Visa Requirements for non-EU Spouses wishing to join an EU citizen in the UK

As a non-EU citizen married to an EU national living in the UK, you might be eligible to join your EU spouse in the UK through a EUSS Family Permit, Spouse Visa, or Dependant Visa, depending on your spouse’s immigration status in the UK and your relationship. The options available to a spouse depend mostly on when the relationship started i.e., before or after the 1st of January 2021. To understand the two different routes, it is helpful to have some understanding of the different rules that applied before and after the UK left the EU.

Old Rules – under the EU Freedom of Movement policy

Prior to the UK leaving the EU, EU family members, including spouses or long-term partners were covered under the ‘Freedom of Movement’ scheme. Under the scheme, any EU citizen who wished to reside in the UK had initial rights to reside here for three months. If they wished to stay longer than this then they needed to be a Qualified Person, which was accomplished by being:

  • A worker
  • A job seeker
  • A student – with insurance
  • Retired – with insurance

As qualified person residing in the UK, they then had rights to bring their family members to reside with them, including children, a spouse or long-term partner, or dependant parents. This was a fairly simple process and there were no income threshold or adequate accommodation requirements to be met.

Under the EU Settlement Scheme

Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, an EU Settlement Scheme was set up to ensure that EU citizens and their family members who were living in the UK prior to the UK leaving the EU could continue to do so and had a way to regularise their status under UK law.

The scheme had a deadline of the 30th of June 2021 and divided people into two categories; those who had been resident in the UK for more than 5 years and those who had been resident in the UK for less.

If you had been resident in the UK for more than 5 years then you would be granted Settled Status, which is similar to Indefinite Leave to Remain under the old rules. Those who had not already been here for over 5 years were granted Pre-Settled Status, which can be exchanged for Settled Status once they have been here for 5 years.

In order to apply as a member of a qualified EU citizen’s family, the relationship had to have existed before the end of the transition period following the UK’s departure from the EU, on the 31st of December 2020. This meant that proof was required in some cases to show that the relationship predated the UK leaving the EU. For family members applying under the Settlement Scheme, there were still no requirements to meet any income thresholds or show proof of adequate accommodation.

It has been some time since the UK left the EU, and also some time since the closing date for EU family members to regularise their status under the new rules. If family members and EU nationals had missed the 30th of June 2021 deadline for a good reason or fell into certain other groups, applications were still accepted following this date. However, late applicants either needed to have been abroad and recently arrived in the UK, eg by being the family member of an EU national who was living abroad but whose relationship with them started before the 31st of December 2020, or to have a good reason for making a late application, for example for medical or domestic violence reasons.

Current requirements

As time has passed it has become harder to provide good reasons for missing the 30th of June 2021 deadline and most applications now fall under the UK’s general visa rules. This means that it is still possible for the partner or spouse of an EU national who was resident in the UK before the 31st of December 2020 to stay with them in the UK, but they need to meet the requirements under the UK rules, which have more criteria than the EU Freedom of Movement and Settlement Scheme.

If an applicant is the spouse or long-term partner of an EU citizen but the relationship began after the 31st of December 2020 then they will need to apply under the national rules.

Applying as a partner/spouse

If you are the partner or spouse of an EU national and your relationship did not start before the 31st of December 2020 then you will be able to apply for a Spouse or Unmarried Partner Visa, as long as you and your partner/spouse meet the requirements. We have written a more detailed article on this visa here, but in summary, you need to show that you:

  • Are married to an EU national with Settled or Pre-Settled status in the UK, or have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage for two years.
  • Have good knowledge of the English language.
  • Can support yourself financially by meeting the Income Threshold.
  • Have adequate accommodation.

Spouse visa holders can stay in the UK for an initial period of 33 months and then extend this for a further 30 months if they continue to meet the requirements. After 5 years in the UK, it is then possible for spouse visa holders to apply for ILR so that they can remain here permanently.

If you have an EU spouse or partner in the UK and are thinking of applying for a visa so that you can join them, using an experienced UK immigration solicitor to assist you can provide many benefits and help ensure the process goes smoothly. We have assisted many clients in successfully applying for visas and will be honest with you from the outset about your chances of success. Please contact us if you have questions about the process or would like us to assist you in making an application.

If you have been affected by any UK immigration matter, please contact Solicitor Tito, a UK Immigration and Human Rights Solicitor, for a free initial consultation about your legal options. Call 07544 669131/01163800744 or on Skype: tito.mbariti