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Family visas: apply, extend or switch

Overview

You need a family visa to live with a family member in the UK for more than 6 months.

If you’re outside the UK

You can apply for a family visa to live with your:

  • spouse or partner
  • fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner
  • child
  • parent
  • relative who’ll provide long-term care for you

If you’re visiting the UK for 6 months or less, check if you need a Standard Visitor visa or Marriage Visitor visa.

If you’re in the UK

You can apply to extend your stay with your family member if you’re already in the UK on a family visa.

If you came to the UK on a different visa, you might be able to switch to a family visa to stay with your:

  • spouse or partner
  • child
  • parent

You might be able to apply to stay on the basis of your private life if you’ve lived in the UK for many years already.

If you do not meet the rules to enter or remain in the UK because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to apply to extend your stay or switch to a family visa. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

When you can apply to extend or switch

You can extend or switch at any time before your current permission to stay in the UK expires.

You must live in the UK for a certain amount of time before you’re eligible for settlement (‘indefinite leave to remain’) – check how much time you need before you extend your visa.

If you’re extending to stay with the same family member, you’ll only get up to 28 days left on your current stay added to your new visa.

Fees

How much it costs depends on how you apply.

Your situation Apply outside the UK Apply in the UK
Joining your partner, parent or child £1,523 £1,033
Each dependant added to your application £1,523 each person £1,033 each person
Adult who needs to be looked after by a relative £3,250 £1,033

Let your bank know that a large amount of money will be coming out of your account – otherwise it might cancel your payment.

Healthcare surcharge

You might also need to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.

If you’re applying to extend or switch in the UK

You’ll need to pay £19.20 to have your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken.

Get a faster decision on your application

If you’re applying from the UK, you may be able to pay an extra £800 for the super priority service to get a faster decision.

You cannot use the super priority service if you’re applying as an adult coming to be cared for by a relative.

Once you’ve got your decision letter, your biometric residence permit will take up to 10 working days to arrive.

How long it takes

If you apply outside the UK a decision will usually be made within 12 weeks.

If you apply in the UK a decision will usually be made within 8 weeks of your application date if you use the standard service.

If you use the super priority service a decision will usually be made:

  • by the end of the next working day after providing your biometric information if your appointment is on a weekday
  • 2 working days after providing your biometric information if your appointment is at the weekend

Working days are Monday to Friday, not including bank holidays.

It might take longer if your application is complex, for example you:

Other ways you can stay

You were the victim of domestic abuse or your partner died

You might be able to apply to settle in the UK if you had permission to stay in the UK as a partner when either:

  • you were the victim of domestic abuse
  • your partner died

Your family member has refugee status or humanitarian protection

You might be able to apply for ‘family reunion’ to join a partner or parent who has either:

  • refugee status in the UK
  • humanitarian protection in the UK

Your family member is from the EU, EEA or Switzerland

If you’re outside the UK, you can apply for a family permit if your family member is from the European Economic Area or Switzerland.

Your family member will probably need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.

There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens currently living in the UK until 30 June 2021.

When you cannot get a family visa

In some circumstances you cannot apply for, or switch to, a family visa.

Your family member has a work visa or student visa

You cannot apply for a family visa if your family member is in the UK temporarily on a work visa or student visa.

You can apply to stay with them as a dependant instead.

You have a visitor visa or a visa for 6 months or less

You’ll usually need to leave the UK to apply for a family visa if either:

  • you have permission to be in the UK as a visitor
  • your visa is for 6 months or less

However, you might be able to switch to a family visa in the UK if you have either:

Apply as a partner or spouse

To apply as a partner, you and your partner both need to be 18 or over.

Your partner must also either:

  • be a British citizen
  • have settled in the UK – for example, they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
  • have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

You and your partner must intend to live together permanently in the UK after you apply.

If your partner has settled status you may also be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or for a family permit.

What you’ll need to prove

You must be able to prove one of the following:

  • you’re in a civil partnership or marriage that’s recognised in the UK
  • you’ve been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years when you apply
  • you are a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving

If your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to request an extension or apply to extend your stay. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

You also need to prove you:

If you do not meet these requirements you may still be able to apply for a visa or extend your permission to stay if:

  • you have a child in the UK who is a British citizen or has lived in the UK for 7 years and it would be unreasonable for them to leave the UK
  • there would be very significant difficulties for you and your partner if you lived together as a couple outside the UK that could not be overcome
  • it would breach your human rights to stop you coming to the UK or make you leave

If you’re applying as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner

You must prove that:

  • any previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended
  • you plan to marry or become civil partners within 6 months of arriving in the UK

If your wedding or civil ceremony has been delayed because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to request an extension or apply to extend your stay. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

You will not be able to work during your engagement.

