How to choose the right partner visa - a complete guide

As we step into 2024, the UK government has announced significant changes in the minimum income threshold for family visas. To stay ahead of these changes and ensure your visa application is smooth, it's crucial to understand the different types of partner visas available. This guide will break down the intricacies of marriage visit visas, spouse visas, unmarried partner visas, and fiancé visas, helping you choose the one that suits your unique circumstances.

Marriage Visit Visa: When You Plan to Say "I Do" but Not Stay

Suppose you reside outside the UK and have no intention of settling there but dream of having your legal wedding ceremony or forming a civil partnership in the UK. In that case, the marriage visit visa is your go-to option. However, you must abide by the standard visitor rules, including the intent to leave the UK after your visit. Frequent and successive visits are also discouraged, and you need to meet specific eligibility criteria, such as being 18 or older and having a genuine intent for marriage or civil partnership.

It's important to note that if you enter the UK on a marriage visit visa, you cannot switch to any other partner visa during your visit. The current application fee for a marriage visit visa is £115.

Partner Visa Under Appendix FM: If You Plan to Make the UK Your Home

Spouse, unmarried partner, and fiancé visas all fall under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. To sponsor a partner under this category, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Be a British citizen
  2. Hold indefinite leave to remain or settled status
  3. Be an EEA national with pre-settled status who was in the UK by December 31, 2020
  4. Hold protection status in the UK
  5. Have limited leave as a worker or business person under Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay or relevant 1973 Immigration Rules

Remember that if you are eligible to apply as the partner of your child's other parent, you cannot apply as a parent.

Different Definitions of 'Partner'

The spouse, unmarried partner, and fiancé visas offer distinct ways to meet the 'partner' definition in the Immigration Rules, each requiring specific evidence. Additionally, the fiancé visa has a different validity period and additional costs.

A single online application form currently applies to partner applications under Appendix FM, whether you're applying as a spouse, unmarried partner, or fiancé. The application process differs for those applying from within and outside the UK.

Applying as Spouses or Civil Partners

If you are currently in a valid marriage or civil partnership and intend to live permanently in the UK, the spouse visa is your best fit. You can also opt for marriage and apply as a spouse if you are currently unmarried without needing a 2-year relationship history.

Spouse visas are initially valid for 33 months if applied from outside the UK and 30 months if applied from within. After a continuous 60-month period with leave as a spouse or civil partner, you can apply for settlement. The current Home Office fee for a partner application outside the UK is £1,846.

Applying as Unmarried Partners

Starting from January 31, 2024, the definition of unmarried partners has become more flexible. Previously requiring 2 years of cohabitation, it now stipulates a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for at least 2 years.

Unmarried partner visas follow the same validity and settlement rules as spouse visas. The fees are identical; you must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Applying as Fiancés or Proposed Civil Partners

For those planning to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK and reside permanently, the fiancé visa is your choice. There's no need to prove a 2-year relationship history. However, you cannot apply for this visa from within the UK.

The fiancé visa is more costly than other options, with an initial application fee of £1,846 and a validity period of six months. After marrying or forming a civil partnership in the UK, you can apply for leave to remain a spouse/civil partner.

Additional Requirements and Exceptions

Regardless of the chosen route, you need to prove a genuine and subsisting relationship, meet financial requirements, ensure adequate accommodation, and fulfil the English language requirement.

Keep in mind that exceptions may apply in cases where requirements are not met based on human rights considerations or exceptional circumstances. Seeking legal advice may be necessary for applications outside the Immigration Rules.


In conclusion, understanding the various partner visa options is vital to making the right choice for your situation. Keep an eye on the changing immigration landscape, especially with the forthcoming increase in income thresholds. By staying informed, you can make the best decision for your journey to the UK with your loved one.

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Ruslan Kosarenko

Ruslan Kosarenko

Senior Partner