The Partner Route is for persons intending to join their partner from abroad, including spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners who are either British Citizens, settled persons, persons with humanitarian protection, persons with limited leave under Appendix EU and workers or business persons under Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay. The Immigration Rules at Appendix FM: Family Members Sections EC – P 1.1 to E – LTR 4.2 contain the rules that set out the requirements that need to be satisfied for visa applications to be successful under the Partner route.
The Partner Route also covers fiancé(e) and proposed civil partner immigration applications but this write up will focus on the other categories within this immigration category and solely on Entry Clearance Applications (visa applications).
As with all visa applications, the term “visa” implies that the application is being made from outside the UK. Visa applications on the Partner Route are no exception and the Immigration Rules state that those applying in this immigration category must be outside the UK to make their application.
Persons applying under the Partner Route must satisfy the requirements listed in the section of Immigration Rules referred to above, which include the suitability, relationship, financial and English language requirements.
The requirements for making a visa application under the Partner Route are summarised below:
Visa applications under the Partner Route will be refused if the Applicant (the person making the application) does not satisfy the suitability requirements.
In summary, applications will be refused for failing to meet the suitability requirements for any of the following reasons:
- The Applicant is of questionable character and there is evidence to support this assertion. The Immigration Rules make reference to the issuance of Exclusion Orders, Deportation Orders or the commission of a criminal offence resulting in a period of imprisonment. Where an Applicant was sentenced to a period of imprisonment less than 12 months, at least 5 years must have passed since the offence was committed. However, the time that must have elapsed is longer where an Applicant is sentenced to a period of at least 12 months imprisonment but less than 4 years in total, as this must be at least 10 years. In cases where the Applicant has been sentenced to a term of at least 4 years imprisonment any application to admit that person will be refused.
It is important to state that an Applicant does not have to commit an offence for his character to be considered questionable, rising to the level where he can be excluded from the UK. The immigration rules provide that an Applicant can be refused due to his conduct, character, associations or for other reasons that would otherwise make his presence undesirable in the UK. They also state that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may look back to the 12 month period prior to the submission of the application, to see if the Applicant was convicted of a non – custodian offence or if the Applicant has been part of an out of court disposal that is noted on their criminal record. The Home Office may also refuse an application if the Applicant’s previous offending has caused serious harm or if the Applicant is considered a persistent offender whose behaviour demonstrates a particular disregard for the law. Seeking advice and representation is particularly advisable if an Applicant is unsure as to whether he should be concerned about his previous conduct or associations, considering the costs associated with visa applications under the Partner Route.
- The Applicant has failed without good reason to comply with a reasonable request made by the UKVI. The Immigration Rules sets this out in very clear terms and they include failing to attend an interview, provide further information or physical data. They also include failing to undergo a medical examination or failing to provide a medical report where this is required. The Home Office may also refuse a Partner Route based application where a request has been made for an undertaking from the sponsor (the partner who already resides in the UK) but this has not been produced. Such a request requires that the Sponsor agrees to be responsible for the maintenance and accommodation of the Applicant and is contained in the SU07 Sponsorship Undertaking Form.
- Applicants can also be refused where it is considered undesirable for them to enter the UK on medical grounds.
- The Applicant’s parent or partner is deemed to pose a risk to the Applicant. The Immigration Rules cites examples as including those who have committed offences against a child, those registered as sex offenders who have failed to comply with any notification requirements and others who are required to comply with a sexual risk order under the Anti–Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 but have failed to do so. This is particularly important when a partner is submitting an application for himself and for a dependant child or children intending to accompany him to the UK.
- Applicants have provided false information, representations or documents in relation to their application.
- The Applicant fails to disclose information that should have been brought to the attention of UKVI when the application was submitted.
- The Applicant has used the NHS as an overseas visitor and has failed to pay charges which have a total value of at least £500.
The Relationship Requirements that Visa Applicants under the Partner route must satisfy are summarised below:
- Applicants must have a Partner (as specified under the Immigration rules). Partners for the purpose of this section of the Immigration Rules are limited to British citizens, Persons who have Indefinite Leave to Remain, Persons with Refugee Leave or Humanitarian protection as well as persons with limited leave under Appendix EU and Workers or Business persons under Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay.