How long you can stay

You’ll get permission to stay for 2.5 years, or for 6 months if you’re applying as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner.

After this you’ll need to apply to extend your stay.

How to apply

You’ll need to prepare information and documents to provide with your application.

How you apply depends on whether you’re in the UK or not.

Outside the UK

You must apply online from outside the UK.

There’s a different way to apply in North Korea.

In the UK

You must apply online.

If you cannot pay the fee

Fill in the online fee waiver request form as well if you cannot pay the fee because you:

  • do not have a place to live and cannot afford one
  • have a place to live but cannot afford essential living costs like food or heating
  • have a very low income and paying the fee would harm your child’s wellbeing

Get help to apply online

You can get help with completing the online form if you:

  • do not feel confident using a computer or mobile device
  • do not have internet access

You can only use this service if you’re applying in the UK.

You cannot get immigration advice through this service.

Applying with your children

You can add children to your application as dependants if both of the following apply:

  • they are under 18 when you apply, or were under 18 when they were first granted leave
  • they do not live an independent life

Your child is living an independent life if, for example, they’ve left home, got married and had children.

When you can settle permanently

The earliest you can apply to settle in the UK (called ‘indefinite leave to remain’) is after you’ve lived in the country for 5 years continuously with permission to stay (‘leave to remain’) as a partner. You cannot count any permission to stay in the UK as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner.

The rules are different if you applied before 9 July 2012.

If you applied before 9 July 2012

You can only extend your family visa if all the following are true:

  • you were given permission to stay in the UK as a partner before 9 July 2012
  • you are not eligible to settle
  • you have not been granted or refused another visa

You must also prove that:

Apply as a parent

You can apply to live in the UK to care for your child.

If you’re eligible to apply as a partner, you must do that instead of applying as a parent.

Your child must either:

  • be under 18 on the date you apply
  • have been under 18 when you were first granted leave and not live an independent life

Your child is living an independent life if, for example, they’ve left home, got married and had children.

Your child must be living in the UK. One of the following must also be true:

  • they’re a British citizen
  • they’ve settled in the UK – for example, they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
  • if you’re applying in the UK, they’ve lived in the UK for 7 years continuously and it would not be reasonable for them to leave

If your child has settled status you may also be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or for a family permit.

If you do not meet the rules to enter or remain in the UK because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to apply to extend your stay or switch to a family visa. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

Parental responsibility

You need to have sole or shared parental responsibility for your child.

If you share parental responsibility, the child’s other parent must:

  • not be your partner
  • be either a British citizen or settled in the UK

If the child lives with their other parent or carer, you must have access to the child in person, as agreed with the other parent or carer or by a court order.

What you’ll need to prove

You must be able to prove that you’re taking an active role in your child’s upbringing and you plan to continue after you apply. For example you could provide letters from your child’s:

  • school confirming you take them to school or go to parent evenings
  • dentist confirming you take them to appointments
  • other parent confirming how much contact you have with your child (you’ll need to include proof of their identity, such as their passport)

You must also prove to you:

If your child or any other dependants live with you, you must also prove you can financially support them without claiming public funds.

If you do not meet these requirements you can still extend your permission to stay if:

  • your child in the UK is a British citizen or has lived in the UK for 7 years
  • it would be unreasonable for them to leave the UK

How long you can stay

You’ll get permission to stay for 2.5 years. After this, you’ll need to apply to extend your stay.

How to apply

You’ll need to prepare information and documents to provide with your application.

How you apply depends on whether you’re in the UK or not.

Outside the UK

You must apply online. You must also complete Appendix 5.

There’s a different way to apply in North Korea.

In the UK

You must apply online.

If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you must also apply online to waive the fee. You might not have to pay the fee if you:

  • do not have a place to live and you cannot afford one
  • have a place to live but cannot afford your essential living costs like food or heating
  • have a very low income and paying the fee would harm your child’s wellbeing

Read the guidance for parents before applying.

Get help to apply online

You can get help with completing the online form if you:

  • do not feel confident using a computer or mobile device
  • do not have internet access

You can only use this service if you’re applying in the UK.

You cannot get immigration advice through this service.

