Bringing family to the UK or joining family members already in the UK

COMING FROM UKRAIN: Please see the immigration updates in our Library article UK Immigration Support for Ukrainians Coming to the UK

There are a number of different family visa routes available for people living outside the UK who wish to join family members already settled in the UK.

Family members wishing to come to the UK for more than six months can apply for a family visa as one of the following:

  • a spouse or civil-partner
  • a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner
  • a parent
  • a child
  • a relative providing long-term care

A standard Visitor Visa or a Marriage Visitor Visa may be suitable if the family member applicant is coming to the UK for less than six months.

Joining family members – what proof is required to come to the UK?

Each of the routes as mentioned above has specific criteria that applicants must meet in order to apply for the visa.

In most circumstances, applicants will need to prove their knowledge of the English language and may be required to take an approved English language test or provide proof of an English language qualification.

Applicants may also need to prove they have the necessary family income and/or savings. There is a minimum combined income requirement for applicants wishing to come to the UK to join their spouse and an extra income requirement for each child who is coming to the UK.

Spouses and partners will need to meet the minimum income requirement if they wish to settle in the UK after five years. If the minimum requirement is not reached at the time of application there is a 10-year time limit set to meet the income requirement

Those who meet certain other criteria, i.e. they are a parent or receive state benefits, may be able to settle in five years without meeting the minimum income requirement.

Other routes

There are other, less typical, visa routes including:

  • if you were the victim of domestic abuse
  • your partner died
  • you qualify for a ‘family reunion’ to join a partner or parent because you are a refugee or have humanitarian protection in the UK
  • you wish to apply to stay in the UK on the basis of your private life

Dependants of a skilled worker

Under the points-based-visa system for skilled workers, dependants can apply for a visa from outside of the UK as long they are eligible to join the work visa holder in the UK. If successful in their application their visa will end on the same date as the skilled worker visa.

A dependent partner or child is:

  • a husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • a child under 18 (even if they were born during the workers stay in the UK)
  • a child over 18 who is in the UK because they previously entered as a skilled worker’s dependent

Skilled worker dependents will need to have a certain amount of money available to support themselves while in the UK.

Changing your visa route

It may be possible for non-UK citizens who came to the UK on a different visa, such as a student visa, to switch to a family visa in order to stay with a parent, child, spouse or partner.

This can be done at any time during the life of the initial visa and does not have to be timed to coincide with the expiry date.

Settling in the UK (indefinite leave to remain)

Eligible non-UK citizens on a family visa can apply to ‘settle’ in the UK after a required amount of time. Obtaining indefinite leave to remain provides the right to live, work and study in the UK without time limits and to apply for benefits.

Settled migrants can also apply for British citizenship (naturalisation).

How long does it take to get a family visa?

During normal times of operation (non-pandemic and non-humanitarian crisis) the Home Office aims to give a decision on family visas within 12 weeks of the applicant’s appointment at the visa application centre. However, this can vary depending on where the applicant is coming from.

EEA and EUSS citizens applying for a family permit will get a decision as soon as possible once they have proved their identity and provided the required documentation.

Find the best visa route for your situation

UK immigration rules are complex and can change quickly. An experienced immigration solicitor can help you understand which visa route is most suitable for your personal circumstances and guide you through the application and verification process.

Led by Lorraine Toal, Wellers immigration service can help you whatever your immigration matter.

Lorraine has experience helping clients whose visa applications fall outside of the more ‘usual’ routes and has handled complex immigration matters relating to visa applications from Africa and visas for Hong Kong and British Nationals Overseas as well as appeals and applications for indefinite leave to remain.

For more information about the family visa route please call Lorraine Toal on 020 8290 7956 or email