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Last updated: 18 April 2024

This page looks at the immigration rules around bringing an adult family member to live with you in the UK.

On this page, you will find the following information:

This page does not look at applying for the right to remain in the UK on the basis of children in the UK – for information on that, see our If You Have Children page.

If you are an EEA national and you are in the UK before 31 December 2020, your close family may be able to apply under the EU Settled Status scheme. See our EEA nationals page for more information.

This page also does not cover refugee family reunion. If you have Refugee Status or Humanitarian Protection, you may be able to apply to bring your partner/spouse and any children you have to the UK, as long as they were part of your family unit at the time you fled your country of origin. This is known as “refugee family reunion“. You can find more information on the Home Office website here. There is also this guide to understanding refugee family reunion on the Free Movement website.

Partner (spousal) visa

If you are a British citizen, or you are settled (for example with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK) and you meet the minimum income requirement, you may be able to apply for permission for your spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner to live with you in the UK.

In these types of applications, the person who is settled (this means they have British citizenship, or ILR) is referred to as the “sponsor”.

The rules for these types of applications are in Appendix FM (FM stands for Family Migration) of the Immigration Rules, specifically under the heading “Family life with a partner”.

Types of partner visa applications

Depending on your situation, there are different types of partner visa applications you can make.

  • If your partner does not yet live in the UK, you might want to apply for a visa for leave to enter.
  • If your partner already lives in the UK, you might want to apply for leave to remain.
  • If your partner has had a partner visa for 5 (or sometimes 10) years, you might want to apply for indefinite leave to remain to settle permanently.

Generally, to make an application for a partner visa, you must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship and intend to live together permanently in the UK. If you are applying for leave to remain, you need to show that you have lived in the UK together.

Your partner must have good knowledge of English. See the Home Office website here for more information to how to use this.

Both you and your partner must be over 18 on the date of the application.

Minimum income requirement

To make an application under Appendix FM, you will need to meet the minimum income requirement and provide evidence to show this. 

If you are applying for your partner to join you in the UK for the first time on or after 11 April 2024, to meet the income requirement, you need to be earning a minimum of £29,000 per year. This threshold is fixed regardless of the number of children in the family. 

Your situation might be different, depending on whether you are in salaried employment, you have a job offer, variable income, or you want to meet the income requirement using cash savings, pensions or benefits. For detailed information on calculating the minimum income requirement in your case, see this Policy Guidance from the Home Office from page 11 onwards. 

For detailed information about the specific types of evidence needed in these applications, see Appendix FM-SE, which contains rules on how income is calculated and what supporting evidence is required. 

If you had already applied for your partner to join you on this route before 11 April 2024, the minimum income requirement for a partner applying without children is £18,600 (the income requirement increases to £22,400 for your partner and one child, and then and additional £2,400 for each further child).

What if I cannot meet the minimum income requirement?

There are some circumstances in which your partner can be granted leave even if you do not meet the income requirements. If you are in receipt of certain welfare benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance or Carer’s Allowance, you may not need to meet the income requirements.

If you cannot meet the minimum income requirement as outlined above, it may be possible to include other sources of income.

Exceptional circumstances

If you cannot meet the minimum income requirement to apply for a visa to bring your partner, there are some cases in which they might be granted leave to enter or remain if you can show that there are exceptional circumstances in your case.

Applications along these lines are complex, and you must show that refusal of leave would result in very harsh consequences for you and your family. You must provide strong evidence to explain the circumstances of your case.

Paragraph GEN 3.1 of the Immigration Rules says that other reliable sources of income may be used where:

It is evident from the information provided by the applicant that there are exceptional circumstances which could render refusal of the application a breach of Article 8 [right to private and family life] because it could result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant, their partner or a relevant child

This means that the Home Office needs to consider whether a refusal of your application because you do not meet the requirements would have “unjustifiably harsh consequences” for you and your family. This will be particularly relevant if you have children.

In this Policy Guidance on page 68, the Home Office gives some examples of when a refusal of an application might lead to unjustifiably harsh consequences, including if: 

The applicant and their partner have a child in the UK with serious mental health or learning difficulties, and independent medical evidence establishes that good treatment and learning support are in place for the child here which would not be available in the country where the applicant resides.

So, if your income is below the threshold, but exceptional circumstances apply in your case, such as the needs of a child with a disability, you may be able to show that you can rely on other forms of support (such as from another family member in the UK, or future earnings). 

It is a good idea to get legal advice for these types of applications. 

Partners: right to family life

If you cannot meet the income requirements, it is possible to apply for the right to remain (or to enter) the UK on the basis of your right to family and private life in the UK. Read more about this on our page on Human Rights.

The Home Office refuse most human rights-based applications, but you may have the right to appeal a refusal at the First-tier Tribunal.

The Home Office (and then a judge, if you are appealing a refusal) will consider whether you and your partner meet the immigration rules for these types of applications. If they do not meet the criteria of the immigration rules, the Home Office/judge should then consider your application outside of the rules and decide if exceptional circumstances apply that mean your partner should be given the right to enter/stay.

The immigration rules allow you to apply for the right to remain on the basis of family life, if:

  • there is a “genuine and subsisting relationship”
  • with a partner who is in the UK and they are a British citizen, or have Indefinite Leave to Remain, or Refugee Status or Humanitarian Protection
  • and there are insurmountable obstacles to your family life (with your partner) continuing outside of the UK.

