A spouse visa for the UK is really several types of visa. Which type will be granted will depend on the length of the relationship, where the couple lives and where they are applying from. If the couple applies from within the UK, they will be eligible for the "Further Leave to Remain" or the "Indefinite Leave to Remain" visa types. These types are multi-entry visas that must be applied for from within the UK. Only certain visa holders are allowed to apply for these visas: the partner who needs the visa must be residing in the UK on a long-term visa such as a work visa or student visa. Visitors may not apply to change status from within the UK. In cases where the couple can prove long-term cohabitation of three years or more, "Indefinite Leave to Remain" may be granted. For couples where one or both partners are resident outside the European Union, the visas granted are either "Further Leave to Enter" or "Indefinite Leave to Enter." The only difference in these is the terminology--for couples married less than three years, the "Further Leave to Enter" is granted; for couples married more than three years, the "Indefinite Leave to Enter" is granted. All of these visas are applied for using form VAF4, which can be found on the UK Border Agency's website (see Resources). Also, both partners must be over the age of 21 to apply for a spouse visa.
If you are applying for either "Indefinite Leave to Enter" or "Indefinite Leave to Remain," you must register for, take and pass the "Life in the UK" test. This test includes questions on varied subjects from history to popular culture, and is designed to test the applicant's knowledge of UK life (see Resources).
Biometric data is collected on each applicant for a spouse visa. The application cannot be processed without this data. Applicants within the UK can go to their nearest visa processing centre, which will be assigned to them during the application process (see Resources). Biometrics include a digital photograph and fingerprints.
After the VAF 4 is filled out, gather any supporting documents. All documents must be either originals or certified copies. The necessary documents include applicant and spouse's passports, a recent 45-by-35 mm passport photo of the applicant, the applicant's original birth certificate, the original marriage certificate, recent bank statements to verify income, evidence of accommodation such as a tenancy agreement or mortgage statement, and any dissolution or divorce certificates for previous marriages.
Submitting the Application
Applications can no longer be presented in person. They may either be posted to the nearest visa application centre or presented by a courier. The processing time for applications vary and can range from several days to several weeks. Once the application is granted, the visa is stamped into the applicant's passport and the passport is returned to the applicant. The spouse visa conveys the right to live and work in the UK.