What Tier Is a UK Family Visa?

In the UK, a tier system is used for some visas to determine the skill level of a foreign national or their value to the UK. With each tier, you have different permissions in the UK and can naturalise, or settle permanently in the UK after a different period.

But not every type of visa is graded with a tier. Let’s take a look at the UK’s visa tier system and how it relates to Family visas.

About the UK Visa Tier System

About the UK Visa Tier System

The UK’s visa tier system is for people coming to the UK to contribute to UK society either financially, or through research or voluntary programs. The visa tier system is therefore predominantly used for work visas.

There are five tiers, within which there are certain visas, although tier 3 visas (for low-skill workers) are no longer being used. The tiers are as follows:

  • Tier 1 – Entrepreneur and Global Talent Visas
  • Tier 2 – Skilled Worker Visas
  • Tier 4 – Student Visas
  • Tier 5 – Temporary and Charity Worker Visas

To receive a visa within a certain tier, you must gain a certain number of points. The points-based system measures your:

  • Age
  • Qualifications
  • Work history
  • Previous salary
  • Funds
  • English language skills

The better you score in each of these categories, the higher the chance of you receiving the visa you apply for within the specific tier. When completing your application for a work permit or student visa, you must have a job offer or study place from an eligible UK business or educational facility for your application to be successful. Your prospective employer or university may ask you to take the points-based test to make sure they are employing the best candidate for the position.

Other types of visa such as the Standard Visitor visa, the UK Ancestry visa, or Family visas are not marked within the tiers and do not require a points-based test.

About Family Visas

About Family Visas

Family visas are a group of visas for family members of UK permanent residents or citizens to join that family member in the UK. The person making the application is known as the applicant and the person in the UK is known as the sponsor.

To be eligible to sponsor a Family member to come to the UK on a Family visa, you must either have:

  • Irish or British citizenship
  • Permanent residency (ILR or settlement)
  • Protected status i.e. as a refugee
  • Turkish Businessperson or Turkish Worker visa

However, even if you qualify as a sponsor, you can’t bring any relative to the UK. Family visas are only for close family members, known as dependents.

Family visas are:

  • Partner or Spouse visa
  • Parent visa
  • Child Dependent visa
  • Adult Dependant Relative visa

To be considered a partner, you must have been living with the UK resident for at least 2 years before you apply, and be able to prove this relationship with official documents. Civil partnerships are also valid in the UK, so you can provide your civil partnership certificate as evidence of your relationship.

Parent visas are for those with children in the UK who are under 18 years old at the time of the initial application. Therefore, you cannot bring your mother or father to the UK if you are an adult. Child dependents must also be below 18 and not living independently to join a parent in the UK.

Adult dependant relatives must also be either:

If the sponsor and applicant meet these terms, they will need to gather evidence to support their application for a Family visa.

Applying for a Family Visa

Applying for a Family Visa

Although you may wish to assist your family member with their application, particularly if they are elderly, you may not request a visa for someone else. Each application must be submitted online by the applicant themselves. Although, you can help with the application by writing an invitation letter.

In some cases, the applicant may switch from a valid visa to a Family visa while in the UK, although it must be a long-term visa. You cannot visit your family member in the UK and then switch from a Standard Visitor visa to a Family visa.

When applying for a Family visa, you must complete the online application, provide all of your necessary documents and pay the application fee as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

The application cost for partners, parents and children is £1,538, while for adult dependant relatives, it’s £3,250 unless they have protected status. Adult dependant relatives are also not required to pay the IHS.

Once the application is submitted, the Home Office has up to 24 weeks to process the application and provide a response.

Documents Needed for a Family Visa Application

Adult dependant relatives will need to provide evidence of their medical condition that deems it necessary for them to have long-term care from their relative in the UK. All other Family visa applicants will just need to provide:

  • A valid (in-date) passport for the applicant and sponsor
  • Proof of relationship between the applicant and sponsor
  • Proof of accommodation in the UK
  • Proof of sufficient English language skills
  • Proof of sufficient finances to cover the stay in the UK
  • Tuberculosis test results if from a specific country
  • Details of any criminal history
  • Details of any previous immigration applications made
  • Certified translation of any supporting documents that are not in English or Welsh. This should include details of the eligibility of the translator
  • Photo page and any visa or entry stamps in previous passports
  • Any other supporting documents that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has asked for

Providing evidence of your relationship can be difficult if you are a partner of a UK resident as you’ll need official documents proving you have lived together for at least 2 years. These documents can include:

  • A housing contract signed by both parties
  • Bills addressed to both parties
  • Joint bank account statements

If you are married or in a civil partnership, your marriage or civil union certificate is valid, while if you are the parent or child, birth certificates with the individuals’ names on them are sufficient evidence of your familial relationship.

Are There Any Exemptions?

If you have undertaken a university degree or equivalent qualification in the English language, are from an English-speaking country, have a disability preventing you from learning or communicating in English, or are below the age of 18 or above 65, you do not need to fulfil the English language requirement.

Furthermore, you only need to take a tuberculosis test and provide your result with your application if you are from one of the specified countries. All other applicants must provide evidence from the above list with their visa applications.

If Your Application is Successful

If Your Application is Successful

If your application is successful, you may be asked to attend an appointment at your nearest embassy to provide your biometric information if you have not already provided it with your application. You will then be issued your Family visa which will entitle you to reside in the UK, and work or study for the length of your permit, usually 2 years and 9 months on the first application.

Staying on a Family Visa for Longer

If you wish to extend your Family visa for longer towards the expiry date of your permit, you can renew your visa as many times as you wish, provided you still meet the eligibility requirements. You must make sure you apply before your current visa expires or you will be asked to leave the country and will have to start your application again from abroad.

After 5 years of living in the UK with a Family visa, you are then eligible for permanent residency, also known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR). After a further 12 months with ILR, you are then eligible to apply for British citizenship if you wish.

Ready to Apply for a Family Visa?

One of the best ways to increase your chances of having a successful application is by using a visa agency like Synergy Immigration Solutions! We have a team of immigration experts ready to help, so what are you waiting for? Contact us today!

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