Visa FAQs

Contents

01   How do I get a free biometrics appointment?

The UKVCAS website allows you to book an appointment up to 4 weeks in advance.

Free appointments are released at 9am each morning and are booked 28 days in advance. You will have to scroll through to the latest available date to find one free of charge.

These appointments are taken quickly so you will need to be logged in for 9am to be able to get a free one. If not, try again the next day or look under a different nearby Visa Application Centre (VAC) location.

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02   Why am I being charged more than £1,846 for a visa to enter the UK for my spouse/child?

All Home Office exchange rates are set at 4% above the Oanda live bid rates, therefore on average you will be paying £60-70 above the exchange rate. For example, currently an application to enter the UK from Fiji will cost 2340USD which is £1,919.

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03   Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK

For a printable handout of the following information, please download Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK.

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The rules state that a child cannot normally go to live in the UK if one parent is living abroad, unless:

  1. the sponsoring parent* in the UK has sole responsibility for the child, or
  2. there are serious and compelling family or other considerations which make exclusion of the child undesirable and suitable arrangements have been made for the child’s care.

Wishing to bring the child to the UK because it offers a higher standard of living than their own country is not classed as a special reason.

* If the sponsor (i.e soldier) is the step-parent of the child (i.e it is your spouse who is wishing to bring their child to the UK), then you will need to contact the F&C team for further advice.

A parent must be able to show that he/she has been solely responsible for exercising parental care over the child for a substantial period. It must be shown that he/she has had, and still has, the ultimate responsibility for the major decisions relating to the child’s upbringing, and provides the child with the majority of the financial and emotional support they require. If the sponsoring parent and child are separated, the child will normally be expected to have been in the care of the sponsoring parent’s relatives rather than the relatives of the other parent. However, the parent claiming sole responsibility must still be able to show that he/she has retained the ultimate responsibility for the child’s upbringing and provides the majority of the emotional and financial support needed. The test is, not whether anyone else has day-to-day responsibility, but whether the parent has continuing control and direction of the child’s upbringing including making all the important decisions in the child’s life – if not, responsibility is shared and so not ‘sole’.

Important** An application should normally be refused if the child has been in the care of the other parent’s relatives and the other parent lives nearby and takes an active interest in the child’s welfare.

The following factors should be considered in assessing sole responsibility:

  • If the parents’ marriage / civil partnership is dissolved, which parent was awarded legal custody?
  • If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, how long has the sponsoring parent been separated from the child?
  • If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, what were the arrangements for the care of the child before and after the sponsoring parent migrated?
  • If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, what has been/what is the sponsoring parent’s relationship with the child?
  • Has the sponsoring parent consistently supported the child, either by direct personal care or by regular and substantial financial remittances?
  • By whom, and in what proportions, is the cost of the child’s maintenance borne?
  • Who takes the important decisions about the child’s upbringing, for example where the child lives, the choice of school, religious practice etc?

There is no specific list of documents that are required for such an application. Each case is very individual and will be considered on its own merit by the caseworker who will base their decision on the information that they have before them.

  • Statement from you as the sponsor explaining
    • your relationship with the child
    • the situation regarding the other biological parent
    • who looks after the child
    • why you didn’t bring them to the UK previously
    • when you last saw them
    • how you have kept in contact
    • how you have supported them financially.
  • Evidence to support all of the claims in the supporting letter
    • letter from the family member the child is currently living with
    • custody documents or letter from other biological parent
    • evidence of continued contact e.g. records of visits, print-outs of messages from Facebook, WhatsApp, etc
    • evidence of financial maintenance, e.g. bank statements or transfer receipts
    • school/medical records or letters stating that you are the parent.

UKVI guidance states that ‘A custody order should normally be accepted as evidence that the “sole responsibility” requirement of the Rules is met provided that it gives responsibility for the child to the parent who is settled here or being admitted for settlement. The Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, makes provision for certain overseas custody orders to be recognised under United Kingdom law provided they have been registered with the courts here. However, only certain overseas custody orders are recognised under UK law. A list of approved countries can be found at gov.uk/government/publications/custody-orders-valid-in-the-uk.