You need to provide evidence that your relationship is genuine. The Home Office may invite you and your partner to attend an interview to assess this. They are unlikely to refer to it, to you, in language that makes it obvious that the interview is about testing the “genuineness” of your relationship. They might just refer to it as a “marriage interview” or “relationship interview”. Both of you in the relationship must attend this interview if you are both in the UK.

A subsisting relationship means a relationship that currently exists. See below for information on how to prove this.

A partner is someone you are engaged to, married to, in a civil partnership with, or someone you have lived with in a relationship like marriage for at least two years.

The meaning of “insurmountable obstacles” has been the subject of legal debate. If you have a lawyer, they will need to show that the reasons you couldn’t live outside of the UK amount to insurmountable obstacles. If you are making the application without a lawyer, concentrate on showing why it would not be reasonable for you to live with your partner outside of the UK, and provide evidence for this.

ACTION SECTION

Think about the evidence you need to gather to prove your relationship meets the criteria above.

You need to show evidence that your relationship is genuine, long-term, and ongoing.

If you live with your partner, you should provide evidence of this. This might include documents about your mortgage if you own the place where you live, or a joint tenancy agreement or letter from your landlord confirming you both pay the rent, if you are a renter.

If you don’t live together, what evidence do you have of joint financial responsibilities? This might include a joint bank account or utility bills with both your names on. Remember you will need to have been living together if you aren’t married, in a civil partnership or engaged.

Can you show evidence of visiting each other’s families? If this was outside the UK, you can provide travel tickets to prove your visit.

You may want to provide photographs that document your relationship, including meeting each other’s families. You also might want to provide statements from friends and families about your relationship. Official documents are treated most seriously by the Home Office/the courts, but these are not always available or enough. You might even want to show records of your communication with your partner via email, messaging and social media – but as these are personal communications, think carefully about whether it’s necessary to include these.

Remember you need to show that there are insurmountable obstacles to you living in another country – how can you prove this? Are there family, work, health or care reasons that mean you or your partner have to be in the UK? You will need official letters, documents and statements to prove these.

Applying to bring a parent to the UK

If you are an adult with British citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, and you wish to apply to bring your parent to the UK, you have to demonstrate that due to age, illness or disability, your parent requires a level of long-term personal care that can only be provided in the UK by a relative in the UK and without recourse to public funds.

If you have the funds to support your parent so that they will not need public funds, the Home Office is likely to argue that you can pay for care to be provided in the country in which they live – the Home Office position is generally that care does not need to be familial care.

These applications are known as “Adult Dependent Relative” applications, or ADRs. It is extremely difficult to succeed in these applications because of these strict criteria.

Read the immigration rules on Adult Dependent Relative applications here. Read a guide to the applications here.

Making a family member application

The application forms and guidance notes for these applications are on the Home Office website here.

In general, you will not be able to get legal aid advice to assist you with these applications. In exceptional circumstances and if you do not have the funds to pay for a private lawyer, you may be able to apply for exceptional legal aid funding. See here for more information about this.

When applying for the right to enter/remain for a partner, there are “suitability” requirements your family members have to meet, meaning that “bad character”, poor immigration history or unpaid NHS debts could disqualify them.

Suitability requirements and grounds for refusal

When applying for the right to enter/remain for a partner, there are certain requirements your family members have to meet. For example, family members will need to have a “good level of English”. See the Home Office website here for more information.

The Home Office will also consider “criminality” under suitability requirements. 

There are mandatory grounds for refusal in Appendix FM, which mean that an application must be refused in these circumstances. These include certain types of criminality, such as having been the subject of a deportation order. If your family member is or has been subject to a deportation order, or has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least four years, the Home Office is likely to refuse the application. 

There are also discretionary grounds for refusal, which mean that an application might be refused in certain circumstances. For example if false documents are provided, or in cases where the applicant has unpaid NHS debt or poor immigration history.

The Home Office may also refuse an application under ‘public good’ considerations.

Click on the “family life with a partner” section of the immigration rules for more information on the suitability requirements and grounds for refusal.

Fees

There is a fee for the application. To find out how much you will need to pay, read the latest Home Office guidance on UK immigration and nationality fees.

You will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of an application under this route, unless you fall into one of the exempt categories or unless you are making an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Read more about the health surcharge here.

You cannot apply for a fee waiver for the fee and health surcharge for these applications unless you are not required to meet the minimum income threshold. Read more about fee waivers here.

If your application is successful

If you are successful in your application, you will be granted 2.5 years’ leave to remain in the UK. You will generally not have access to public funds such as welfare benefits or homelessness support during this time.

You can apply to renew your leave to remain (before it runs out).   If successful, you will be granted another period of 2.5 years’ leave to remain.

If you have met all the income requirements and suitability requirements, you will generally be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 2 x 2.5 years’ leave to remain. Because you can apply for settlement after 5 years, you may hear this referred to as the “five-year route to settlement”.

If your application is granted on the basis of the exceptional circumstances described above when you do not meet the standard requirements, you will need to establish 10 years of time-limited leave to remain (4 x 2.5 years’ leave to remain) before you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

If your application is refused

If your application is refused, you may have the right to appeal the decision.

If your application is based on human rights and doesn’t meet the immigration rules, the Home Office may say that they consider your human rights claim to be “clearly unfounded” and “certify” your claim. This means you do not have the right to appeal the refusal in the UK.


If you do not have the right to appeal the refusal, you may wish to consider a judicial review.