Stay Outside the UK on a Spouse Visa: Rules and Regulations are crucial aspects that anyone holding this visa must understand in order to maintain their legal status and enjoy extended periods abroad with their loved ones.
Life can present a multitude of reasons to travel abroad, from family emergencies to professional obligations or simply the desire to explore. Understanding the effect of long absences from the UK on your spouse visa can play a critical role in planning your life and future applications.
Knowing the UK immigration laws well and out will not only enable you to make wiser decisions but will also help you stay clear of any pitfalls that might negatively affect your status. In this extensive guide, we’ll go into the detailed aspects of the UK Spouse Visa, summarise the rules for living abroad, and discuss the issues you should be aware of.
Understanding the UK Spouse Visa
A UK spouse visa allows a non-EEA national to live in the UK for up to 30 months if they are either wedded to or in a civil partnership with a person who is a British national or has indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Gain a comprehensive understanding of the UK Spouse Visa, including essential information about how to stay outside the UK on a spouse visa.
The primary duration of this visa is typically 30 months (around two and a half years). After that, the spouse visa holder can apply for a visa extension, effectively expanding their stay by another 30 months, totaling 60 months or 5 years.
After 5 years, it is possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (IL) by fulfilling various criteria such as your time in the UK, your ability to satisfy English language requirements, and your commitment to the ‘absence rule’.
It is crucial for any prospective applicant to understand the rules behind this visa, including the possibility for extension and ILR which ultimately leads to British citizenship. Understanding the laws governing time spent outside of the UK is also crucial, which we will discuss in more depth in the next sections.
The rigorous immigration laws in the UK are enforced to ensure applicants truly want to live together permanently there. Time spent abroad, especially for extended periods, may put this purpose into doubt and may have an impact on the applicant’s visa status and prospects for future immigration.
Our expert immigration lawyers always recommend maintaining accurate records of any absences from the UK, including reasons and evidence supporting these absences, to provide the best chance of a successful visa extension or ILR application.
How Long Can You Stay Outside the UK on a Spouse Visa?
If you’re a holder of a UK spouse visa, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How long am I allowed to stay outside the UK on a spouse visa?” This question is important and is significant for your future immigration plans. Unlike many UK visas, which require that the holder not stay 180 days outside the UK within any 12 months, the UK spouse visa doesn’t set a definite limit for time spent abroad.
Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be mistaken as the freedom to spend the majority of your time abroad. The rules regarding absences for spouse visas are different. Although there isn’t a precise ‘count of days’ specified for your time spent outside the UK, the amount of time you spend abroad should align with your stated purpose of living permanently in the UK with your spouse.
Simply put, your overseas stays shouldn’t be so prolonged or regular that the visa authority grows suspicions about your commitment to establish a permanent residence in the UK. Hence, while the rules seem tolerant, it’s vital to consider the essence behind the rules, which is to ensure you and your spouse plan to make the UK your permanent home.
Why You Should Be Careful About Spending Too Long Outside the UK
The UK spouse visa, while allowing some flexibility, is not a carte blanche to spend long periods outside the UK. This flexibility should not be mistaken for flexible rules as it exists within the framework of the ‘intention to live together permanently in the UK’ requirement.
This requirement is paramount to a spouse visa and its future extensions. Essentially, it means that the couple must intend to live together in the UK and that their life is predominantly based in the UK. Spending long periods outside can raise questions about whether you and your partner permanently live together in the UK or plan to do so.
Consider the scenario where your spouse or you spend the majority of their time abroad. In such a situation, it may be grounds to suspect that you genuinely intend to live together eternally in the UK. This can potentially influence your qualification for visa extensions or an application for ILR.
Furthermore, if you’re on a spouse visa and are preparing to apply for an extension or ILR, you must be able to provide evidence that you’ve stayed jointly with your spouse in the UK. If you haven’t lived together continuously, it becomes important to show a good reason for any time spent apart, and this reason needs to be consistent with an ongoing intention to live together permanently in the UK.
Also Read: When to Apply for Spouse Visa Extension
Our professional immigration lawyers suggest that you keep evidence supporting your reasons for time spent outside the UK. For instance, if you’ve been abroad due to an ailing family member, ensure that you maintain records to substantiate this. These records will prove invaluable during the extension of visa or ILR application.
Remember, every case must be judged on its merits. If you have a proper reason for the duration spent abroad, apart from your spouse, you may still have a chance of getting indefinite leave to remain or successfully expanding your spouse visa. It’s always wise to discuss with an immigration lawyer to ensure you obey UK immigration rules and protect your immigration status.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) through the Spouse Visa
The UK spouse visa performs not only as a visa but can also be a route towards securing Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and, eventually, British citizenship. ILR, also known as settlement, allows you to live in the UK without any time limitations. However, the trip from having a spouse visa to acquiring ILR requires careful planning and commitment to the immigration rules.
To apply for ILR after five years of holding a spouse visa, you must show that you have been living with your spouse constantly in the UK. In other words, you must verify your co-residence with your partner permanently in the UK. The Home Office will seek evidence that your life is mostly based in the UK. Absences from the UK should be small, and they should ideally be for a good reason, such as business trips, holidays, or caring for a sick relative.
If you haven’t lived together with your spouse continuously due to reasons like work responsibilities or family emergencies, you should be prepared to demonstrate this in detail in your application form for ILR. The reason should be in line with an ongoing preference to live jointly in the UK. For instance, if you’ve spent time apart because you were caring for a sick relative abroad, you’ll have to provide evidence like medical records.
Remember, too many days spent outside the UK could raise doubts about whether you and your partner intend to live together in the UK permanently. Therefore, it’s vital to keep track of the time spent outside the UK and be organised to explain any extended absences during the ILR application process.
Potential Issues of Spending Too Much Time Outside the UK
While holding a spouse visa and spending considerable time outside the UK might not lead to an immediate refusal of a visa extension or ILR, it could potentially raise issues. The Home Office could question whether the couple intends to live with their spouse permanently in the UK. If the majority of the visa holder’s time is spent abroad, it might give the impression that the UK is not their main home, which contradicts the fundamental requirement of the spouse visa.
Also Read: How Long Does a Spouse Visa Take in the UK?
Consequently, such a situation might result in an adverse impact on future applications, such as an extension of the spouse visa or application for ILR. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance that the spouse visa holders plan their time spent outside the UK carefully. Keeping a detailed record of the absences, including the reasons, can prove beneficial while facing any immigration-related queries or issues.
How Spouse Visa Lawyers UK Can Help
Navigating the world of UK immigration law and understanding the implications of the time spent outside the UK while on a spouse visa can be challenging. Our experts at Spouse Visa Lawyers can provide comprehensive guidance tailored to your circumstances.
With our knowledge and expertise, we offer advice on different aspects of the spouse visa – from the initial application to possible extensions and, ultimately, applying for ILR and British citizenship.
If you’re holding a spouse visa and want to understand more about spending time overseas, or if you plan to apply for one, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call us, email us, or fill in our Contact Form for an initial free discussion.
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The information provided in our articles is intended solely for guidance and should not be considered legal advice. We do not assume responsibility for any liabilities arising from the information in written articles and recommend that all readers seek professional advice before taking any action. For those wishing to discuss their case with a professional, please feel free to contact us directly.
Dr Bernard Andonian has over four decades of experience as a London-based UK Immigration Solicitor and was also a former immigration Judge. He has been awarded a PhD in Law from the University of West London for his in-depth knowledge of UK immigration and nationality law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts whilst representing clients in the UK, and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.