I am a US Citizen Married to a British National; Can I Move to the UK?
We regularly receive enquiries from US citizens who have married a British national and wish to move to the UK to start their family life. In the present political climate, the UK is increasingly an attractive option for many Americans who want to move overseas to live, work, and study. Indeed, the UK holds a strong appeal for Americans given the history shared between the two nations, and the romanticised view of the country espoused in countless books and movies. According to the last UK census, there were 173,470 US-born residents living in England, 3,715 in Wales, 15,919 in Scotland, and 4,251 in Northern Ireland, and in 2013, it was estimated that 197,000 US-born immigrants were living in the UK.
In this article, we will outline the main immigration route used by US citizens who have married a British national and wish to move to the UK.
The UK Family Visa Route
The UK’s family visa route is designed for anyone from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to join loved ones in the UK, including spouses, partners, children, and parents. According to the family visa rules, in order to apply, you and your partner both need to be 18 or over and your partner must also either:
- be a British citizen
- have settled in the UK - for example, they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
- have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
- You and your partner must intend to live together permanently in the UK after you apply.
As such, even if your partner is not a British citizen by birth in the UK, if they have settled permanently from another country, or they have protected humanitarian status, you will be able to apply for a partner visa. If your UK based partner is from outside of the UK but from within the EU and has settled status under the EU settlement scheme, you should instead apply under the EU Settlement Scheme or for an EEA family permit.
What are the Eligibility Rules I Need to Meet as a US citizen married to a British National?
To be granted a UK family visa as a partner of a British national, one of the following will need to apply:
- you are in a civil partnership or marriage that’s recognised in the UK, or;
- you must have been living together in a relationship for at least two years when you apply, or;
- you are a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within six months of arrival in the country
Assuming you meet one of these, you will then need to satisfy a number of eligibility criteria:
- have a good knowledge of English – being from the United States, you will not need to pass an exam to demonstrate your English language proficiency, hence you will automatically meet this requirement.
- you can financially support yourself and your dependants – this is also referred to as the minimum income requirement and will be satisfied if you and your partner have a total income of at least £18,600 a year. If you have children who are not British citizens, EEA nationals, or permanently settled, you will need to provide evidence that you earn an additional amount to cover each child. This is £3,800 for your first child and £2,400 for each child you have after your first child.
- you must also provide evidence that you, your partner, and your family members (who will live in the same household) have adequate accommodation in the UK without the need to apply for public funds. In particular, the Home Office will verify that the accommodation will not be overcrowded, and does not contravene public health regulations.
The family partner visa application fee is £1,523 (assuming you are outside of the UK), and a further £1,523 for each dependant child included in your application. You will also need to pay the healthcare surcharge of £400 per person per year to allow you to use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). You will also need to pay £19.20 for each person to cover the cost of having your biometric information scanned (this includes your fingerprints, signature, and photo). If you are applying in the US, your application may take up to 12 weeks to be processed, however, you can pay £800 for the super-priority service, which will make sure you receive a decision within one working day.
Providing the Evidence Necessary to Support Your Family Visa Application
You will be asked a range of questions in your family visa application, including your partner’s name, date of birth, nationality, passport details, and their right to live in the UK. You will also be asked to provide the names of any of your partner’s dependents and people your partner was previously married to, in a civil partnership with, or had children with, in addition to evidence that any previous marriages have ended (i.e. in the form of a formal divorce certificate).
An important part of your application will be to satisfy the Home Office that your relationship is genuine and subsisting. This is because they are alert to the potential for sham marriages which may be used as a basis for acquiring a family visa illegally. You will need to provide evidence that not only are you married but also that you have been living together (e.g. by providing shared household bills). You will also need to provide details of your children, even if they are not part of your application.
A Successful Family Visa Application
If you are granted a family visa, it will typically expire after a period of 2.5 years, after which you can apply for a further extension assuming you are still married to your British partner. After five years, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which will allow you to remain in the UK indefinitely without the need to apply for any further extensions. After a further year, you can then apply for British citizenship. We wish you all the very best with your new life in the UK with your British partner.
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