A visa is required by anyone wishing to enter the U.K. who does not hold a passport issued by the U.K., Switzerland or a country in the European Union or European Economic Area, according to the UK Border Agency. Different types of visas, including spousal and fiancé visas, may be issued depending on the circumstances. Both have different requirements and confer different entitlements.
Spousal Visa Requirements
To gain entry on a spousal visa, an applicant's husband or wife must have "settled status" in the U.K. and either live there or be returning with the applicant to live there permanently, according to the UK Border Agency. "Settled status" means they are legally allowed to live in the U.K. with no time limit on their stay. They must also be at least 21, or 18 if they are a member of the British armed forces. The couple must be able to prove that they are married and must show that they are planning to live together as husband and wife, that they have accommodations and that they can support themselves and any dependents without help from public funds. If the "settled" person has more than one spouse, only one will be able to join him on a spousal visa.
Fiancé Visa Requirements
As with a spousal visa, a fiancé visa applicant's spouse must have "settled status" in the U.K. and either live there or be returning with the applicant to live there permanently. She must be at least 21, or 18 if in the British armed forces. The couple must prove that they have met and that they plan to marry within a reasonable time, which is usually six months, according to the UK Border Agency. The applicant must also show that they have somewhere to live until they are married and that they can be supported financially without working or needing help from public funds.
Spousal Visa Entitlements
In most cases, the holder of a spousal visa will be entitled to live and work in the U.K. for up to 27 months. After 24 months, he will be entitled to apply for "indefinite leave to remain." If granted, this will provide "settled status." The marriage must still be in place, although there are special rules to prevent victims of domestic violence from automatically losing their rights to remain in the country. If the couple married at least four years prior to the application for a spousal visa and spent those four years living together outside the U.K., the applicant may be given immediate permission to live permanently in the U.K.
Fiancé Visa Entitlements
The holder of a fiancé visa will normally be allowed to stay for six months, according to the UK Border Agency. She cannot work on a fiancé visa. After the couple are married, they will be eligible to apply to remain as the husband or wife of a "settled" person. If successful, they will be allowed to live and work in the U.K. for two years. Near the end of the two years, if the marriage is still in place, they will be able to apply for "indefinite leave to remain."
Applying from the U.K.
A person already in the U.K. under a different type of visa, such as a student visa, may be able to switch to a spousal visa if she marries a person with "settled status" in the U.K. The applicant must have been give permission to stay for at least six months under her original visa. The marriage cannot have taken place after a decision had already been made to deport the applicant. The marriage must also be genuine rather than a "marriage of convenience," and investigations may be conducted to determine if this is the case. A person already in the U.K. under a different type of visa cannot apply to switch to a fiancé visa.