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How Long Can I Stay Outside the UK on a Spouse Visa?

If you have a UK Spouse visa, it’s important to be aware of the guidelines and eligibility criteria that affect you and your visa, including time spent outside of the UK.

For more information about the Spouse visa, what the restrictions for it are, or to have any questions or concerns you might have regarding it answered by a legal professional, reach out to us today on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

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Overview of Spouse Visa Absence From UK

Spouse visas, as well as other Family visas such as the Civil Partnership visa, Fiance visa, or Proposed Civil Partner visa, do not have formal limits or restrictions on how long you can spend outside the UK.

The Appendix FM immigration rules, which all Spouse visa applicants must follow, do not state that a Spouse visa holder should be present in the UK for any specific number of days.

However, this may not mean that you can spend as much time outside the UK as you like without consequence.

There are still things to be mindful of when considering absences from the UK, such as how long you spend away, and for what reasons.

This is because while the Spouse visa itself might not carry any restrictions on absences, these will start to become important when you apply for a Spouse visa extension or indefinite leave to remain (ILR).

When Are Absences From the UK Important?

The most important element of the Spouse visa requirements is the intention for you and your spouse or partner to reside in the UK permanently.

This is reflected in Home Office guidance, which states that:

“In applications for further leave to remain in the UK as a partner, where there have been limited periods of time spent outside the UK, this must be for good reasons and must be consistent with the intention to live permanently together in the UK.”

As a result, while there may not be formal limits on how much time you can spend outside of the UK, the reasons for your absences may be called into question when you either apply for a Spouse visa extension or indefinite leave to remain.

With Spouse visa extensions, in particular, the Home Office will check to see that you still meet the eligibility criteria originally set out when you first applied for entry clearance in your initial Spouse visa application.

If they don’t believe that you meet these criteria, such as if you no longer have an intention to live in the UK with your spouse or partner permanently, your application for a Spouse visa extension may be refused.

Assessing the “Good Reason” Criteria

The Home Office Guidance states that any absences from the UK must be “for good reasons”.

While this definition is very much subjective, “good reasons” may include (but not be limited to) time spent away for:

  • Work purposes
  • Training
  • Study
  • Holidays

However, this is by no means an exhaustive, objective or definitive list. People travel abroad for a variety of different reasons, and it’s important to remember that the Home Office judges each and every case on their individual merits.

This means that your visa extension or ILR application may not immediately be refused if you can give a good justification for your time abroad, regardless of the reason.

The most important thing will be demonstrating to the Home Office that your period of absence from the UK was justifiable and reasonable, and that you still intend to live permanently in the UK with your spouse or partner.

Assessing the Intention to “Live Together Permanently in the UK” Criteria

In their guidance for the Spouse visa, the Home Office goes on to state that:

“If the applicant, their partner or both have spent the majority of the period overseas, there may be reason to doubt that the couple intend to live together permanently in the UK.”

Intending to live together permanently in the UK is an important condition of all Spouse visa and indefinite leave to remain applicants. Therefore, spending a large amount of time outside of the UK may raise concerns as to how much you and your spouse intend to comply with this condition in the future.

This will especially be the case if you’ve spent large amounts of time outside the UK without your spouse or partner and without a justifiable reason to explain why.

Remember that when reviewing absences in immigration and visa cases, the Home Office will factor in details such as:

  • The reasons for travel
  • The length of absence
  • Whether or not you travelled and spent time abroad with your partner or spouse

Taking all this into account, you will need to ensure that your absences still indicate that you do, in fact, wish to reside permanently in the UK with your spouse or partner.

Contact us today if you require assistance with your Spouse visa or indefinite leave to remain application.

Evidence Concerning Your Absences

In case you need to satisfy the Home Office that you are complying with the requirements set out by UK Spouse visa guidance, it’s recommended that you keep a record of all of your absences from the UK.

These may include:

  • Records of travel, such as flight, train or bus details, ticket stubs and itineraries
  • Records of accommodation, such as hotel or hostel bookings, or letters from friends or family members you stayed with
  • Evidence of reasons for travel, such as:
    • Details of work assignments or letters from employers
    • Details of study undertaken or training courses completed

This is to help the Home Office determine that your trips were, in fact, justifiable and for good reason.

Evidence Concerning Your Ties to the UK

You may also wish to provide evidence demonstrating your ties to the UK, and your intention to live here permanently. These can include things such as:

  • Details of you or your spouse’s employment in the UK
  • Any property or assets owned in the UK
  • Any clubs, societies, or organisations you or your spouse are a member of in the UK
  • Evidence of close ties to friends and family in the UK

Once again, these are not exhaustive or definitive lists.

The most important thing to remember is that any and all evidence that you submit must be in support of your intention to live in the UK permanently with your spouse.

What Are the Absence Requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

There are no formal maximum absence requirements you need to meet in order to apply for indefinite leave (ILR) to remain with a Spouse visa.

However, a couple of requirements include the following:

  • You must have been living in the UK continuously with your partner since you obtained your last visa
  • You must intend to continue your relationship after you apply

Similarly to Spouse visa extension applications, the Home Office will want to examine any periods of leave or absence taken outside the UK in order to establish whether you meet these conditions for ILR or not.

This is why it’s important to keep a record of evidence of any leave or absences taken while on your Spouse visa. Otherwise, convincing the Home Office that you meet these conditions may prove to be difficult.

This is especially the case if you’ve spent significant periods of time apart from your spouse or partner in different countries.

Unless you have a justifiable reason for this and evidence to back it up, the Home Office may cast doubt over the legitimacy of your relationship, meaning that your application for ILR on the basis of being a family member of a British citizen or resident may be refused.

How Can IAS Help?

Although there are no formal rules or restrictions to follow when it comes to time spent outside of the UK on a Spouse visa, it’s definitely advisable to be aware and up to date on what the general guidelines are. This is particularly important when you’ll eventually come to apply for an extension on your Spouse visa, as well as indefinite leave to remain.

If you have any questions or concerns about your absences from the UK on your Spouse visa, applying for ILR, or any other issue you might have about UK visas and immigration, IAS are here to help.

We are expert and professional immigration lawyers who are committed to delivering the highest quality immigration advice and support to our clients.

Whether you need assistance with putting together an application for a Spouse visa extension, ILR, or a biometric residence permit, or you need advice on how to maximise your chances of being approved for your chosen immigration status, we can help.

We can also advise you on longer-plan routes to settlement, such as applying for British citizenship and how to become eligible, such as taking a suitable English language test.

For more information about the services we offer and what we can do for you, reach out to us today on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

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