Please note that in 2024, the financial requirement for spouse visas will change. This means that the minimum income requirement is different depending on when an applicant’s first application for partner status was made. See below for more details.

Please note that this information relates to spouse visas only. You can also apply as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner but this is a separate application – find more information here.

Law, process, and procedure

A spouse visa is a form of entry clearance, which is given to people who wish to come to the UK to join a husband, wife, or civil partner. People sometimes call this kind of visa a marriage visa. The ‘applicant’ is the person overseas who wishes to come to the UK.

In order to apply for a visa of this kind a person must be married or in a civil partnership with a person who is either a British Citizen, or has ‘settled status’ in the UK, which really means any person with Indefinite Leave to Enter or Remain. This person will be known as the applicant’s ‘sponsor’.

Applications for spouse visas, which are granted, will be valid for a period of 2.5 years. After this initial 2.5 year period, an application must be made to the Home Office for this to be extended. Extensions will again be for a 2.5 year period. Initial applications are made by applying to the relevant British Embassy, High Commission, or Visa Application Centre in the applicant’s country of origin.

Legal Aid is not automatically available for cases relating to spouse visas – it is likely that a private solicitor will need to be instructed. GMIAU can provide one-off advice over the phone.

This advice sheet will tell you a little about the requirements that someone must satisfy when applying for a spouse visa, and a little about the procedure that must be followed. Please note that every case is different and this advice sheet is not to be taken as a substitute for obtaining legal advice specific to your personal situation.

The Immigration Rules: Spouse Visa applications

Applications for spouse visas are made under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. This means that in order to be granted a spouse visa an applicant must satisfy each part of the relevant section of Appendix FM, and provide evidence to prove that they meet the rules to the relevant embassy, high commission, or visa application centre in the applicant’s country of origin.

This advice sheet will look at each of the rules in turn and give examples of the kinds of evidence that you can submit to satisfy them. The examples given are not exhaustive however, and there are no set rules on the kinds of evidence that can be used to satisfy each part of the rules. Don’t be afraid to submit other kinds of evidence if you think it will help to prove a particular point.

The ‘partner’ requirement

To satisfy this part of the rules the applicant needs to show that their partner in the UK (the sponsor) is either a British Citizen or has indefinite Leave to Remain. Usually a copy of the relevant passport, status document or biometric residence permit will be sufficient to establish the sponsor’s status in the UK.

The ‘age’ requirement

Next, it is necessary to show that both the sponsor and the applicant are over 18 at the time they apply for the visa. This can be established by providing proof of each parties identity including date of birth. A passport, identity cards or birth certificate will usually be sufficient.

Prohibited Degrees of Relationship

Next, it is necessary to show that neither the sponsor nor the applicant are in the ‘prohibited degrees of relationship’. This means that they must not be too closely related. In short, parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces are not permitted to marry or enter civil partnerships. There are further rules applicable if either of the parties has been adopted or in a previous marriage or civil partnership, and is proposing to marry or enter into a civil partnership with a party who is in some way related because of the adoption or previous marriage or civil partnership. If this applies to you, you should seek advice on this if necessary.

Requirement to have met

This means that the applicant must submit some evidence to show that they have met the sponsor. This may be evidence that you have visited one another such as plane tickets or previous visas, or for example, photographs of you both together.

Genuine and subsisting relationship

It will be necessary to demonstrate that the relationship between the applicant and the sponsor is genuine and subsisting. This can be shown in a number of ways and with a number of different types of evidence. A good starting point is often to provide a letter, from either the sponsor, the applicant, or both, outlining the nature of the couple’s relationship. Remember however, that there are no set categories of the kinds of evidence that you can provide for this.

For example, evidence of continued contact between the parties may be of assistance. This can be shown by providing telephone records, copies of email correspondence, or copies of letters and cards sent. Evidence of visits such as aeroplane tickets and photographs of the sponsor and applicant together can also be of assistance. Further, evidence which shows that the sponsor and applicant have been sending gifts or money to each other can further help to demonstrate a genuine and subsisting relationship.

Often the only evidence that the parties will have of their continued contact is pre-paid telephone cards. Whilst these can be used to support an application, it is often better to try and obtain printed telephone records. This can sometimes be done by contacting the company who produce the telephone cards and asking them to provide you with printed records of the calls made.

Further, contact is increasingly maintained by way of programs such as SKYPE, Facebook and by smart phone apps such as Whatsapp and VIBER. If the applicant and sponsor use programs such as these to keep in touch then they will need to attempt to contact the company involved to see if they can provide them with printed records of the contact between each other.

Remember that the above is only a guide and that there are many other kinds of evidence which may assist in showing that the relationship if genuine and subsisting.

The need for a valid marriage or civil partnership

Of course the applicant and sponsor need to have entered into a marriage or civil partnership, and that marriage or civil partnership must be legally recognised in the UK. The rule of thumb to apply here is that where a marriage or civil partnership is recognised as valid in the applicant’s home country then this will further be considered valid in the UK. So, for example, if an Islamic marriage is considered valid in the applicant’s home country then it will likewise be considered so in the UK. However, if the applicant and sponsor were married in another country which does not recognise Islamic marriages then this would not be recognised as valid in the UK.

Previous marriages or civil partnerships

Any previous marriages or civil partnerships that either the sponsor or applicant have entered into need to have broken down completely, and need to have been properly brought to an end either by divorce or dissolution. If either have been in a previous marriage or civil partnership, then this will need to be disclosed on the application form, and evidence of the divorce or dissolution will need to be provided with the application.

Intention to live together permanently

Evidence must be provided which shows that the applicant and sponsor intend to live together permanently in the UK. The kinds of evidence that will be useful here are similar to those that can be used to show that the relationship between the parties is genuine and subsisting. Therefore, a letter from either party, and evidence of the continued strength of the relationship between the parties will be useful here.

The financial, or ‘maintenance’ requirement

One of the major changes introduced into the immigration rules by appendix FM was the £18,600 per year income threshold. The effect of this requirement is that in order for an application to be successful, the sponsor for any application must have an income of at least £18,600 per year. If the sponsor cannot show such an income, then subject to the exceptions discussed below, the application will be unsuccessful.

