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How to Best Time

Your UK Spouse Visa as a

US or Canadian National?

Your family decided to move back to the UK. Suddenly, you realise that you are the only non-British citizen in your family. The relocation for the rest of your family is easy, while you need a UK spouse visa.

Let’s look at the timing of your visa application and the legal jargon that needs to be explained.

Do I need a UK visa to relocate with my family to the UK?

As a US or a Canadian citizen you may discover that you do not require a visa to enter the UK for a visit. However, you need one if your intention is to live in the UK.

Your US or Canadian passport allows you to come to visit the UK for 180 days within a 12 months period without requiring a visa. However, the UK Border Force may deny your entry on the UK’s border if they suspect that your reason for entering the UK is to live and not to visit the UK.

Yes, you do need the appropriate UK visa in order to come and live with your British family in the UK. Depending on your circumstances you will be applying for your UK visa on the basis of your British spouse. 

You may be eligible to apply for a UK family visa on the basis of your British children. However, a spouse visa application is your first port of call.

UK Spouse visa – Legal Jargon Explained

Let’s look at some legal definitions of the terms connected to your UK spouse visa application.

Spouse 

A spouse is your husband or wife or a civil partner. You may also be eligible to apply for a spouse visa even if you are not married to your British partner. However, then you will need to demonstrate that you have been living together for at least 2 years.

Sponsor

For the purposes of your UK visa application, your spouse will be acting as your sponsor. Sponsor means that your spouse needs to demonstrate that s/he has sufficient income or savings to support and finance (sponsor) your application.

Even if you are a financially stronger party or the family breadwinner, you will not be able to sponsor your own UK spouse visa application based on your own financial records.

The minimum income requirement for your spouse, which makes her/him eligible to sponsor your UK visa application is £18,600 per year.

If you rely on your investments and savings, the minimum cash requirement is £62,500. 

There are also rules attached on how such income or savings need to be evidenced. If your spouse does not clearly meet one of these two financial requirements, it is certain that your UK visa application is likely to be rejected.

Entry clearance application

As the first step, you will need to apply for the entry clearance from British immigration authorities to the UK. Entry clearance means that UK authorities need to be satisfied that you are the type of person they want in the UK.

You need to be a person of good character and meet all UK spouse visa requirements for your UK visa application to be successful. 

You also need to be aware that you are legally required to provide truthful and accurate information about yourself. Your visa risks being revoked if this is not the case and some important details emerge after your UK visa application was successful. 

Once your UK spouse visa application is approved you will receive entry clearance for the first 33 months in the UK.

Renewing your UK spouse visa 

Once you arrive in the UK and enjoy your first 32 months, you will need to apply to renew your visa for another 2,5 years and before your UK visa expires.

It is very important not to miss the deadline and in some cases, it may make sense to start working on your UK visa application to renew your visa 6 months before your UK visa expires.

The main reason is that your circumstances may be tricky and you may not have assembled all the evidence you need in the format required. Therefore, tackling the application early may reduce your chances of a visa refusal.

Indefinite leave to remain

You become eligible to apply for the indefinite leave to remain in the UK after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK. You need to submit your application before your current visa expires.

You still need to meet all the requirements for a UK spouse visa as well as the requirements specific to the indefinite leave to remain.

The good news is that once your application for the indefinite leave to remain is approved, you will become free from UK immigration control and eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Free from UK immigration control

Free from UK immigration control means that you will no longer face any UK immigration restrictions just because you are a foreign passport holder.In practical terms, you will be eligible to apply for any job you like. You will no longer be discriminated against based on your UK immigration status. Your status will be similar to that of a British citizen.

However, to obtain all rights that are reserved only to British citizens, you will need to apply to become a British citizen.

UK spouse visa from entry clearance to British citizenship

UK spouse visa application is a long process and a complicated process until you become eligible to secure your indefinite leave to remain and ultimately, British citizenship.

The process may be difficult, but not impossible. 

Applying for Your UK visa – Entry clearance – the Process

As your first step on your UK spouse visa journey, you will need to submit your entry clearance application from overseas. This is the country you are applying from or the country where you are currently legally resident.

Unfortunately, this cannot be the UK as you still need to receive the permission to enter the UK, hence, you will need to apply for your entry clearance from overseas.