Where sole responsibility cannot be proven but there are aspects of a child’s life that are serious and compelling (for example where an applicant is living in an unacceptable social and economic environment) then the Entry Clearance officer has to consider whether exclusion of the child from the UK is appropriate. The focus needs to be on the circumstances of the child in the light of his or her age, social background and developmental history and will involve inquiry as to whether:

  • there is evidence of neglect or abuse;
  • there are unmet needs that should be catered for;
  • there are stable arrangements for the child’s physical care.

The evidence to supply in these cases will be very specific to the case.

  • An application for ‘settlement’ will need to be made online.
  • Your child will be eligible for indefinite leave to enter if you have served for 5 years or more.
  • You do not need to meet the minimum income requirement to bring your child to the UK.

For all information, see our Visas page and choose ‘Children’s Applications’.

The F&C specialist is unable to give detailed advice on these types of applications. Depending on the individual circumstances (for example if there has been a long period of separation or there is little evidence of sole responsibility), it may be advisable to engage a lawyer or advisor to undertake the application on your behalf. Please ensure they are also regulated by the OISC to provide this advice – see www.gov.uk/find-an-immigration-adviser. These applications are often refused due to lack of evidence, leading to long and expensive appeals.

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04   What can I do if I don’t meet the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) through my salary?

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There are two main ways of meeting the MIR through your salary:

Cat A application

You must show you have earned the MIR every month for the six months prior to the date of application, the amount earned per month cannot drop below the MIR. For example if you have a spouse and one child, the MIR is £22,400 so your monthly gross salary on your payslip must be at least £1,866 for the past six months.

Cat B application

If your income has been variable* you may find it is quicker to use this route because there is no requirement to show that you are meeting the monthly salary requirement for 6 months. You must instead show that you have earned the annual MIR in total over the 12 months prior to the date of application (the actual amount earned per month can vary) and the final payslip (or payslips if submitting income from a spouse or secondary employment) must show a gross income which meets or is above the monthly MIR.

*You may be able to use this quicker route if you have a second job or if your spouse has joined you in the UK and you are submitting joint evidence of income (see paras 5 and 7.

Please get in touch if you wish to submit a Cat B application but we request that you wait until you are ready to submit your applications and have the funds to pay for them.

For full details of all non-employment income which is accepted please see GOV.UK: Family Migration: Appendix FM Section 1.7 Appendix Armed Forces – Financial requirement and scroll to section 6.

Please contact the F&C team if you have further questions about evidencing this type of income.

You need to have £16,000 in cash savings to start with. You then need to work out the difference between the income requirement and your current salary, then multiply this by 5 as this is the length of the visa your spouse will receive (see example below). The cash savings must have been held by the applicant, their partner, or both jointly for at least the 6 months prior to the date of application. For further information about using cash savings click on the link above.

Example: soldier earns £20,000 and has 1 child. The minimum income requirement is £22,400 so he has an income shortfall of £2,400 per year.

The savings required would be:
£2,400 x 5 = £12,000 + £16,000 = £28,000

It has long been an argument that soldiers should be able to include their additional non-salaried benefits (such as low-cost housing) within the calculation for meeting the income requirement. To calculate how much extra your salary is worth if you take into account these benefits, see royalnavy.mod.uk/british-army/benefits-calculator.

Two cases have been successful at the Immigration Tribunal because the judges in both cases assessed that these ‘benefits’ should be taken into account when looking at overall salary. However, as this is not written in policy, in order to get before a judge you would need to go through the appeal route as described in number 9 below.

Yes, this is an accepted method of overcoming the situation. The joint income can then be combined to meet the MIR for your children. It may be possible to then submit a Cat B application as soon as your spouse has received one payslip – depending on how much they have earned and how much shortfall in annual salary you have. See para 1 above.

If you choose this route it is important that you leave your children with someone you trust so that they will be safe, as it is likely to be 6-12 months before you will see them again. Unfortunately if you are worried about their safety there is no quick route to bring them to the UK, your spouse will be expected to return to home country to care for them again.

It is also important that the application for your spouse makes it clear that you have children but that you are not bringing them with you. For further information contact the F&C team.