The immigration rules further require that the evidence of the income provided to meet this requirement must be provided in a specified format. These requirements include, for example, specifics as to the format of bank statements provided, specifics as to the period which any payslips must cover (a minimum of 6 months), and specifics in relation to the translation of documents. The rules relating to supporting evidence can be found in full here.

Savings

In cases where the sponsor does not earn the £18,600 per year, it is possible to make up any shortfall by taking into account the couple’s savings. There are a number of requirements.

Firstly, the savings must be in excess of £16,000. Then, in addition, there must be a further amount on top of that £16,000. This amount must total 2.5 the amount of the shortfall. What this means is that if, for example, the sponsor earns only £17,600, then he or she will need to have £16,000 in savings, in addition to 2.5 times the £1000 shortfall. Accordingly, he or she will need to have total savings of £18,500.

Again, this is subject to the formalities in respect of the evidence to be submitted. It is necessary for example, to show that the savings have been in the possession of the applicant or sponsor for at least 6 months prior to making the application. The full specifics of the evidential rules can be found here.

Applications on or after the 11th April 2024

The income figure for applications made on or after the 11th of April will be £29,000. This increased figure will only apply to the first application as a partner and will not apply to those who had made a successful application for partner status (including as a fiance) before this date and are applying for an extension.

The savings figure is still £16000 so, for example, anyone earning £28,000 will need to have savings of £18,500.

 

Exemptions

There are some exemptions from the income threshold for those who are in receipt of certain benefits. These benefits are:

(i) disability living allowance;
(ii) severe disablement allowance;
(iii) industrial injury disablement benefit;
(iv) attendance allowance;
(v) carer’s allowance; or
(vi) personal independence payment; and
Where a sponsor is in receipt of one of these benefits, then they will only need to show the evidences that the applicant will be adequately maintained, which means that they will be supported financially, without the need for them or the sponsor to obtain further public funds.

To satisfy the requirement in these circumstances, an applicant needs to show that they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves throughout the whole of their visit. The benchmark that is set is the “income support level”. This means that a family will need to show that they have at least the same amount of funds available as they would have if they were a family of the same size receiving income support, together with money to meet their housing costs of rent/mortgage and Council Tax. Clearly however, the more finance that the applicant has at their disposal the stronger the application will become.

Wage slips, benefits letter and bank statements, will all be crucial here to show that there are sufficient financial resources available to support the applicant should he or she come to the UK.

Accommodation Requirement
As for the accommodation requirement, evidence will need to be provided to show that the applicant will have adequate accommodation in the UK. For example, a copy of a tenancy agreement or evidence of home ownership of the sponsor will be the most common form of evidence submitted here.

You must bear in mind the rules in relation to overcrowding. The rule of thumb is that children under 10 years old can share rooms, as can couples, but that others should have separate rooms. If therefore there are other people living in the sponsor’s property, then the applicant will need to show that there is still sufficient room for them to reside there.

The English Language Requirement

Finally, the applicant must show that they have a sufficient level of English, unless they come from one of the following countries:

Antigua and Barbuda; Grenada; Trinidad and Tobago; Australia; Guyana; United States of America; The Bahamas; Jamaica; St Lucia; Barbados; New Zealand; Canada; Belize; St Kitts and Nevis; Dominica; St Vincent and the Grenadines.

If the applicant is not from one of these countries, then there are three ways in which he or she can meet this requirement:

(a) have passed an English language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of
level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages with a provider approved by the UKVI;

(b) have an academic qualification recognised by UK NARIC to be equivalent to the
standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK, which was taught in English; or

(c) are exempt because they are over 65, have a physical or mental disability, or
there are exceptional circumstances which prevent them from meeting the requirement.

Therefore, if the applicant has a degree or recognised equivalent then they will not need to undertake any further English language tests. They will need to contact NARIC to obtain confirmation of this to submit with the application. There is a fee to be paid for this. The website for NARIC is below:

https://www.naric.org.uk/NARIC/Individuals/Default.aspx

If not however, then they will need to take an English language test in their home country, prior to making the application.

Procedure when making the application

Applications for entry clearance to the UK are made at British Embassies, High Commissions, or Visa Application Centres in the applicant’s home country. You can find details of the relevant application centre on the Home Office website:

https://www.gov.uk/apply-uk-visa#other-ways-to-apply

or at:

https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk

Applicants are required to complete an online form, print this off, and take this along with any supporting documents to an appointment at the application centre. There is also an Appendix, Appendix 2, which needs to be completed by hand. This can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-for-uk-visa-for-family-settlement-form-vaf4a

There is a fee for the application, and applicants will either be required to pay this online when they make the application, or in person at the relevant British Embassy, High Commission, or Visa Application Centre. The kinds of supporting documents that should be submitted are those listed above, along with anything else which helps to satisfy the requirements of the Immigration Rules. Applicants will also need to submit their passports, and four passport sized photographs. Finally, applicants from many countries are now required to be tested for tuberculosis (TB) before they apply, and to present a certificate to show that they are free from TB when they make the application. The certificate must be from a centre recognised for this purpose by the Home Office.

Once at the appointment, the documents and application forms will be taken and the application will be processed. Fingerprints and photographs of the applicant will be taken at this stage. Applicants will then be contacted with a decision in due course. Please note that all the documents provided with an application must be originals.

The Decision

Applicants will be contacted with a decision. This will either be a grant of a spouse visa, in which case this will be endorsed in the applicant’s passport, or alternatively a refusal. In the case of a refusal, the applicant will receive a document entitled ‘Refusal of Entry Clearance’.

The refusal document will state the reasons why the application has been refused. This will be because the Entry Clearance Officer, that is the person who considers the application, does not believe that the applicant satisfies all the requirements of Immigration Rules. Accordingly, the refusal document will identify the parts of the rule that the Entry Clearance Officer does not believe are satisfied.

When an application is refused there are three options open to applicants. These are to appeal, to ask for reconsideration, or to apply again. This information sheet will discuss each one in turn.

Appeals

If the applicant decides to appeal the decision, they will need to lodge the appropriate appeal form with the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal in the UK. This appeal is lodged by completing form IAFT 6 which is usually provided with the refusal notice. In this form the applicant will need to give the reasons why they think the decision of the Entry Clearance Officer is wrong. Please note that there is a fee for the appeal, which will also need to be paid when the appeal is submitted.

