UK visa: Moving to the UK to join a family member
Restrictions apply to both European and non-European citizens when bringing family members to the UK. Here's a guide to UK family visas and permits.
The first step to determine the visa requirements for bringing your family to the United Kingdom is primarily based on whether you are an EEA or Swiss citizen, or from another country (please skip to 'Family members of non-EEA or Swiss citizens').
Family members of EEA and Swiss citizens
If you are a citizen of one of the EEA countries (EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, your family may live with you in the United Kingdom. The UK Border Agency defines your family as:
- Your spouse (husband or wife) or civil partner;
- Any children or grandchildren of you, your spouse or your civil partner who are under 21 years of age or who are dependent on you; and
- The parents or grandparents of you, your spouse or your civil partner.
If you are a student, only your spouse or civil partner and dependent children have a right of residence.
Other relatives (including extended family members such as brothers, sisters and cousins) do not have an automatic right to live in the UK. To be considered, they must be able to show that they are dependent on you.
If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, you must be able to show that you are in a durable relationship with each other.
If your family members are not EEA or Swiss nationals, they may need to apply for an EEA family permit before they can come to the UK, if they are coming to live with you in the UK on a long-term or permanent basis, or are from one of a list of countries (further details on UK Border Agency website). The EEA family permit is similar to a visa and should be applied for in the home country.
1. EEA UK family permit
This is a form of 'entry clearance' to the UK (similar to a visa) and is for family members of EEA members or Switzerland but who themselves are from an outside country.
A non-EEA family member of an EEA national will need to obtain an EEA family permit before travelling to the UK if they are a 'visa national' or are coming to live with the EEA national in the UK, either permanently or on a long-term basis. A ‘visa national' is simply a citizen from one of a number of countries listed on the UK Border Agency website.
Importantly, the non-EEA family member must be travelling to the UK with the EEA national or planning to join the EEA national when they get to the UK. If the EEA national is outside the UK and is not travelling with them, the non-EEA family member must instead apply for a visa (if they need one) before they can come to the UK.
If a non-EEA family member is living in the UK and has a residence document confirming their right of residence there, they do not need to apply for an EEA family permit each time they enter the UK after travelling abroad.
How to apply
When you apply, you must provide documents to prove your relationship to an EEA national who is coming to the UK or already there. These should include as many examples of the following as possible:
- Copy of the EEA national's passport, endorsed by the EEA national's embassy in the country of application;
- Proof of your relationship to the EEA national (for example, your birth certificate or marriage certificate);
- Letter from the EEA national, declaring that you are travelling with them or joining them in the UK.
If you are not the EEA national's spouse, civil partner, or child or grandchild under 21, you must provide evidence that you are dependent on them or have lived as part of their household.
If you are applying as the EEA national's unmarried partner, you should provide evidence that you have been living with them in a relationship akin to marriage for more than two years. Relationships shorter than this are unlikely to be considered as 'durable'.
If the EEA national has lived in the UK for more than three months, you must provide evidence that they are a 'qualified person'. This evidence could include any of the following:
- If they are a worker: Contract of employment, wage slips and/or a letter from their employer.
- If they are self-employed: Evidence of their National Insurance contributions, Construction Industry Scheme card (if applicable), lease on business premises, contracts, invoices, audited accounts and/or bank statements.
- If they are a student: School/college/university letter confirming their enrolment and the completion date of their course, and/or a bank statement or evidence of a grant or scholarship.
- If they are self-sufficient: Evidence that they have sufficient funds to maintain themselves and their family members for the period of their residence in the UK.
If the EEA national is a British citizen, you must provide evidence that:
- They have been working or are self-employed in another EEA member state; and
- You have been living with them in that EEA state, if you are their spouse or civil partner.
The guidance from the UK Border Agency is that they will refuse any applications where the documents are false or insufficient evidence is provided, or if there are doubts about the financial situation or the genuineness of the relationship.
The EEA national does not need to be present when you make your application. However, the EEA national must be travelling to the UK with you, or must already be in the UK. If they are not, you must apply for a visa instead of an EEA family permit.
Depending on the country where you live, you may need to make your application online or using application form VAF5.
As part of your application, you will need to enrol your fingerprints and facial image (known as 'biometric information') at a visa application centre in your home country. You can find more information about locations in your country, as well as the processes and time frames by following this link.
2. UK residence cards
If you are the non-European family member of an EEA or Swiss national, and you have come to the UK with them, you can apply for a residence card. This is a document that confirms your right of residence under European law. Your residence card may take the form of an endorsement in your passport (also called a 'vignette'), or it may be a separate document called an 'immigration status document'. A residence card is normally valid for five years from the date when it is issued.
When you have lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years with the EEA or Swiss national (who must have been in employment, self-employment, studying or self-sufficient in the UK throughout the five years), you can apply for confirmation of your right to permanent residence in the UK.
Why apply for a residence card?
You do not need to obtain documents confirming your right of residence in the UK if you are a family member of an EEA national. However, you may be inconvenienced if you do not obtain this confirmation, as:
- You may have difficulty proving that you are lawfully resident in the UK;
- If you leave the UK, you will usually need to obtain an EEA family permit before returning there, in order to guarantee readmission as the family member of a qualified EEA national; and
- You may find it difficult to obtain or change employment.
Family members of non-EEA or Swiss citizens
In order for you to bring a spouse or partner to come to the UK you must qualify for settlement and your most recent permission to stay must not have been under tiers one, two, or five of the points-based system. If you cannot meet these criteria your partner must apply as a dependant under the relevant category of points-based system.
