Restrictions may apply when you apply for a Family Visitor Visa or apply to join family living permanently in the UK. Here’s a guide to the UK immigration rules on family settlement in the United Kingdom.
The rules around joining a family member in the UK vary depending on which country you are coming from, which country the family member comes from, how long they have been in the UK and what your relationship is to them.
If you want to join a relative or partner in the UK who is from the European Union or a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), different conditions apply. You can read our guide for EU/EFTA citizens moving to the UK for information if you or your family member is an EU/EFTA citizen.
For non-EU/EFTA nationals, only certain relatives can apply to stay with you or remain in the UK. Circumstances vary depending on whether you are living in the UK on a long-stay visa or you have either UK citizenship or permanent residence (known as indefinite leave to remain).
This guide to applying for a Family Visa, UK, includes:
- Which relatives can join residents in the UK?
- Getting a Family Visa, UK, for joining relatives who have been here in the UK for less than 5 years
- Applying to join family living permanently in the UK
- Working or studying with a Family Visa, UK
- Family of a settled person visa – how to apply
- What happens if you get divorced or your partner dies?
- UK Family Visa costs
- Family Visa UK refusal
Which relatives can join residents in the UK?
If you are a from a non-EU/EFTA country and you want to join family in the UK who are from outside the EU/EFTA and have UK citizenship or permanent residence, you can apply for a UK Family Visa to:
- join your partner (spouse, fiance(e), civil or unmarried partner)
- join your parent (if you are under 18)
- come to look after your child (if they are under 18)
- come to be looked after by your family (if you are a dependent adult child, parent, grandparent or sibling)
You will need to meet certain UK Family Visa requirements in each case, detailed below.
Those from non-EU/EFTA countries on long-stay UK visas for purposes such as work or study can apply to bring the following family members with them:
- spouse or partner
- any children under 18
- children of any age if they are a dependant
These family members can also apply to join at a later date as ‘dependants’ on the UK visa of the person they are joining.
Family members, including extended family, can apply for a short-stay visit to the UK for up to 6 months on a UK Standard Visitor tourist visa.
Getting a Family Visa, UK, for joining relatives who have been in the UK for less than 5 years
You can be joined by relatives in the UK if you are a non-EU/EFTA national on any of the following long-stay visas:
- Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 5 work visa (except Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa)
- Tier 4 (General) student visa
- Turkish Worker or Turkish Businessperson visa
- UK Ancestry visa
Your family members will need a separate visa as a ‘dependant’ and will need to pay the UK healthcare surcharge. You will need to show proof that you can financially support them, usually by providing evidence of savings equivalent to a certain amount for each family member applying. The amount varies according to which UK visa you have.
The duration of your family member’s stay cannot exceed your own stay in the UK and they will not be able to work in the UK, unless they are eligible to apply for any of the UK work visas.
Applying to join family living permanently in the UK
If you have UK citizenship or permanent residence (indefinite leave to remain) as a non-EU/EFTA national, your family members can apply for a UK Family Visa known as the ‘family of a settled person’ visa. This UK Family Visa will allow relatives or partners to stay in the UK for 6 months or more. They can also work and study in the UK on the UK Family Visa.
To make a UK Family Visa application, you will need to prove that:
- your relationship to your family member is genuine and legally recognised in the UK
- you will be living with your family member in the UK
- you have a good knowledge of English (unless you’re under 18, over 65 or have a long-term physical or mental health condition)
- you have no serious or outstanding convictions on your criminal record
Joining a partner in the UK
If you are joining a partner in the UK, you will need to prove that you and your partner are both over 18 and are either married/civil partners, engaged (with plans to marry within 6 months) or have been living together in a relationship for 2 years.
You will also need to meet the financial requirement of £18,600 per year, rising to £22,400 for you plus a child and by a further £2,400 for each additional child.
Joining parents in the UK
You need to prove that you will be living with your parents, that you are not married/in a civil partnership and that you’ll be supported and accommodated without using public funds.
Coming to look after your child in the UK
You need to prove that you either have sole responsibility for the child or that you have access to the child if they live with another parent or carer. You’ll also need to demonstrate that you can support yourself without using public funds.
Coming to the UK to be cared for as an adult dependent relative
You will need to prove that:
- you need long-term daily care due to illness, disability or age
- the care you need is not available or affordable in your home country
- the family member caring for you will be able to look after you, support you and accommodate you without using public funds for at least 5 years.