Once the appeal has been submitted there will be a delay of several months while the Tribunal obtains the relevant paperwork from the relevant British Embassy or High Commission which made the decision. Once this is obtained then the Tribunal will set a date for the appeal to be heard. The applicant may arrange for a representative to attend the court on their behalf, or may ask for the Tribunal to look at the papers that the applicant has provided and make a decision on this basis. The appeal procedure can sometimes take up to, and sometimes exceed, six months.

Requests for Reconsideration
Alternatively, the applicant may write to the relevant Embassy or High Commission and ask that the decision be reviewed. This can be a quick and effective way of overturning decisions where it appears that the Entry Clearance Officer has made a mistake. The letter will need to clearly identify why the applicant thinks the decision is wrong, and why they satisfy the requirements of Immigration Rules.

For example, if the Entry Clearance Officer has refused an application because there is not enough evidence that the applicant will be adequately accommodated and the applicant disagrees then the applicant could write to point out that the evidence submitted with the application is sufficient, and ask that the Entry Clearance Manager review the decision. The Entry Clearance Manager will then look again at the decision and decide if the original refusal should be upheld or not. In practice however, it will usually be advisable to lodge an appeal at the same time to ensure that if the decision is maintained, the applicant’s right of appeal is not lost.

Making a new Application

The final option when an application has been refused is to apply again. This will require the applicant to go through the same procedure as outlined above to make an application, however they will need to provide additional evidence which addresses the reasons that were given for the previous application being refused.

For example, if the application was refused because no evidence was given that the applicant will be adequately accommodated, the applicant could reapply, and this time provide evidence as indicated above that he or she will have a place to stay in the UK with their sponsor.

More Information
As noted above, this information sheet is not a substitute for legal advice which addresses your particular circumstances. If, after reading this sheet, you still have questions then please contact our offices and we will see if we are able to offer you further advice and assistance.

This information is accurate as of June 2020. We will be updating this information annually.

This information is one of a series designed by GMIAU to help you understand how to make a family reunion application if you have Refugee status in the UK. Please always check for changes on the Home Office website.

The Law

Until 1st April 2013, Legal Aid was available to pay a legal representative to help with this kind of application. Legal Aid is no longer available for this type of case. This leaves refugees with only two alternatives: to pay for advice, or to make the application without legal advice and assistance.
As a refugee you may be able to make this application yourself – particularly if you read and speak English or have a friend who can help.

This fact sheet aims to equip refugees with an understanding of the law, and a practical knowledge of how applications are made. It is not a substitute for legal advice. If you want to prepare your own application and would like a legal view as to whether you have completed the application properly, please phone us. If you want help with the application please come to the drop-in on Tuesday mornings or phone us.

Who qualifies – the sponsor

The person in the UK who wants to bring their family here is known as the “sponsor”. In order for their family to qualify for refugee family reunion, the sponsor must have either refugee status or humanitarian protection.

Refugee status is granted for a period of 5 years initially. After five years, a refugee can apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence in the UK). Some refugees are given indefinite leave to remain immediately – these are people who came to the UK under the Gateway Protection Programme, a special Government programme run in conjunction with UNHCR for refugees who are being resettled from abroad.

Humanitarian protection is quite rare. Like refugee status, it is granted for 5 years initially, and then indefinite leave to remain is granted after 5 years. It gives rise to almost the same rights and entitlements as refugee status. For the remainder of this advice we refer to refugee status only.

You/The sponsor should have one of the following documents to evidence the fact that you have refugee status or humanitarian protection:

  • An immigration status document – this is an A4 sheet of paper, with a picture of the person on it, their name and date of birth, and confirmation of the person’s status. It should say “refugee status” or “humanitarian protection”
  • A biometric residence permit – this is a plastic card, which looks a bit like a UK photocard driving licence, with the person’s picture on it. It will say “refugee” or “humanitarian protection”
  • A refugee convention travel document. This is dark blue and looks like a passport

NB: Some people had refugee status but don’t have it any more. Once a person who is a refugee becomes a British citizen, they lose their entitlement to family reunion under the Rules for Refugees.

If you are a refugee sponsor and are thinking of becoming British, do not apply to do so until your family reunion application is sorted out.

Who qualifies – the family abroad

Refugees are allowed to bring pre-existing family to the UK under the refugee family reunion rules.

Pre-existing family includes:

  • The refugee’s spouse or civil partner, where the marriage took place before the refugee fled their own country to seek asylum in the UK
  • The refugee’s unmarried or same sex partner, where the refugee and their partner had been together for two years or more before the refugee fled their own country to seek asylum in the UK
  • The refugee’s children who are under the age of 18 and who were part of the refugee’s family unit before he/she fled to seek asylum
  • The refugee’s children who had been conceived but not born prior to the refugee leaving to seek asylum
  • The refugee’s step-children who are under the age of 18 and who were part of the refugee’s family unit before he/she fled to seek asylum, but only if the child’s biological mother/father is dead

Pre-existing family does not include:

  • The refugee’s spouse/civil partner/unmarried or same sex partner, where the marriage/partnership post –dates the grant of refugee status
  • The refugee’s siblings
  • The refugee’s parents
  • The refugee’s children who are over the age of 18
  • The refugee’s adopted children, unless they were formally adopted following a court procedure which is recognised by the UK Government (in practice, adoptions in the countries where our clients come from are not recognised)
  • The refugee’s nieces and nephews
  • Parents of refugee children

Members of the family who are not pre-existing family may be able to come to the UK under other provisions of the immigration rules or under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to family life), but they do not qualify for refugee family reunion and their applications are much more complex.

The Law

The legal provisions about family reunion are found in the immigration rules. You can find the immigration rules on the Home Office Website.
There are separate rules for spouses, unmarried partners, and children. The rules for spouses and children are specified below.

Spouses

352A. The requirements to be met by a person seeking leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom as the partner of a person granted refugee status are that:

  1. the applicant is the partner of a person who currently has refugee status granted under the Immigration Rules in the United Kingdom; and
  2. the marriage or civil partnership did not take place after the person granted refugee status left the country of their former habitual residence in order to seek asylum or the
  3. parties have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership which has subsisted for two years or more before the person granted refugee status left the country of their former habitual residence in order to seek asylum; and
  4. the relationship existed before the person granted refugee status left the country of their former habitual residence in order to seek asylum; and
  5. the applicant would not be excluded from protection by virtue of paragraph 334(iii) or (iv) of these Rules or Article 1F of the Refugee Convention if they were to seek asylum in their own right; and
  6. each of the parties intends to live permanently with the other as their spouse or civil partner and the marriage is subsisting; and
  7. the applicant and their partner must not be within the prohibited degree of relationship; and
  8. if seeking leave to enter, the applicant holds a valid United Kingdom entry clearance for entry in this capacity.