A partner includes husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner.
Your partner must show that:
- Both of you are both aged 18 or over at the date of application;
- You are not related in a way that means you could not marry in UK law;
- You and your partner have met in person and your relationship is genuine and subsisting including sharing of financial and other responsibilities;
- If you are married or in a civil partnership, your marriage or civil partnership is valid in UK law;
- They meet the suitability requirements (largely related to being of good character and not representing a threat to public order);
- Any previous relationship has permanently broken down (this does not apply to certain polygamous relationships);
- Both of you intend to live together permanently in the UK;
- They meet the financial requirement;
- They meet the English language requirement.
All supporting documents must be originals, not copies. It is important to send all the required documents. Otherwise the Border Agency may refuse your application because of insufficient evidence. In these cases your fee would not be refunded.
You must send:
- Two recent passport photographs and your passport;
- Evidence of your age and your partner's age;
- Your marriage or civil partnership certificate;
- Evidence that you were both free to marry or enter your civil partnership, if either of you was previously married or in a civil partnership;
- Evidence that you have met;
- Evidence of your English language ability;
- Evidence that you meet the financial requirement.
English language requirement
Almost every applicant for a visa or permission to remain in the UK (known as ‘leave to remain') must meet the English language requirement. You will meet the requirement if you can show you:
- Are a national of a majority English-speaking country; or
- Have passed an English language test approved by the UK Border Agency at the appropriate level; or
- Hold a degree that was taught in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree or above.
All applicants must submit their current original passport or travel document with their application. If you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, your passport or travel document is evidence of your nationality. You will not need to provide any other documents to meet the English language requirement.
You do not need to meet the English language requirement if you provide satisfactory evidence that:
- You are aged 65 or over when you make your application; or
- You have a physical or mental condition which would prevent you from meeting the requirement; or
- There are exceptional compassionate circumstances that would prevent you from meeting the requirement.
Your partner must meet a financial requirement if they are applying for entry to the UK, permission to stay here or for settlement. If they have children that are not British citizens or settled there that they want to live with them in the UK, they will need to meet a higher financial requirement.
The financial requirement can be met through:
- The income from employment or self-employment of their sponsor (eg. you);
- The income from their employment or self-employment if they are in the UK;
- Certain income from sources other than employment, such as rent from property;
- State or private pensions of both of you;
- Maternity allowances or bereavement benefits received in the UK; or
- Cash savings over a certain level (the amount of savings that they need to have will depend on the level of other income that both of you have. If they are applying to enter the UK, they will need to have a higher level of savings than if they are applying to extend their stay).
How much income do they need to have?
- They must have an income of at least GBP 18,600.
- If they are sponsoring a child as well as a partner they will need an income of at least GBP 22,400.
- For each additional child being sponsored they will need an additional income of GBP 2,400. For example, if they are bringing two children to the United Kingdom, they must have an income of GBP 22,400 and GBP 2,400 for the additional child, so a total of GBP 24,800.
- They will be required to provide documents to show that they can meet the financial requirement.
Your partner will be exempt from the new financial requirement if you receive a specified disability-related benefit or carer's allowance in the UK. However they will need to show that you can maintain and accommodate them without access to public funds.
How long can family members stay?
Applications from outside the UK
Initially for 33 months with the option to apply for further leave to remain in the UK. If they still meet the requirements they will be granted permission to stay for a further period of 30 months. Once they have completed five years in the UK, as the partner of someone who is a British citizen or settled in the UK, they can apply to settle here. This is known as 'indefinite leave to remain'.
Applications from inside the UK
If their application to switch into this visa category is successful, they will be granted permission to remain in the UK (known as 'further leave to remain') for 30 months with the option to apply for further leave to remain in the UK. If they still meet the requirements they will be granted permission to stay for an additional 30 months. Once they have completed five years in the UK, as the partner of someone who is a British citizen or settled in the UK, they can apply to settle here. This is known as 'indefinite leave to remain'.
Children aged under-18
If you and your children are already in the UK in a different immigration category, and you want to 'switch' into the category of husband, wife or civil partner, you can include your children in your FLR(M) application. They will not need to make their own applications.
If you have completed your probationary period in the UK and are applying for permission to settle here permanently (known as 'indefinite leave to remain'), you can include any children aged under 18 in your SET(M) application if they do not already have indefinite leave to remain.
Children aged 18 or over
If you have children who are aged 18 or over, they cannot apply as your child dependants. However, they may be able to apply to enter the UK as other dependent relatives in exceptional circumstances.
If you have completed your probationary period in the UK and are applying for permission to settle here permanently (known as 'indefinite leave to remain'), you must not include any children aged over 18 in your application (even if they were under 18 when they were given permission to stay as your dependent children). If they are not already settled here, they must apply for settlement separately using application form SET(F).
If the person applied from outside the UK, they have a full right of appeal. When the UK Border Agency refuses an application they send a letter explaining the reasons and how to appeal.
If they applied from inside the UK, they might have a statutory right of appeal. When an application is refused the reasons are given along with the options available. If they have a right of appeal, the UK Border Agency will send details of the person's rights and a form which can be used to make an appeal.
The application fee to bring immediate family of British citizens and settled persons to the UK is GBP 826 per person. The cost for parents, grandparents and other dependant relatives is higher – GBP 1,850 per person.
- UK Border Agency website: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk
- To apply online: www.apply.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk
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