What’s the difference between a UK Marriage Visitor visa and a spouse visa?

The UK offers a variety of visas that allow non-EU nationals to travel and move to the UK with their partner. Knowing which one is right for your circumstances can be confusing, particularly when there are so many terms associated with the partner visa.

Sable International, a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions, looked at these in detail to help determine which visa you need.

What is a Marriage Visitor visa?

A Marriage Visitor visa is a short-term visa that allows you and your partner to travel to the UK to get married or register a civil partnership. You should apply for this visa if you’re a non-EU national who only intends on having your wedding ceremony in the UK and do not want to stay or settle there permanently.

Both you and your partner will need to apply for a visa, Sable International said.

You can stay in the UK for up to six months on a Marriage Visitor visa, which gives you plenty of time to explore the UK after your wedding.

How to get a Marriage Visitor visa

When you apply for a visa, you must provide proof that you:

  • Are 18 years or older
  • Are in a genuine relationship
  • Are only visiting the UK for less than six months and plan on leaving at the end of your visit
  • Have sufficient funds to support your stay and leave the UK

In your application, you will need to include relevant documents that support the above requirements, Sable International said. This can include travel documents and proof that a wedding venue has been booked. It’s important that you submit the right documents, or your visa may be refused.

If you’re unsure of what evidence is required, an immigration advisor can guide you through your application and ensure you provide the correct documents.

What is a spouse or partner or fiancé visa?

If you want to move to the UK to live with a spouse or partner, this is the visa you need. You can apply if you are married to or in a long-term relationship with a British citizen, intend on getting married or becoming civil partners within six months of arriving in the UK or plan on settling in the UK.

UK Spouse or partner visa requirements

To be eligible for this visa, your partner must be one of the following:

  • A British citizen
  • A permanent resident in the UK

You cannot apply for this visa if your partner is in the UK on a Tier 2 or Tier 4 visa. You will need to apply as a dependant instead.

The spouse or partner visa is valid for two-and-a-half years and allows you to live and work in the UK. “You can also travel in and out of the UK as often as you like, but you must remember the residency requirement which you must meet to be eligible for indefinite leave to remain or naturalise as a British citizen,” Sable International said.

If you want to remain in the UK when your visa comes to an end, you can extend it for a further two-and-a-half years. Thereafter, you can apply for permanent UK residency and later citizenship (should you meet the requirements).

Things to consider when applying for a spouse or partner visa

The financial requirement

To be eligible for the spouse or partner visa, the British citizen must meet the financial requirement through one or a combination of the categories below:

  • Self-employment
  • Cash savings
  • Salaried employment
  • Dividends, investments or other income
  • Pension income

It’s a good idea to do a thorough assessment of your financial circumstances before applying for your visa. This will help you determine your best options for meeting the income requirement, Sable International said.

Proving your relationship

To support your application, you’ll need to provide evidence that you and your partner are in a genuine relationship. To do this, you must provide documents that show:

  • You are in a relationship or married
  • You spend time together or are in frequent contact
  • You pay for things together

The most common reason visas are refused is because there’s not enough evidence included in the application, Sable International said.

Read: These are the countries South Africans can visit visa-free over the holidays

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What’s the difference between a UK Marriage Visitor visa and a spouse visa?