Children

352D. The requirements to be met by a person seeking leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom in order to join or remain with the parent who currently has refugee status are that the applicant:

  1. is the child of a parent who currently has refugee status granted under the Immigration Rules in the United Kingdom; and
  2. is under the age of 18; and
  3. is not leading an independent life, is unmarried and is not a civil partner, and has not formed an independent family unit; and
  4. was part of the family unit of the person granted asylum at the time that the person granted asylum left the country of their habitual residence in order to seek asylum; and
  5. the applicant would not be excluded from protection by virtue of paragraph 334(iii) or (iv) of these Rules or Article 1F of the Refugee Convention if they were to seek asylum in their own right; and
  6. if seeking leave to enter, holds a valid United Kingdom entry clearance for entry in this capacity.

These are the only requirements that need to be met. Notice that there is no requirement that the refugee is able to support their family financially, or provide accommodation for them.

This is a big difference between the family reunion rules and other categories of the immigration rules, where the person who is coming to the UK will always need to show that they have enough money to support themselves and their family.

Section 2 – Procedure for the application

Overview

The application for refugee family reunion needs to be made by the family members abroad, to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) in the country where they are living. However, the application can be prepared here in the UK, and then sent to the family member abroad in order for them to submit it to the VAC.

If there is no VAC in the country you wish to make the application, the Home Office website gives advice about which VAC in a neighbouring country you can make the application from.

The application needs to be made on an application form called a VAF4A, together with a separate form – Appendix 4. Copies of both forms are in the resources section. For most countries, you fill in the application form online. To start the online application process, go to this link.

Once the online application is submitted, the applicant is offered an appointment to go to the VAC to submit their documents and to have their biometrics taken. You can normally choose the date and time of the appointment.

GMIAU has a project to help refugees to make family reunion applications.
The procedure for making the application goes like this:

  1. Refugee sponsor comes to see GMIAU
  2. We assess the sponsor and their family members’ situation and advise whether they meet the basic requirements for making an application
  3. We advise what evidence is needed to support the application
  4. The refuge/sponsor returns with all the evidence and we assist them to complete the online application form and to prepare a detailed statement of their family life prior to fleeing
  5. The online application form is submitted and an appointment made for their family to go to the Embassy
  6. We put all of the documents together and send them to the applicant abroad
  7. The applicant attends the Embassy with the documents and submits the application
  8. We wait for a decision. A decision will take several weeks or months.

There is no fee for making an application.

Evidence

Various documents will always need to be submitted to support the application. This is to prove that the requirements of the immigration rules are satisfied. The evidence that needs to be submitted to support an application will vary from case to case but will include some or all of the following documents. It is helpful to break it down into categories.

Basic evidence needed for all applications:

  • Valid passport for each applicant
  • Two passport sized photographs of each applicant
  • Certified copy of the sponsor’s refugee status document/biometric residence permit
  • A statement from the sponsor, setting out who is in their family, giving names and dates of birth, how they came to leave their family behind, and what contact they are having with their family currently, what circumstances their family is living in

For applications by spouses/unmarried partners:

  • Original marriage certificate, plus English translation – showing that the marriage took place before the refugee left their country to seek asylum. Does the certificate give the correct names for the sponsor and their spouse?
  • Evidence that the refugee sponsor and their spouse are maintaining contact with each other – eg copies of emails, letters, telephone bills, telephone cards – this is to prove that the marriage is subsisting at the time that the application is made
  • Evidence that the refugee sponsor mentioned their spouse when they applied for asylum in the UK – this should be in the asylum screening interview and asylum interview record – again, this is to prove that it is a genuine and subsisting marriage
  • If the refugee sponsor is sending money to their spouse, money transfer receipts

For applications by children:

  • Birth certificate for each child – this is to show that they are the child of the sponsor – check carefully to see that the birth certificate records the date of birth that the sponsor has given you, and the names of both of the parents
  • Evidence of contact and money transfer receipts, as above

Common problems

This section aims to provide practical guidance for how to deal with some of the most common problems which will arise in this type of application.

What if the applicants don’t have passports?

For some countries (for example Somalia) it will not be possible for the applicants to obtain a valid passport. However, generally applicants should be advised to try and obtain passports if it is at all possible. This should be done before starting the application process. If the applicants really can’t get passports, then the Embassy has discretion to accept the application and to issue the visa on a document called a “Uniform Format Form”. There will need to be an explanation contained in the application as to why passports cannot be provided.

What if there are no marriage/birth certificates?

If these are not available, the Embassy can look at other evidence in order to decide whether or not they accept the relationship. (DNA evidence is particularly strong) Again, an explanation for the lack of these documents will need to be included in the sponsor’s statement or the covering letter. In this type of case, it will be particularly important to show that the sponsor mentioned their family when they applied for asylum.

What if there has been a long delay in making the application?

This can sometimes cause a problem, as it may make the Entry Clearance Officer think that the applicants are not part of the Sponsor’s family unit. The reasons for any delay must be carefully explained in the sponsor’s statement.

What if there is no British Embassy in the country where the applicants are living?

It will normally be possible for the applicant to go to a neighbouring country. For example, at the moment nationals of Iran can go to United Arab Emirates to make their application, or nationals of Syria can go to Lebanon or Jordan. Use the “Do I need a UK Visa” section of the application form to find out where the application should be made. This information changes regularly so always check for the most up to date advice.

What if you are trying to fill in the online application form, and you don’t know what to put in a box which is not applicable?

The online application form has lots of required fields, which need to be completed before you can move on to the next section of the form. Sometimes you won’t be able to provide the information required – for example, the form may ask for passport details for a person who does not have a passport, or you may not know a person’s date of birth. Just put something fictitious in the form – so for a passport number, put “A0000000” and make up issue and expiry dates. If you don’t know a date of birth, put in a rough approximation. You may be able to just put “n/a” or “xxx” in other boxes.