Applying with other children

You can add other children to your application as dependants if one of the following applies:

  • they are under 18 on the date you apply

  • they were under 18 when they were first granted leave on a family visa and do not live an independent life

When you can settle permanently

The earliest you can apply to settle in the UK (called ‘indefinite leave to remain’) is after you’ve lived in the country for 5 years continuously with permission to stay (‘leave to remain’) as a parent.

Apply as a child

You may be eligible to settle in the UK if at least one of your parents has indefinite leave to remain or proof of permanent residence.

If your parent has settled status you may also be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or for a family permit.

If you do not meet the rules to enter or remain in the UK because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to apply to extend your stay or switch to a family visa. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

You were born in the UK

You’ll get the same permission to stay as your parent if you were born in the UK.

If you’re under 18

You can either:

  • be added to your parent’s next application as a dependant
  • apply separately

To apply separately, you’ll need to know what kind of permission to stay in the UK (‘limited leave to remain’) your parent has.

If you’re over 18

Your parent can only include you in their application as a dependant if you:

  • got permission to come to or stay in the UK (‘leave to enter or remain’) on a family visa when you were under 18
  • do not live an independent life
  • are applying from inside the UK

You’re living an independent life if, for example, you’ve left home, got married and had children.

You were born outside the UK

Whether you can apply depends on your age and how your parent applied.

If you’re under 18

You must:

  • not be married, in a civil partnership or living an independent life
  • be financially supported without claiming public funds

One of your parents must also be applying or have applied for a visa or to extend their permission to stay as a:

  • partner – and the partner they’re joining is your other parent
  • parent – and they have sole parental responsibility for you

Otherwise, you might still be eligible to apply if there are serious reasons to let you come to, or stay in the UK and there are plans for your care.

If you’re over 18

Your parent can include you in their application as a dependant, or you can apply separately yourself. You can only apply if you:

  • got permission to stay in the UK (‘leave to remain’) on a family visa when you were under 18
  • do not live an independent life

You’re living an independent life if, for example, you’ve left home, got married and had children.

If your parent cannot include you in their form and you’re in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for Private Life in the UK (10-year route).

Apply from outside the UK

You’ll need to prepare information and documents to provide with your application.

Apply at the same time as your parent

Which form you need to fill in depends on whether your parent is applying to enter the UK as the partner of one of the following:

  • a British citizen
  • a person with indefinite leave to remain
  • a person with refugee status or humanitarian protection

If they are applying as one of these, you must fill in the Appendix FM online form.

If they are not, you must fill in both:

Apply separately

Which form you need to fill in depends on whether your parent has leave to enter or remain in the UK on a 5 or 10-year route to settlement as the partner of:

  • a British citizen
  • a person with indefinite leave to remain
  • a person with refugee status or humanitarian protection

If they do, you must fill in the Appendix FM online form.

If they do not, you must fill in both:

There’s a different way to apply in North Korea.

Apply from the UK

You’ll need to prepare information and documents to provide with your application.

If you’re already in the UK, you must apply online.

Fill in the online fee waiver request form as well if you cannot pay the fee because you:

  • do not have a place to live and you cannot afford one
  • have a place to live but cannot afford your essential living costs like food or heating
  • have a very low income and paying the fee would harm your child’s wellbeing

You can also check if you’re eligible for a different type of visa.

Get help to apply online

You can get help with completing the online form if you:

  • do not feel confident using a computer or mobile device
  • do not have internet access

You can only use this service if you’re applying in the UK.

You cannot get immigration advice through this service.

Apply as an adult coming to be cared for by a relative

You must be outside the UK to apply and need long-term care from a parent, grandchild, brother, sister, son or daughter who is living permanently in the UK.

One of the following must also apply to the relative:

  • they’re a British citizen
  • they’ve settled in the UK – for example, they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
  • they have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

If your family member has settled status you may also be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or for a family permit.

You must prove all of the following:

  • you need long-term care to do everyday personal and household tasks because of illness, disability or your age
  • the care you need is not available or affordable in the country you live in
  • the person you’ll be joining in the UK will be able to support, accommodate and care for you without claiming public funds for at least 5 years
  • you’re 18 or over

How long you can stay for

Your stay will be:

  • unlimited if you applied to join a family member who’s British or settled in the UK – you will not need to apply to extend or settle
  • as long as your family member’s stay if they have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK – you’ll need to apply to extend or settle when they do

How to apply

You’ll need to prepare information and documents to provide with your application.