As you relocate together with your family to the UK, you may have many things on your list such as, selling your current home and finding your new home in the UK, good schools for your children. The list goes on. Clearly, UK spouse visa application may not be the first most important item on your long list.

However, it is still an important item on your to do list and cannot be easily discarded.

The consequence for not following through the correct UK spouse visa application process means to breach UK immigration rules.

Unfortunately, breaching the UK immigration rules has unintended consequences, such as being barred from entry to the UK for 10 years.

Therefore, you need to prioritise your UK spouse visa application and put it on top of your to do list. Your family takes priority. However, you need to take care of yourself, too, to be there for your family during the biggest milestones you celebrate as a family.

The UK government website advises you to apply 3 months before your intended travel date to the UK.

You may have a little bit more flexibility due to your US or Canadian passport. The advice is not to abuse it, so that you were not denied entry in the future and could join your family in the UK at the first opportunity.

“I want to receive my visa faster!”

I am with you on this. I understand that it makes the perfect sense to have your visa application decided the soonest.

However, I need to warn you and need to make you aware that a fast decision on your UK visa application may also mean a refusal to join your family in the UK.

Therefore, before you apply for the same day decision of your application, you need to make sure:

  • That your application is well prepared;
  • There are no gaps in your application;
  • All required documents and documents are duly submitted and provided;
  • You and your sponsor meet all the requirements for your application to be successful.

Even if your visa application meets all these requirements, please note that same day or faster decisions are only available to renew your spouse visa or apply for the indefinite leave to remain, but not for the entry clearance visa.

This is even a more important reason to have your application well prepared so that you could minimise your chances of being refused your visa.

What if You also have a European passport?

Prior to Brexit, your EU passport might have been your golden ticket to the UK. However, this is no longer the case.

There may be several instances where you may still be eligible to apply under the old EU rules. However, this is less frequently the case.

For instance, you may still be eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme if you were eligible, but missed the deadline. In real terms, this may be less and less possible as the time passes by. 

However, if you have a strong case, this may still be an option. Therefore, I encourage you to seek relevant UK immigration advice.

Your spouse is an EU national based in the UK

From the 1st January 2021, depending on your relationship with the EU national, you may be eligible to join your spouse under the old EU rules.

If your spouse, an EU national, is already based in the UK, you will also need to seek your UK immigration advice on how to best join your spouse. 

Based on the specific circumstances you may be able to join your EU spouse under:

  • Old EU rules;
  • UK spouse visa rules that now apply universally to everyone.

Timing Your UK Spouse Visa Application

Let’s summarise the best practice to time your UK visa application:

  • The best practice is to apply for your UK spouse visa is 3 months before your travel date to the UK;
  • As a US or Canadian passport holder you may have a little bit more flexibility in how you time your UK visa application. However, you need to make sure that you do not abuse the process;
  • You need to make your application a priority, so that you did not breach UK immigration rules, which may bar your entry to the UK for 10 years;
  • You need to submit your entry clearance application from outside the UK and the country you are legally resident in (this cannot be the UK);
  • Your application needs to be well prepared to secure your UK visa approval.

Your entry clearance application is only a start of your UK immigration journey, which puts you on path to indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship. 

You need to work with a professional UK immigration adviser to give your UK immigration application the best chance to succeed.


I am an OISC regulated UK immigration adviser, book a call with me if you need to discuss your UK entry clearance, renewal, indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship application.

Saule Voluckyte, M.A.E.S, LL.B, FAIA

I have been working exclusively with UHNWI in Mayfair, London since January 2008. I built specialist knowledge and expertise required to serve ultra high net worth individuals investing, operating and relocating to the UK or Switzerland.

Within the industry, I am the single adviser who is able to traverse the different areas of expertise and bring a comprehensive approach across: global structuring, UK immigration, international taxation and FOREX to develop their global wealth strategy, while they build, grow and expand their wealth worldwide.

Previous experience as one of the senior advisors for the government, made me a go-to person when delicate and uncomfortable scenarios involving heads of state need to be handled with care and preserve privacy.

Contact a family office specialist to discuss your needs.

As somebody who specializes in tax, wealth management of ultra high net worth individuals’ assets and legal requirements for high net worth families, my sole purpose is to help you protect your family’s legacy.

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