What if your family members are already in the UK?

Although family reunion applications are usually made from abroad, if your family members have managed to get to the UK by some other means, then it is possible to make their application from within the UK. This application should be made in writing to the following address:

UKVI Family Reunion Team
Admin Team
7th Floor
The Capital Building
Liverpool
L3 9PP

What if your family’s application is refused?

If the applicant’s application is refused there will be a right of appeal to the Immigration and Asylum Chamber in the UK. The appeal should be lodged on form IAFT6: Appeal a visa decision from outside the UK (ECO) which can be found at this link.

When lodging an appeal, a court fee will be payable of £140 for an oral hearing. It is important to note that if more than one family member has been refused, then an appeal must be lodged and the fee paid for each person.

It would be advisable to seek legal advice and assistance before lodging an appeal if possible.

Glossary

Here are some definitions of common terms which we use in this advice sheet:

“entry clearance” or “visa” – permission given to a person to come to the UK while they are still in their own country, by the British Embassy or High Commission. A visa will give a person permission to come to the UK for a limited period or indefinitely. A vignette is endorsed in the passport and will have a “valid from” and “valid until” date, or alternatively will state indefinite leave to enter.

“entry clearance officer” – an official working in a British Embassy or High Commission, who makes a decision on an application for entry clearance

“leave to enter” – permission to enter the UK, given by an immigration officer at port

“leave to remain” – permission to remain in the UK, given by UKVI after entry

“indefinite leave to remain” – permission to live in the UK permanently. Often abbreviated to ILR.

“residence permit” – this is a vignette endorsed in a person’s passport showing that they have leave to remain in the UK. In the past, these vignettes were just a stamp; now they are more sophisticated and contain the person’s photo and other security features

“immigration status document” – a document (just a piece of paper) which is given to a person who does not have a passport to show that they have leave to remain in the UK

“biometric residence permit” – an ID card, which resembles a UK driving licence, showing that a person has leave to remain in the UK

Next steps

If you have prepared your own application(s) and would like someone to check it before submitting it to the Visa Application Centre, please let us know.

If you cannot make the application yourself, please contact us and we will do our best to assist.

We have now released a full statement and report in to the lessons we have learnt from the Windrush Scandal so far. Read the document in full and download it by clicking here.

This information is accurate as of 1st of January 2021. We will be updating this information as it becomes available.

Who falls within the Windrush category

The Windrush scheme applies to the following people. See below for a list of Commonwealth Countries; full eligibility details are here.

For those in the UK:

  • A Commonwealth citizen who was either settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 and has been continuously resident in the UK since their arrival or has the Right of Abode.Will be entitled to free British Nationality or a permanent status card. Can only be refused British nationality if they have a criminal record.
  • A Commonwealth citizen who was settled in the UK before 1 January 1973, whose settled status lapsed because they left the UK for a period of more than 2 years, and who is now lawfully in the UK and who has strong ties to the UK.Will be entitled to free British nationality or a permanent stay card. Can be refused if they have a criminal record. Can be refused British nationality if they have not been in the UK for the previous 5 years or have not passed the Life in the UK test or the English language test.
  •  A child of a Commonwealth citizen parent, where the child was born in the UK or arrived in the UK before the age of 18, and has been continuously resident in the UK since their birth or arrival, and the parent was settled before 1 January 1973 or has the Right of Abode (or met these criteria but is now a British citizen).Will be entitled to free British nationality or a permanent stay residence card. Can be refused either if they have a criminal record and can be refused British nationality if they have not been in the UK for the previous 5 years.
  • A person of any nationality, who arrived in the UK before 31 December 1988 and is settled in the UK.Is entitled to a free permanent residence card.

For those outside the UK:

  • A Commonwealth citizen who was settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 but who does not have a document confirming their Right of Abode or settled status, or whose settled status has lapsed because they left the UK for a period of more than 2 years.Is entitled to a free settlement visa if they have been abroad for less than 2 years; is entitled to a free settlement visa if they have been abroad for over 2 years and there are good reasons for this absence; will be entitled to free nationality after 5 years in the UK once they have passed the Life in the UK and English language tests.

Commonwealth citizens means citizens of the following countries:

Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Bangladesh; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Botswana; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; Brunei; Canada; Cayman Island; Cyprus (excluding the Sovereign base areas); Dominica; Falkland Islands; Fiji; The Gambia; Ghana; Gibraltar; Grenada; Guyana; Hong Kong; India; Jamaica; Kenya; Kiribati; Lesotho; Malawi; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritius; Monserrat; Namibia; Nauru; New Zealand; Nigeria; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; Saint Lucia; Samoa; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Solomon Islands; South Africa; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Sri Lanka; St Kitts and Nevis; St Vincent and The Grenadines; Swaziland; Tanzania; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; Tuvalu; Uganda; Vanuatu; Virgin Islands; Zambia; Zimbabwe.

 

Windrush scheme application form

An application under the Windrush scheme must be made on the relevant form on gov.uk – the “Windrush Scheme Application (UK)” for applicants living in the UK or the “Windrush Scheme Application (Overseas)” for applicants living outside the UK.

For those in the UK, the form is available here. Or you can contact the Windrush team on:

commonwealthtaskforce@homeoffice.gov.uk
Telephone: 0800 678 1925
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 3pm

If you’re outside the UK, you must apply using an online form.

The Home Office have said that the information provided is not going to be sent to their “removals” team.

 

Compensation

If you think you may be eligible for the Windrush Compensation Scheme please get in touch with windrush@gmiau.org. We can offer free legal help through the Windrush Legal Initiative. Find out more here.

The government has said that it will compensate those “who have suffered loss”.

They set up a scheme to do this on the 3rd April 2019.

The scheme was modified on the 14th December 2020 after criticism of the operation of the scheme and, in particular, the low levels of compensation being offered. Only 226 people received compensation under the scheme in the first 18 months of its operation with an average payment of £10000 per person. 226 people represents only 3.5% of the number of people affected by the Windrush scandal.

In addition to the person affected you can also apply if you are:

  • the close family member of someone eligible to claim and you have had significant losses yourself
  • representing the estate of someone who would have been eligible

The new compensation scheme

The new scheme, in line with the previous scheme, restricts the amount you can get in certain set of circumstances. You have to prove that the loss occurred directly because of not being able to prove status. You also have to show that you made reasonable attempts to obtain status. Compensation is also reduced or refused if a person has been sentenced to over 4 years in prison.