- Applicants and their partners must be at least 18 years of age or over on the date they submit their application.
- Applicants and their partners must also not be within the prohibited degree of relationship.
- Applicants are required to have met their partners in person and they must be in a genuine relationship that is subsisting.
- The Applicants and their partners must also be in a valid marriage or a valid civil partnership. The only exception to this requirement is where the Applicant and the Applicant’s partner are an unmarried couple. In such cases the Applicant must provide documentation confirming cohabitation for at least two years prior to the submission of the visa application.
- If the Applicant and/or the Applicant’s partner have previously been in a relationship, that relationship must have broken down irretrievably.
- The Applicant and the Applicant’s partner must intend to live together permanently.
The Immigration Rules provide that visa Applicants applying under the Partner Route must be able to demonstrate that they can maintain themselves without recourse to public funds. The rules specifically provide that the Applicant must be able to show an annual income of at least £18,600. If the Applicant is intending to enter the UK with a child or children, the level of income required will be higher and this is set out in the Home Office guidance, Family Migration: Appendix FM Section 1.7 Appendix Armed Forces Financial Requirement.
The sources from where this income may be derived from is specified as including the following:
- The Applicant’s partner’s income from employment and self–employment. Where the partner is returning from abroad it may include specified employment or self–employment overseas and in the UK.
- Specified pension income of the Applicant and the Applicant’s partner.
- Maternity allowance or bereavement benefit received by the partner in the UK or any specified payment relating to service in HM Forces by the Applicant or partner.
- Other specified income of the Applicant and the Applicant’s partner permitted under the rules.
- Specified savings of the Applicant and the Applicant’s Partner.
- Certain benefits may also be relied on as a source of income under section E-LTRP. 3.3 of Appendix FM.
It is important to stress that while the sources of income are summarised above, the Immigration Rules specify the manner in which income is to be evidenced. The rules for example do not allow all sources of income to be combined and the source(s) of income will determine the kind of documents required. Applicants are strongly advised to seek legal advice to ensure that they satisfy the requirements of this section of the rules as well as all of the other relevant sections of Appendix FM.
Applicants are also required to demonstrate that they can accommodate any dependants where those dependants form or will form part of the Sponsor’s household.
Visa applications under the Partner Route will be refused where granting such an application would result in overcrowding or contravene public health regulations.
English Language requirement
Applicants applying for visas under the Partner Route are required to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of the English Language. They may however do this in several different ways. How Applicants satisfy the English Language requirement or are exempt from it, may depend on their circumstances. Applicants may demonstrate that they satisfy the English Language requirement by providing evidence of the following:
- Being a national of a majority English Language Speaking country as set out in the rules. This includes citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and countries Caribbean countries within the Commonwealth.
- Passing an English Language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Language, with a provider approved by the Secretary of State for the Home Office.
- Having a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree from an educational establishment in the UK or having the same qualifications taught in English from a foreign university. If the degree was undertaken abroad, Appendix FM provides that it must be accompanied by UK NARIC certification, confirming that the qualification in question, meets or exceeds that of one obtained in the UK.
It should be noted that the body called UK NARIC is now known as UK ENIC, following the UK’s departure from the European Union. All future certifications will therefore be issued under the body’s new name which is UK ENIC.
Exemption from the English Language Test
Applicants are exempt from having to demonstrate that they satisfy the English Language requirement, if they are aged 65 or over, or if they have a disability which prevents them from meeting this requirement.
Applicants may also be exempt from having to satisfy the English Language requirement, if there are other exceptional circumstances which prevent them from satisfying this requirement.
Persons applying for visas under the Partner Route are strongly advised to seek legal advice before applying for their visas. This document is only intended as a summary of the relevant Immigration Rules and primarily serves as an overview of the requirements for this visa category.
Sources: Immigration Rules – Appendix FM Family Members: Sections EC – P. 1.1 to E- LTRP.4.2
Home Office: Family Policy Family Life (as a partner or parent) private Life and exceptional circumstances version 14.0 (Published 24th June 2021)
Home Office: Family Migration: Appendix FM Section 1.7 Appendix Armed Forces
Financial Requirement Version 7.0 (Published 23rd June 2021)