Immigration rules can be confusing, technical, written in ‘legalese’ and can be easily misinterpreted, especially when English is not your first language. There are restrictions based on what country an applicant is coming from and the rules can vary between temporary visitors, long-term visitors, and those looking to settle permanently in the UK (which is common among current-EU members in the post-Brexit climate). Other factors, such as how long family members have been in the UK and what their relationship is to the visitor will also play a role in the immigration rules.
In this article, we’ve sought to answer some of the most common and confusing questions in order to provide clarity to those who seek it.
With the UK having voted to leave the EU, this is a naturally stressful time for those that any impending changes might affect. If you are among those who have reason to act or be concerned about the future changes surrounding Brexit, please be aware that the existing laws in place are still valid for EU members looking to come to the UK. Those current laws ‘should’ stay in place until December 2020.
Please note that right now, members of EU nations, as well as EFTA nations (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) can move to the UK without restriction (except for Croatian nationals who have a slightly different system). This means that family members from EU nations can also come too. If they stay or have been in the UK for 5 or more years, they can apply for permanent residency.
For the reason stated above, this article will look in particular at non-EU/EFTA individuals, as opposed to EU nationals who are applying for UK visas (of which Italy and Spain are the most common).
Which relatives can join their family residing in the UK?
For those who are not from the EU or EFTA and want to join a family member that does have UK citizenship or permanent residency status, they must apply for a UK Family Visa.
This particular Visa will allow them to join their:
- Spouse, fiancee, civil partner, or unmarried partner
- Parent or parents if they are under 18
- Children, if they are under 18
- Family, if they are in need of being looked after
Alternatively, for those people in the UK on Long-stay Visas, typically for work or to study, they can apply to bring their:
- Spouse, fianceé, civil partner, or unmarried partner
- Children that are under 18
- Dependent children of any age
In the eyes of the immigration rules, the term ‘family’ equates to parents, children, or partner, as opposed to cousins, aunts, and uncles, for example.
What about joining family members who have been in the UK for less than 5 years?
With 5 years being the amount of time required to have spent in the UK before getting permanent residency, it’s important that we cover some points about ‘less than 5 years’.
A non-EU/EFTA national is permitted to join relatives who have been in the UK for less than 5 years on any of the following Visas:
- UK Ancestry Visa* (mostly related to Commonwealth citizens)
- Tier 4 General Student Visa
- Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 5 Work Visa (not Tier 5 Youth Mobility Schemes Visa)
- Turkish Worker or Turkish Businessperson Visa
The family that they are going to visit will need to pay the UK Healthcare Surcharge and prove that they can financially support the visitor during their time in the UK (this amount varies), as well as ensuring that their Visa application is marked as ‘dependent’. The visitor’s stay in the UK cannot be longer than their family member’s stay, and they cannot work whilst in the UK unless they have an appropriate work visa.
*The Immigration DNA test part of a visa application is not specific to Ancestry Visa Applications. These tests are also used to confirm familial relationships such as Paternity, maternity, sibling, cousins, avuncular and grandparents to UK sponsors when a historic application has been rejected or to strengthen an application to prevent rejection. The application process is costly and can take up to 18months the DNA test is often requested by the home office and applicants are more proactive and now complete the tests as part of their initial submission.
What do longer-term visitors need to know about settlement?
In the case where a non-EU/EFTA individual has come to the UK to be with their British partner and stayed for over five years, thus qualifying for permanent settlement, they can make their application. There may be some financial requirements as part of the settlement application, as well as an English language test and ‘Life in the UK’ test, however, exemptions from these tests can apply.
For children and dependent adult relatives, there is no need for an English language test or Life in the UK test, but there will be a financial assessment to ensure that they will be looked after adequately without relying on public funds.
A person who has been granted settlement status, but then left the country for more than 2 years may experience a ‘lapsed ILR’ and will have to apply for a Returning Resident Visa. However, a permanent resident can apply for a British passport as a naturalised citizen, as long as they are settled in the UK. With this passport, the individual can come and go freely.
What should I know about family Visa refusals?
When making applications, applicants should be fully aware that Family Visa refusals do happen, as do refusals for adult dependents who need care.
Refusals can happen for hundreds of reasons which we won’t discuss here, but what should be known is that there is a tribunal service for those who feel that their refusal was an error.
First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)
PO Box 6987
Tel: 0300 123 1711
For more information about adult dependents, please read this legal report from Free Movement.
Where are applications for Family Settlement made?
Applicants can go directly through the Gov.uk website.
What financial considerations do I need to make?
A family settlement is not a cheap process, and will cost:
- £1195 - for an individual to join their parents, children, or partner
- £2676 - for a dependent adult to join their family to be looked after
- £811 - to extend the UK Family Visa online or by post
- £1311 - for a premium Family Visa extension service
For non-EU/EFTA individuals who wish to join their partner in the UK, there are further financial considerations to be made, which are explained here on the Citizens’ Advice website.
How can legal support help a family settlement case?
UK immigration rules on a family settlement case can be very difficult to navigate and fully understand, which is why we recommend finding immigration lawyers and experts who can provide regular advice and assistance in a settlement case. Prospects for settlement qualification, which Visa is most suitable for an applicant, and going through the rigours of paperwork can all be made easier with professional immigration support.