The general awards are:

A person who has been deported is entitled to £10000.

A person who has been detained gets £500 an hour for the first 3 hours detention (not counting the first 30 minutes), £300 an hour for the next 6 hours, £100 per hour for the next period of detention (up to 24 hours).

If the detention lasts for more than a day, the person gets £500 a day for the first 30 days, £300 per day for the next 60 days and £100 per day for any further period of detention.

For loss of employment or inability to get employment, you get the amount you lost, or £1147 a month if the loss can’t be quantified.

A person who made an unsuccessful application for permanent residence or British nationality gets the cost of the application plus a maximum of £500 in legal fees paid out.

A person who was refused Child Benefit, Child Tax credit or Working tax credit, and has not received money from the Department of Works and Pension, gets £1264 for Child Benefits no-payment, £2500 for child tax credit non-payment and £1100 for Working Tax Credit non-payment.

A person can also get compensation for a denial of access to housing services (£1000), a denial of access to free NHS care (£500), reimbursement of private medical fees, a denial of access to higher education as a home student (£500), reimbursement of international student fees, a denial of access to banking services (£200) or reimbursement of banking fees.

A person can also get £250 a month for a period when they were homeless up to a maximum of £25000. Homeless means rough sleeping; staying temporarily in a hostel, night shelter or bed and breakfast; staying temporarily in other accommodation with poor conditions that adversely impacted their health; or squatting.

 

The major change in the new scheme.

The above amounts were already set in the old scheme and they have not changed.

Under the new scheme though they have substantially increased the amounts they are providing for the general problems that people faced, i.e.

  • Inconvenience
  • injury to feelings including anxiety, distress and reputational damage
  • family separation
  • immigration difficulties when attempting to return to the United Kingdom following a trip abroad
  • inability to attend significant family occasions, celebrations and events
  • impacts relating to a deterioration in physical or mental health such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

They have broken this down into 5 levels of awards:

Level 1 Marked detriment such as inconvenience, annoyance, frustration and worry, where the effect on the claimant was fairly shortlived (lasting up to a few weeks). Family events may have been missed. Level 1 awards are only available for primary claimants and estates. This has gone up from £250 to £10000.

Level 2 Moderately severe impact on some aspects of the claimant’s life over an extended period of time (weeks or months) or where multiple cumulative impacts were suffered for a relatively short period of time. Claimants may have been unable to engage in activities with which they were previously familiar, although should still have been able to live a relatively normal life for much of the time. There may have been an inability to attend one or more significant family events; or there may have been family separation – this is now £20000 (from £1000).

Level 3 Ability to live a relatively normal life was substantially affected. More than one area of the claimant’s life may have been affected and the overall impacts were significant. Cumulative impacts will have been experienced for an extended period (several months) with recovery or a return to normal life having taken a reasonable amount of time. Short periods of focused medical treatment may have been necessary – a new category with an award of £40000.

Level 4 Significant impacts to the extent that the claimant’s ability to live a relatively normal life was seriously compromised. Cumulative impacts will have been experienced for a prolonged period (months or years). The claimant’s life will have undergone change of some description, such as having regular medical treatment, care visits or other therapeutic intervention, with recovery taking a significant amount of time £70000.

Level 5 Profound impacts on a claimant’s life which are likely to be irreversible. This is expected to involve major physical or mental health impacts, where the claimant has been permanently affected or where recovery or return to a relatively normal life is likely to take (or has taken) several years £100000 with scope to offer more if ‘an individual’s circumstances are so compelling or severe it would be appropriate to do so’.

The detailed compensation rules are available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/945096/Windrush_Compensation_Scheme_FR_1612.pdf.pdf

and the application forms are available here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-windrush-compensation-scheme/how-to-claim

Unaccompanied children arriving in the UK often do not have documentary evidence of their age or identity. As a result they can end up being wrongfully placed outside of local authority care and into adult accommodation and be treated as adults during the asylum process. The Refugee Council’s Age Dispute Project has reported that 89% of the age-disputed young people they worked with in 2017/18 and 88% in 2018/19 who were deemed to be adults based on their appearance were subsequently accepted as children.

Age Assessment practice has developed in the courts, but the ADCS Age Assessment Guidance sets out the basic principles for social workers carrying out age assessments.

If someone requires legal advice about an age assessment, they can submit a referral to GMIAU.

For more information about age assessments and research carried out by GMIAU, please refer to the speaking out section of the website.

Removal Of the No Recourse To Public Funds Condition

Many people are granted leave with restrictions limiting access to public funds. As the country deals with the current coronavirus pandemic many people will find themselves unable to work through both illness and job losses. Fortunately in some cases it is possible to apply to have the restrictions lifted, granting individuals access to mainstream benefits and a vital source of income to prevent destitution.

GMIAU is not able to provide assistance with these applications to everyone. This is a guide to help you make the application yourself if you want to.

Eligibility

Only people with specific types of leave are able to apply to have the restrictions lifted. The Home Office currently lists the following people as potentially being eligible to apply to have these restrictions lifted:

  • you have leave to remain under the 10 year partner, parent or private life route, where the applicant claims that refusal of that application for leave to remain would breach their rights (or the rights of other specified persons) under ECHR Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life)
  • you have leave to remain on the basis of other ECHR right

You may also be eligible to apply to have the restrictions lifted if you are on the 5 year partner, parent and private life route but you should be aware that if you make an application to have the restrictions lifted, you will then be placed on the 10 year route to settlement. If your financial situation has improved by the time you come to renew your leave, you may be able to apply again under the 5 year route but the time before you can apply for settlement will have re-set.

If you are facing destitution and your type of leave is not listed above it may be possible to vary your leave. If you would like to discuss this please call our office on 0161 740 7722.

If your leave is listed above then you will still need to demonstrate that you’re destitute, there are particularly compelling reasons relating to the welfare of your child on account of your very low income, or that there are exceptional circumstances in your case relating to your financial circumstances.

The Home Office state that a person is destitute if:

  • they do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not their other essential living needs are met)
  • they have adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it, but cannot meet their other essential living needs

Evidence needed

Applications to have these restrictions lifted require large amounts of evidence. Although you may feel that the Home Office should have some of the required evidence, it is on the applicant to prove that they are eligible to have the restrictions lifted so all evidence must be submitted.