You must apply as an adult dependent relative online and complete Appendix 1.

There’s a different way to apply in North Korea.

Apply to extend your stay

Apply online to extend your stay in the UK.

Apply on the basis of your private life

You can only apply on the basis of your private life if you’re already living in the UK.

You must be able to prove that you’re:

  • under 18 and you’ve lived in the UK continuously for at least 7 years, and it would be unreasonable to expect you to leave the UK
  • between 18 and 24 and you’ve lived continuously in the UK for more than half your life
  • 18 or over, have spent less than 20 years in the UK and would have very significant problems living in the country you’d have to go to – for example, you do not speak the language and could not learn it
  • 25 or over and you’ve been in the UK continuously for 20 years

Your family members can apply on the same application – you’ll be considered separately.

If you do not meet the rules to enter or remain in the UK because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to apply to extend your stay or switch to a family visa. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

How to apply

You must apply online.

You’ll need to prepare information and documents to provide with your application.

If you cannot pay the application fee

Fill in the online fee waiver request form as well if you cannot afford to pay the fee because you:

  • do not have a place to live and you cannot afford one
  • have a place to live but cannot afford your essential living costs like food or heating
  • have a very low income and paying the fee would harm your child’s wellbeing

Get help using a computer to apply online

You can get help with completing the online form if you:

  • do not feel confident using a computer or mobile device
  • do not have internet access

You can only use this service if you’re applying in the UK.

You cannot get immigration advice through this service.

Knowledge of English

You may need to prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply.

You can prove it with an academic qualification, or by taking a test.

You do not need to prove it if you’re applying as a:

  • child
  • adult coming to be cared for by a relative

Academic qualifications

You can prove your knowledge of English if you have a degree or academic qualification that was taught or researched in English.

If your qualification is from a UK university or college, you only need your degree certificate.

If your qualification is from a university or college outside the UK

You’ll need to provide a certificate from UK NARIC to show that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or higher and that it was taught in English.

There are 2 kinds of certificate:

  • a statement of comparability
  • a visa and nationality statement

You need a statement of comparability if you got your qualification from a university or college in one of these countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

If you got your qualification from a university or college in any other country, you need a visa and nationality statement.

Take an approved English language test

You can prove your knowledge of English by passing an approved English language test with at least a CEFR level A1 in speaking and listening.

If you cannot take an English language test because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might be able to apply for an exemption. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

If you want to settle permanently in the UK within 5 years

If you took the CEFR A1 when you first applied for your visa, you’ll need to take a CEFR A2 test when you apply to stay after 2.5 years.

If you did not need to do the CEFR A1 when you first applied for your visa but you need to do it now, you’ll need to pass it when you apply to stay after 2.5 years.

When you will not need to prove your knowledge of English

You will not need to prove your knowledge of English or take a test if:

  • you’re over 65
  • you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting the requirement

You also will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of one of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

You may not have to prove your knowledge of English in other circumstances – check the guidance for the partner (2-year and 5-year routes) or parent (5-year route).

Give proof of your income

You and your partner must have a combined income of at least £18,600 a year if:

  • you’re applying as a partner
  • you want to settle in the UK (get ‘indefinite leave to remain’) within 5 years

You must prove you have extra money if you have children who are not:

  • British citizens
  • EEA nationals
  • permanently settled

You’ll need to earn an extra:

  • £3,800 for your first child
  • £2,400 for each child you have after your first child

This is the called the ‘minimum income requirement’.

You may be able to use your savings instead of income.

How you prove you have the money depends on how you got the income.

If you’ve experienced a loss of income because of coronavirus (COVID-19), for example if you’ve been furloughed or self employed, you might still be able to apply. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

What counts as income

You and your partner can use:

  • income from employment before tax and National Insurance (check your P60 or payslips) – you can only use your own income if you earn it in the UK
  • income you earn from self-employment or as a director of a limited company in the UK – check your Self Assessment tax return
  • cash savings above £16,000
  • money from a pension
  • non-work income, for example from property rentals or dividends

If you’re using income from self-employment or employment, you’ll need to prove you or your partner received that income for 6 months or more.

Example

You’ve worked with the same employer earning £18,600 or more for 6 months or longer.

