply to join their child in the UK if the following apply:

  • The child is under 18 at the time of applying or was under 18 when (if) you were first granted leave, and they do not live an independent life (i.e. they are not married or have a family of their own).
  • The child will need to be living in the UK and either a citizen of the UK, have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), Settled Status, or Permanent Residency, or if you are applying from within the UK and your child has lived there for at least seven continuous years and it would be unreasonable for them to leave
  • You have sole or shared parental responsibility for your child

Like the partner/spouse visa route, a parent family visa will typically be granted for 2.5 years, at the end of which you can apply to further extend your stay. After five years in the UK, you will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (assuming you meet all of the other criteria for doing so).

Child family visa

The child family visa route is intended for those with parents in the UK with ILR or permanent residency. Under this category, if you were born in the UK, you will be granted the same permission as has been given to your parent/s. If you are under 18, you have the option of either applying in your own right (i.e. you would make a separate application from that of your parent/s) or you can be included on their application as a dependant. If you were born in the UK but you are over the age of 18, you can still be added to your parent’s application if you previously received a family visa when you were under 18, do not live independently (i.e. you have not left home, got married or had children), and the application is being made in the UK.

If you were born outside of the UK, you may still be eligible for a child visa, if you are under or over 18, if you satisfy the home office requirements.

Adult dependant relative visa

The adult dependant relative visa allows a person who is outside of the UK to enter the country for the purposes of being cared for by a relative. The UK based person must be a British citizen, have ILR, settled status, or permanent residency, or refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK. To meet the requirements for this visa, you will need to prove that you:

  • cannot receive the care you need in your home country
  • need long-term care to do every day personal and household tasks because of illness, disability, or age
  • will receive the support, accommodation and care you need from the UK-based relative without claiming public funds for at least five years

With this immigration route, you will typically be able to remain indefinitely, meaning there will be no need to extend or apply for settlement.

Understanding Appendix FM is key to a successful application

At the core of how decisions are made regarding who can and who cannot come to the UK under the family route is the Government guidance document, ‘Appendix FM’. Appendix FM lays out in detail the many policy factors which must be considered by Home Office case officers when making a decision on a family visa application.

Crucially, Appendix FM is intended to ensure that when assessing applications “under Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, the balance will be struck between the right to respect for private and family life and the legitimate aims of protecting national security, public safety and the economic well-being of the UK; the prevention of disorder and crime; the protection of health or morals; and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others (and in doing so also reflects the relevant public interest considerations as set out in Part 5A of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002). It also takes into account the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the UK, in line with the Secretary of State’s duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009”.

This paragraph from Appendix FM is important to understand because any risk to UK interests identified in an application will increase the likelihood of rejection. It is for this reason that Appendix FM is also used by immigration lawyers to understand the basis on which decisions are made, allowing them to spot any potential weaknesses in a case and handling them before submitting an application.

Final Words

There are several routes under which family members and close relatives can join loved ones in the UK, however it is essential to understand and ensure you satisfy all eligibility requirements prior to submitting an application.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for the Home Office to refuse entry to family members for even the smallest of oversights or technicality. By taking your time to gather all of the evidence needed, completing the online application thoroughly and correctly, and proactively handling any potential barriers to a successful application, you should make the process of securing a family visa relatively painless and quick. We wish you the very best with your family visa application and your life in the UK. For legal assistance with your family visa application, get in touch with our experienced immigration solicitors.

Related Article

A quick guide to the family visa minimum income requirements

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O.L

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I mean I can go on and on!

Andy and the entire team at Reiss Edwards are amazing!

Thanks again Andy.

Kiran Sardar


I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this professional as there are lots of emotions always involved in each and every case.

The way they dealt with my case during COVID19 Situation is highly appreciable. I would definitely recommend Joe D. and Anna F. Anna is an amazing lady, her patience is beyond my words.

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I would say Reiss Edwards is lucky to have Joe D. and Anna F. Great job Reiss Edwards.

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