The Home Office website lists the following evidence as being required:

  • provide your existing Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) where relevant, or passport (including your Leave to Remain vignette where relevant)
  • 6 months bank statements for all accounts held by all members of your household, even those belonging to children or ones that are rarely used. These should be fully annotated to explain significant/regular transactions
  • recent pay slips accounting for the last 6 months
  • breakdown of monthly income and expenditure
  • recent tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
  • recent utility and other relevant bills
  • recent P45 / P60
  • letter confirming duration of employment, the hours worked and salary (the person writing should state their position in the company and provide contact details)
  • recent letter from Local Authority confirming that support is being provided
  • recent letter from registered charity or other organisation providing support
  • recent letters from family or friends who are providing support, giving full details regarding the extent of this and how often it is provided
  • recent letter confirming that you or your spouse or partner is in receipt of public funds

Any additional evidence that shows your current destitution and financial difficulties should also be submitted. This could include things like credit card or loan statements, letter showing debts and medical records / sick notes showing that you are unable to work. You should also include a break-down of your income and expenditure. This can be done on the attached spreadsheet.

It is also advisable to include a cover letter with your application explaining your current financial difficulties and why you need the restrictions lifted. Once you have submitted the application all evidence can be submitted either by post or email. You must complete the online application first and will be given the email and postal address once it has been submitted. You should have all of your evidence ready before completing the application.

Bank and credit card statements

Special care needs to be given when providing statements for bank accounts. The Home Office will complete a credit check and if accounts are discovered that haven’t been declared the application may be refused. 6 months’ worth of bank statements must be provided for all accounts for everyone in the household regardless of whether they are empty. You must annotate your bank statements to explain any significant or regular transactions. A good rule of thumb is to explain any transaction over £50. If you regularly receive financial support from friends or family members you should ask them to write a letter explaining this.

Once you have prepared your evidence you can then complete this online application form.

The charges

The cost of an application to assert your human rights is currently £1033 plus an Immigration health charge of £624 a year for adults (£1560 in total for those applying for 2 ½ years status). It is £470 a year for children ( £1175 for those applying for 2 ½ years status).

The fees are set out here.

The legal position

The courts have said, in 2 high court judgements called Omar, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 3448 (Admin) and Carter, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 2603 (Admin), that ‘a person who can show that they cannot afford to pay this fee’ is entitled to a fee waiver and so does not have to pay to assert their human rights.

The Home Office policy

This is here.

It sets out the categories for which a fee waiver can be applied for. These are

  • applications for status under the 10-year partner, parent or private life route,
  • applications for status on the basis of other Human rights
  • applications for status on Human rights grounds from someone granted discretionary leave (DL) following refusal of asylum or humanitarian protection.
  • applications from victims of trafficking or slavery who have already had 30 months’ status under this category and are applying for a further extension.
  • applications for leave to remain under the 5-year partner route where the sponsor is getting a disability benefit and can show that the family will be adequately maintained without access to further public funds.
  • Applications under the 5-year parent route

You cannot apply for a fee waiver if you are applying for permanent stay. The Home Office logic is that if you cannot afford the permanent stay fee, you need to apply for temporary status until you can afford the £2389 permanent stay application fee.

The policy also confirms that a person who can’t afford to pay for the fees is entitled to a fee waiver. This is called the affordability test and ‘applies when the applicant does not have sufficient funds at their disposal, after meeting their essential living needs, to pay the fee.’

The policy confirms that, in a family application, if you only have enough money to pay for some members of the family, you can apply for a fee waiver for those you cannot pay for.

You cannot apply for part of the application fee to be waived. You cannot, for example, say that you can only pay ½ the application fee for a person but cannot pay the rest of the fee. In such a situation you have to either apply for a full fee waiver or pay the full fee.

You can apply for the Health Charge to be waived if you can afford to pay the application fee. You have to make the fee waiver application and wait for a decision in such a case.

The process

It is an online application, here.

If you currently have status, you have to make this application in the month before your visa runs out. Your status will automatically be extended until a decision is made on the fee waiver.

If a fee waiver is granted, you are then given 10 working days in which to make the full Human Rights application. This is also an online application, and the grant of fee waiver will have a unique code that you can use to make sure that you do not have to pay to submit that full application.

If the fee waiver is refused, you are given 10 working days to make a full paid application.

There is no right of appeal against the refusal of a fee waiver, with the only challenge being by a legal process called a Judicial Review. You will need to seek expert legal advice on the possibilities of such a challenge.

The application form

It initially asks for the basis on which you are making the full application and then asks whether you are able to afford to pay the fees and whether your children will be affected if the fee is not paid. You need to say that you can’t afford to pay the fees and that your children will be affected in that you would not have any money if you paid the fees.

It then asks for, in addition to your personal details, all the addresses you have lived at in the last 5 years and the dates, details of your current accommodation, details of your current (or expired) passport and your Biometric card number (if you have one) and your national insurance number (if you have one).

It also asks for details of all the bank accounts you and your children hold, details of your income, and details of your outgoings.

You can go back and amend the application as many times as you want until the application is submitted. It is submitted by pressing the ‘save and continue’ button on the final page which is headed ‘No payment required’.

Once you press this button your application is submitted and you are then given instructions on the steps to follow, specifically you are given a list of documents that they need to see. This is in the checklist.

This will also give you a Unique Application number which has the format 1212-0001-????-????. This is your Home office reference  number for the fee waiver application.

You are also told how to send the documents in. You can either wait for an email, which is sent within a couple of days, from ukvi_uploads@mailgb.custhelp.com which will tell you how to upload the documents to them or send them by post to the address on the checklist if you cannot upload the documents.

You have to do this within 10 working days of the application being made.

The Home Office assessment

The Home Office policy says that:

  • The fee waiver request must be assessed on the basis of the information provided by the applicant in the relevant form and by the accompanying documentary evidence.
  • If the applicant does not complete every section of the relevant application form, their application for a fee waiver should not be rejected on that basis alone.
  • It is the responsibility of the applicant to fully evidence their claimed financial circumstances, or to provide a credible explanation of why such evidence is not available.
  • Caseworkers should not normally need to make additional enquiries to try to establish whether an applicant qualifies for a fee waiver.
  • The applicant may be requested to provide a missing document (or part of one) to which the fee waiver application refers where the caseworker anticipates that its provision will lead to a grant of a fee waiver.
  • Caseworkers should otherwise base the decision on a fee waiver on the information and evidence provided and any verification checks. If insufficient information is provided the request may be refused at that point.