No, you need to meet the minimum income for each person you are applying for as well as each person who already has a limited leave visa in the UK. So, if your spouse and one child are already in the UK on limited leave visas, you will need to be earning £24,800 to bring your second child into the UK.

This is usually the quickest way of meeting the MIR. You will need to seek permission from your chain of command. In many cases it is only necessary to have the additional employment for a couple of months to show that you meet the MIR. You do not need to have 6 months evidence to make a Cat B application (see 1 above). If you are struggling to evidence your right to work with employers then please get in touch with us.

Third party support (essentially financial assistance from a friend or family member) can only be used when it has been proven that there are exceptional circumstances in your case which need to be taken into account. The decision maker will not consider the evidence of third party support if they do not think there are exceptional circumstances, so you would firstly need to prove the exceptional circumstances.

Being a soldier and being separated from your spouse and child(ren) are not usually considered by decision makers to be exceptional circumstances. In most cases your application will be refused but you will then be given a chance to put your case in front of an independent judge at an immigration tribunal, through the appeals process.

AFF has assisted two soldiers with their appeals within the previous two years, both have been successful. In both cases the judges decided that separating the serving soldier from his wife and child would lead to ‘unjustifiably harsh consequences’ and therefore met the exceptional circumstances requirement. In both cases evidence was provided to show that the soldier could meet the income requirement through other credible sources, such as third-party support and prospective earnings of the partner.

Although there is no guarantee that all appeals will be successful, it does appear that when put in front of a judge, the exceptional circumstances argument for applications from families of soldiers is a strong one.

However, if you are going to make an application then you need to fully understand the process and the level of risk:

  • The application currently costs £1,523 per person including children (not including associated costs such as the appointment, TB tests etc).
  • You will need to provide a lot of supporting documentation to try to prove that the exceptional circumstances are met within the initial application.
  • It is still likely however that the application will be refused and you will be given 28 days to appeal.
  • You will need to make an online appeal for each refusal within 28 days. Each appeal will cost £140.
  • It is likely to be at least a year before you are given a date to attend a hearing to appeal the refusal in front of an independent judge.
  • In most cases it will also not be possible to apply for a visit visa for your family during this time as it is likely that the Home Office will not believe that your family are only coming for a visit.
  • If the appeal is not successful you will not receive a refund.
  • If the appeal is successful it can take a further 6 months for the Home Office to actually issue the visa to your family!

  • The AFF F&C Specialist can provide advice on the visa applications for your family, including advice on the supporting documentation and the application process. However, you will be expected to make the application yourself, and to gather and submit the supporting documents.
  • She is able to assist with the notice of appeal and statements of additional grounds.
  • She is able to talk you through the appeals process and assist with preparing the witness statement and the bundle of documents that will have to be lodged.
  • She is not able to officially represent you at an appeal and there is no guarantee that she will be able to attend the tribunal with you.
  • If you choose not to engage a solicitor, you will have to be prepared to represent yourself. You will need to fully understand the requirements of the rules and the exceptional circumstances under which you are applying. You will need to understand and remember what supporting documents you have in your evidence bundle, so that you can quickly and accurately respond to the judge’s questions. The F&C Specialist can talk you through this.

If you do not meet the MIR to bring your family to the UK and you wish to make an application, please contact the F&C Specialist on fcsupport@aff.org.uk

This issue has been high on AFF’s agenda over the past few years and has been raised repeatedly at high level meetings with senior Command, with ministers and with the Prime Minister. AFF has also contributed to a Times article about the issue and has given evidence on the effect of the requirement to the Parliamentary Defence Select Committee.

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05   Can I apply for ILR even though I haven’t spent 60 months in the UK? I didn’t enter the UK until a few months after my 5 year visa was issued.

Yes you can. Unlike the ‘civilian’ rules, the Armed Forces rules do not require that the 60 months is spent in the UK, only that you have spent 60 months on that visa. This is so that all time spent on overseas assignments is counted as residence in the UK, but it also applies to any time spent in your home country prior to joining the soldier.