What proof you need to give

You’ll need to provide proof of your income with your application. If you or your partner are employed, you could include:

  • bank statements showing you or your partner’s income
  • 6 months of payslips
  • a letter from an employer, dated and on headed paper

The employer’s letter should confirm:

  • you or your partner are employed there
  • the job title or position you or your partner hold
  • how long you or your partner have worked there
  • the type of contract (for example, permanent, fixed term)
  • what you or your partner earn before tax and National Insurance
  • how long you or your partner have been paid your current salary
  • the payslips are genuine

You’ll be told exactly what documents to provide when you apply online.

Check the detailed guidance if:

  • you or your partner’s income is more complicated
  • you or your partner have taken maternity or paternity leave in the last 6 months
  • you want to combine different income sources

The detailed guidance also explains the evidence you need to provide for each of the types of income you’re relying on.

If you cannot meet the minimum income requirement

You need to show you and your partner meet the minimum income requirement if you want to settle in 5 years as a partner.

If you do not meet the requirement, you may be able to settle in 10 years.

When you do not need to meet the income requirement

You may be able to settle in 5 years without meeting the minimum income requirement if either:

  • you’re applying as a parent
  • you get certain benefits, for example Disability Living Allowance or Carer’s Allowance.

You need to show you and your family have enough money to adequately support and accommodate yourselves without relying on public funds. The caseworker considers your income and housing costs.

There is more information in appendix FM 1.7a: maintenance.

Information you must provide

You’ll need to have information and some evidence ready when you make your application. Include information for you and any dependants applying at the same time.

You’ll need to provide:

  • all your names
  • your date of birth
  • your current passport or other valid travel ID
  • copies of the photo page and any visa or entry stamps in your previous passports
  • a copy of your biometric residence permit, if you have one
  • details of any previous immigration applications you’ve made
  • details of any criminal convictions
  • your national insurance number, if you have one
  • your parents’ date of birth and nationality if you’re applying from outside the UK
  • your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
  • certified translation of any document that is not in English or Welsh

You’ll need to have a blank page in your passport on which to put the visa if you’re applying outside the UK.

You’ll need an email address to make an online application.

You’ll also need to give proof of:

You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances – for example a sponsorship form from your family member in the UK.

You’ll be told how to provide your documents when you apply.

If you’re unable to provide specified documents because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might still be able to apply. Read the guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.

Your partner’s details

If you have a partner, you’ll be asked about their:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • passport
  • right to be in the UK, for example they’re a British citizen

You’ll also need to give details of:

  • any people your partner was previously married to, in a civil partnership with or had children with
  • evidence of marriages ending, for example a divorce certificate
  • anyone your partner supports with money, for example their parents

Proof of relationship

If you’re applying as a spouse or partner, you’ll be asked about:

  • your relationship with your partner, for example how you met and how often you see each other
  • how long you’ve lived together – you’ll need to provide proof like council tax bills
  • things you pay for together
  • whether you’re your partner’s carer

Your previous partners

You’ll need to include details of anyone you previously married or had children with. Include evidence of marriages ending, for example a divorce certificate.

Children

You’ll need to give details of your children (and your partner’s children if you have one). You’ll be asked about all children, even if they’re not applying.

You’ll need to give details of:

  • their name
  • their nationality
  • their date of birth
  • their passport details
  • who the child normally lives with
  • any other people with parental responsibility for your child, for example your step children’s other parents
  • how you’re involved in their day to day life
  • arrangements you have to see the child – for example the courts have granted you access
  • the child’s extended family
  • any countries your child has visited or lived in

Your life outside the UK

You’ll need to give details of:

  • countries outside the UK you’ve lived in and visited
  • family and friends in the countries where you were born or have a nationality

After you apply

You’ll need to attend an appointment to provide your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo). You’ll be told how to make an appointment when you apply.

Getting your documents back

You can ask for your passport and other documents to be returned if you’ve provided them with your application but need them urgently.

You might have to cancel your application to get your documents back.

If your application is approved

You’ll get a biometric residence permit.

You can:

  • work
  • study

You cannot work or study if you’re applying for a visa or extending your stay to get married or become a civil partner.

You cannot:

  • usually, get benefits or other public funds for you or your dependents
  • apply to settle in the UK until you’re eligible

Apply in North Korea

To apply from North Korea you must download and fill in form VAF4A and appendix 2.

You might also need:

  • form SU07 if you’re coming to be looked after by family
  • appendix 1 if you’re coming to the UK as an adult-dependent relative, the child of settled parents, or with one parent who got a visa before 9 July 2012
  • appendix 5 if you’re coming to look after your child

You should also read:

Data Source: https://www.gov.uk/uk-family-visa