The Home Office will, in most cases, make a decision on the basis of the information/documents sent in and will not ask for more documents. Our experience is that they will only ask for clarification/more documents when the applicant is applying for an extension of their existing status.

Bank statements

The crucial documents they ask for are ‘6 months bank statements for all accounts with all large, and regular incoming and outgoing payments explained.’

They will check with credit agencies to see if the applicant has any other accounts not listed on the form. If there are other accounts they will either refuse the fee waiver immediately or, if it is an extension application, will ask for 6 months accounts for that statement.

So it is important to make sure that bank statements for all accounts are sent in, even for accounts which have not been used for a long time. It is also important to let them know of any accounts you have held which have been closed. This is because those accounts might still be registered as open.

They check to make sure that they have 6 months bank statements, etc. They can refuse if, for example, only 4 months bank statements are sent in unless a reasonable explanation for this is provided when the application is made.

They check to see if the income coming in matches the money going into the bank account. In particular they identify money coming in from other sources, including friends, and can refuse a fee waiver on the basis that that person can lend you the money to pay. It is important to provide an explanation for any such money coming in. Such a refusal could be challenged depending on the fact of the case.

They then check the money going out and initially look for money transferred into another account to see if that matches the money going into that account. They do this to identify whether all the accounts have been named.

They then look for large outgoings to identify whether money has been taken out to reduce the balance of the account.
It is therefore very important to provide an explanation of large transfers in and out.

More Information

This information sheet is not a substitute for legal advice which addresses your particular circumstances. If, after reading this sheet, you still have questions, then please contact our office and we will see if we are able to offer you further advice and assistance.

The deadline for EU nationals living in the UK since before December 31st 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30th June 2021.

We’ve been focusing on the needs of children in care and care leavers affected by Brexit immigration changes. Many people now risk losing their rights following the June 2021 deadline if they do not apply to the scheme. However, late applications are possible. In the months running up to the deadline, we developed some resources to help local authorities avoid this outcome.

  • This guidance (February 2020) for local authorities explains the situation in detail and sets out five steps they must take to support affected children and young people: Learn; Identify; Plan; Take action; Follow up.
  • This crib sheet (July 2020) for Directors of Children’s Services and Council Executive Members explains how they can best monitor their progress towards meeting their responsibilities for affected children in care and care leavers.
  • Maria, GMIAU’s social worker, has been running training for social workers, personal advisers and team leaders who are navigating the EUSS for the children and young people they support. Watch a video of the training here.
  • And we’ve published a list of frequently asked Social Work questions (March 2021) about the EUSS. Download the 26 FAQs as a PDF here.

Although this advice is geared specifically towards EU national children in care, it also applies to every EU national adult and child in the UK.

If you have looked at these resources and have further queries about the EUSS for children in care and care leavers, please contact maria@gmiau.org.

This is guidance on how to make applications based on the parent route. This information was updated in December 2023.

The charges

The cost of an application to assert these human rights is currently £1048 plus an Immigration Health Charge (IHS) of £1035 a year for adults (£2587.50) in total for those applying for 2 ½ years status). The IHS is £776 a year for children (£1940 for those applying for 2 ½ years status).

The current total is £3635.50 per adult and £2988 for a child.

This has to be paid unless a fee waiver has been granted for the application. The information about the conditions to get a fee waiver are set out in our fee waiver guidance which is here.

The fees are set out here.

The Immigration Rules

For the parent route you have to show that you have a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a child who

  • is under the age of 18 years, or was under the age of 18 years when parent leave was first granted and
  • is a British Citizen or has lived in the UK continuously for at least the 7 years immediately preceding the date of application and
  • it would not be reasonable to expect the child to leave the UK

The process

The form to make the application is here.

You need to tick the box saying “parent route” on the first page of the form.

The application is fairly straightforward. It asks for information about your children, your Immigration history, your family abroad and your income. There will also be questions about why you can’t go back or why you need to appeal from within the UK and you need to stress in your answers that ‘your children are unable to go back as they have built their life in the UK’.

You can start the form at any time and then save it by pressing the ‘return to application’ button at the bottom of each page. This allows you to download the part completed form. You also need to press the ‘send email’ button as this sends an email to you to allow you to get back into the form again to change it before making the application.

If you are paying the fee the application is made by pressing the green button saying ‘pay the IHS charge’. Make sure that you are completely happy with the information on the form as once you press this button you will not be able to make any further changes on the form

Once you press the IHS charge button you will be taken onto their website and pay the health surcharge.  You need to say that you are applying for discretionary leave for 2 ½ years and, after the money is paid, you get a special IHS number which you have to put into the application.

Once the application is made you get a list of the documents you have to send to them. This is called the checklist.

The next step is to make an appointment to have your biometrics taken and to download the documents they ask for. This done by clicking the ‘book appointment’ on the next steps page. This allows you access another website run by Sopra Steria who are outsourced by the Government to take the applicant’s biometrics and also send them the documents.

On the Sopra Steria website you press the book appointment button, put in your post code when asked and then go to one of the local centres that come up. You have to scroll to the end of the appointments list to get a free appointment. These go rapidly and our advice is to go in at 9.00 in the morning when fresh appointments are put onto the system. You need to keep on trying at this time until you get the appointment

You can upload your documents at any time but have to do it before the date of the biometric appointment.  You can re-access the Sopra Steria website at any time by going back into your application via the email you got confirming that an application has been made.

You access the Sopra Steria website by again clicking onto the ‘book appointment’ button on the next steps page and upload the documents by clicking onto the upload button in that website.

If you have obtained a fee waiver you can’t make an appointment or upload the documents until you have received an email telling you to do so.

You will initially receive an email directing you to a portal to upload the documents. This arrives within a few days of the application being submitted.

A few days after the documents have been uploaded you will get an email asking you to phone up a booking centre to make an appointment. These appointments are directly with the home office so will take place at the nearest home office building. For those living in Manchester, for example, this is either Sheffield or Liverpool.