The length of your UK Family Visa will be:
- 33 months if you are joining a partner in the UK (27 months if you applied before 9 July 2012)
- 6 months if you applied as an engaged partner
- as long as your parent’s stay if you applied to join as a dependent child
- no time limit if you applied to join British or settled parents
- 33 months if you applied as a parent
- no time limit if you applied as an adult dependent relative
You can apply for a UK Family Visa extension once it’s due to expire so that you can remain in the UK. UK Family Visa extensions are valid for 2 years and 6 months but the visa can be extended multiple times.
If you’ve been granted refugee status in the UK with leave to remain, you can be joined by your partner or children under UK family reunion. You can apply for UK family reunion as a refugee if you were separated from your family when you were forced to leave your country or if you’ve been given 5 years’ leave to remain but haven’t been given UK citizenship.
Working or studying with a Family Visa, UK
If you have a UK Family Visa to join family in the UK who is a UK citizen or permanent resident, you are allowed to work or study unless you’ve been given a 6 month visa having applied as an engaged partner. Those who have joined family in the UK on long-stay work or student visas are not allowed to work or study in the UK unless they are able to obtain a valid work or student visa.
Non-EU/EFTA nationals joining family in the UK are not able to access public funds on their UK Family Visas.
Family of a settled person visa – how to apply
If you are applying to join a relative or partner in the UK who is on a UK work visa or UK student visa, the application will be done as part of their application if you are travelling with them to the UK. If you are applying to join family in the UK a later date, you will need to make a separate UK visa application which you can do here.
UK Family Visa applications to join UK citizens and permanent residents from non-EU/EFTA countries can be made online on the UK Visas and Immigration website. You will then need to visit a UK visa application centre in your home country to submit your biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) for your UK biometric residence permit. You may have to pay the UK healthcare surcharge as part of your application. More information available here.
You will need to provide the following with your UK Family Visa application:
- current passport or valid travel ID
- previous passports
- proof of relationship to family member who you are joining
- proof that you can meet the financial or maintenance requirement
- proof of your knowledge of English
- tuberculosis test results if you are from a country where you have to take a test
A list of countries where you need to be tested for tuberculosis is available here.
You should get a decision on your UK Family Visa application within 12 weeks. You can check visa processing times on the UK Visas and Immigration website.
What happens if you get divorced or your partner dies?
If you have joined a partner in the UK who is from a non-EU/EFTA country and who is either a UK citizen or permanently settled, you can apply to settle in the UK if they die. This applies to spouses, civil partners and cohabitants living together in a relationship (19). You can apply using the the SET (O) form for indefinite leave to remain. See our guide to UK citizenship and permanent residence for more information (20). A copy of the SET (O) form is available here.
If you divorce or separate from your partner having entered the UK on a UK Family Visa, you must tell the UK Home Office about the change in your circumstances. You will then be required to apply for a new UK visa or leave the UK.
You need to include you and your ex-partner’s date of birth, address, passport numbers and Home Office reference number (from previous correspondence) in the letter, along with details of any children you have. You should include either a ‘public statement’ form (if you don’t want the Home Office to disclose information to your ex-partner) or a ‘consent’ form (if you’re happy for information to be shared). Both forms are available here.
- The letter should be sent to:
- UK Visas and Immigration
- TM Marriage Curtailment Team
- PO Box 99
- Manchester M90 3WW
If you want to remain in the UK after the relationship ends, you will need to apply for another UK visa to stay in the country. For example, you could apply for a UK work visa or another UK Family Visa. You can check your UK visa eligibility here.
You may also be eligible to settle in the UK as a permanent resident with indefinite leave to remain. You can check if you can apply for indefinite leave to remain here.
You have grounds to settle in the UK with indefinite leave to remain if the relationship with your partner ended because of domestic violence. More information can be found here.
UK Family Visa costs
- The current UK Family Visa costs for ‘family of a settled person’ are (26):
- Joining your partner, parent or child – £1195
- Adult who needs to be looked after by a relative – £2676
- UK Family Visa extension (online or by post) – £811
- UK Family Visa extension (premium service) – £1311
Family Visa UK refusal
If you want to appeal against a decision made on an application for a visa or residence document, you can contact:
First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)
PO Box 6987
Leicester LE1 6ZX
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 0300 123 1711
Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5pm
website of the UK Visas and Immigration, the division of the UK Home Office that deals with visas and residence permits