Reaching the point of extension means you have undergone the first spousal visa application successfully. Congratulations on making it to mid-way on this 5 year route to permanent settlement. The extension process is often viewed as much easier than the first spousal entry clearance. Perhaps because couples are often separated with the first visa if the sponsoring spouse is in the UK whilst the applicant partner is waiting for a decision abroad. With an extension, both are in the UK and living together, thus making the waiting around for a decision a lot less painful. Another factor which helps put minds at ease is the familiarity with the type of evidence required.That being said, the rules which apply to extensions are different to those for the first visa. This calls for an equally robust approach in preparation to ensure the application holds the best chances of success when submitted to the decision maker, UK Visas and Immigration.
I have put together some points of consideration for you to get started.
- Work out your time line. You can apply within 28 days before your expiry or within after 30 months of being in the UK. The deadline would be one day before your actual expiry date. Mark this in your diary and then work back your action points to ensure you will have everything in order
- Check your financial position. Does your sponsoring partner (or yourself) earn at least £18,600 (more if you have non British children who are to be included in the extension process) for a period of 6 or 12 months. If not, do you have other income from the acceptable sources? Do you cash savings collectively in the UK or abroad? If self-employed as a director, is your salary (in addition to dividends if required) above the threshold? If set up as a sole trader, are you gross taxable profits above the threshold?
Those that have lost their jobs or are earning less due to the pandemic are advised to look at a special policy which is aimed at assisting those financially affected with no fault of their own. The version on 24 December 2020 provides as follows:
Changes to the minimum income and adequate maintenance requirement
If you’ve experienced a loss of income due to coronavirus up to 1 January 2021, we will consider employment income for the period immediately before the loss of income, provided the minimum income requirement was met for at least 6 months immediately before the date the income was lost.
If your salary has reduced because you’re furloughed we will take account of your income as though you’re earning 100% of your salary.
If you’re self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 1 January 2021 will usually be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications.
- Prove that your relationship is still genuine and subsisting and that you intend to remain in the UK permanently. You would include the usual evidence, such as the marriage certificate and any previous divorce / death certificates. In addition, the new items would be evidence of living together since entry under the first spouse visa, evidence of holidays during this period, vouching letters from family and friends as well as some photographs. If you have lived apart during any period since the spouse visa was granted, justify the reasons and prove that the relationship still continued despite the break in cohabitation.
- Continued place of residence in the UK. Ensure you still have a place to live together whether it is within a property that is owned by either or both of you, rented, or provided for free by a family member or friend. Include evidence of ownership or permission to reside.
- If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country, then you need to provide some evidence of your proficiency in English. The most common way is to show an A2 level test in speaking and listening. The list of authorised centers are regularly updated and it is important to ensure you book at the right place. This test is only marginally different to the one taken for the first visa so most people who can converse in English do not require preparation. If you have a degree taught in English, then a certificate can be used instead of this English test. There are also instances where the test used for the first spousal visa can be used again provided certain conditions are met – page 13 of their guidance expands on this rule.
- Changes to your suitability for an application. Do you now have any criminal or civil offences which were either not declared or had not occurred at the time of the original visa? Remember all driving offences too, regardless of how minor they are. It is common practice to provide evidence of each offence and its disposal with a brief explanation as to why the application should still be allowed to succeed.
- Make sure you know which format things are now required in. Everything can be scanned and uploaded ahead of your biometrics appointment following submission of the online application. This is the easiest way of handling submission of evidence during the pandemic. Home office did introduce a software app which allowed a pool of chosen applicants to rely on old biometrics and simply upload their passport with a fresh picture from the comfort of their homes. Designed to process things faster, it actually added on further delays in processing. With the biometric centers now open, it is good to be back to the old method.
- Lastly, get advice around 9-12 months before your expiry to ensure you understand the evidence required and are briefed on the latest set of rules and procedures involved. Some evidence needs to be held for 6 months therefore starting early and having actions points are instrumental. Naturally you will also want to hire someone to guide you throughout the whole process. If money is an issue, a checking service is an economical alternative.
Regardless of which stage you are at, our team can help take your case to the finishing line. We are available during the holiday period. To contact us, please provide some details using our contact us page.