However, if you have spent a substantial amount of time out of the UK and not for Service reasons, you should contact the F&C team as it may be advisable to provide some explanation for the absences. Good reasons could include time spent overseas in connection with the applicant’s or their partner’s work, holidays, training or study. The reason why this is important is because your caseworker will have to establish if you have a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner. In some circumstances it could be considered that your relationship is not genuine and subsisting if you have spent a lot of time apart. In these circumstances you will need to evidence how you have kept in touch, either through visits or frequent communication.

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06   Can I come to the UK on a visit visa or as a non-visa national and then apply to remain here permanently as the spouse of a Service person?

To apply to remain within the Armed Forces immigration rules you must be on a visa (or with entry clearance) that was issued for more than six months. You must also meet the minimum income requirement and the English language requirement.

Warning – if you enter the UK as a visitor with the intention of remaining in the UK permanently, then you are not a genuine visitor and have essentially made false representations to enter the UK. Making false representations or seeking entry for a purpose not specified by your entry clearance, can affect your ability to enter the UK if you are stopped at the border and may affect any future applications to enter.

If you are in the UK as a visitor, your only option, if you wish to remain here, is to apply under Appendix Armed Forces (FLR(AF)) rules which allows for the caseworker to consider whether there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ in the case. These exceptional circumstances are known as para Ex.1.

If you have a British child, then the caseworker will assess that there are exceptional circumstances and will grant leave under para Ex.1.

If you don’t have a British child, then the caseworker has to assess if there would be insurmountable obstacles to family life continuing out of the UK.

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’Insurmountable obstacles’ means very significant difficulties which would be faced by the applicant or their partner in continuing their family life together outside the UK and which could not be overcome or would entail very serious hardship for the applicant or their partner.

It appears that the Home Office is considering that there are insurmountable obstacles or exceptional circumstances in some cases. However, we don’t know how many cases have been successful and how many are being refused. It is very much dependent on the caseworker’s assessment.

On average it is taking up to a year for an application to be processed.

If you make an application prior to the six months’ leave expiring, then the conditions of the visa you were on continue – so you are not illegally in the UK. However, the conditions of a visit are that you are not entitled to work, to study, to open a bank account and may face difficulty if you need medical treatment. You are also not able to join or accompany your soldier on an overseas assignment if you do not have the correct visa to re-enter the UK.

No, the unit guide to supporting non-British nationals states: A spouse / partner / children travelling on a standard visitor visa will not be entitled to accompanied status or occupancy of Service Family Accommodation (SFA). SP should not be allowed to occupy SFA until the SP can prove to the unit that they have the correct entry visa and not a visitor visa.

You will receive a visa for 2.5 years on a 10-year route to settlement. You will need to re-apply for a visa every 2.5 years (at a current cost of £1,033 per application) until you have been in the UK for 10 years, at which point you will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). You should be aware that whilst you are on the 10-year partner route, your time out of the UK, if you are posted overseas, will not count as residence in the UK. You are able to switch onto the shorter Armed Forces route once you meet the minimum income and other requirements. This will give you a visa for five years which you won’t need to renew until you apply for ILR.

You are likely to be served with a Notice to Remove and will be given Immigration Bail. If you don’t leave the UK within 7 days, you will face removal, which could prevent you from re-entering the UK for 10 years.

You will need to apply online at gov.uk/government/publications/application-to-extend-stay-in-uk-hm-forces-form-flraf/apply-online-form-flr-af
AFF is unable to provide supporting letters.

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07   Can I spend more than two years outside the UK if I have ILR?

You won’t lose your Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after two years outside the UK if your spouse or partner is a member of the UK Armed Forces and you’ve joined them on an overseas posting. You are advised to provide evidence of the overseas assignment on your return.

If you have not been out of the UK on assignment, you will need to apply for a returning resident visa.

You won’t get a Returning Resident visa unless you’re also able to show what exceptional personal circumstances have led to you being out of the country for this long.

You must provide enough evidence to show:

  • your strong family ties to the UK
  • you lived in the UK most of your life
  • your current circumstances and why you’ve lived outside the UK

Find further guidance at www.gov.uk/returning-resident-visa

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