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UK Settlement Visa Basics

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I have now updated this post to take account of the changes to the family migration rules which came into effect on the 9th July 2012.

Note that if you submitted your visa application before 09:00 BST on the 9th July 2012 then you will come under the old rules up to and including Indefinite Leave to Remain; with the exception of the language requirement for ILR; see 'Language' below.

I hope that I have interpreted these changes correctly, but must stress that this guidance is based upon my interpretation of the immigration rules and official guidance issued by the UKBA and should be read in conjunction with the official guidance. Any errors are mine.

There are various categories of UK settlement visa, but those which concern us most here are:

  • Fiance/Proposed civil partner
  • Spouse/Civil partner
  • Unmarried partner/Same sex partner
  • Children
Fiance or Proposed civil partner.

Fiance is where sponsor and applicant are of different sexes, proposed civil partner is when they are the same sex.

The visa lasts for 6 months and during this time the holder enters the UK. They and their sponsor marry or register their civil partnership, as appropriate, and the Thai partner then applies, and pays for, a 30 month extension known as Further Leave to Remain. At the end the FLR They apply for a further 30 months and after that they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Spouse or Civil partner.

Spouse is a different sexed couple; civil partners are the same sex.

For a spouse visa you marry in Thailand and your spouse applies as such.

Thailand does not recognise civil partnerships, so you cannot enter into one there. However, civil partnerships registered elsewhere are recognised by the UK, as long as they are legal in the country where they took place. So you can register your civil partnership in another country and then apply in Thailand for a civil partners visa.

These two visas are valid for 33 months and after the holder has lived in the UK for 30 months they apply for a further 30 months and at the end of that they can apply for ILR.

Unless you have firm reasons for marrying in the UK, I would suggest the spouse route as this cuts out the FLR stage and so saves that fee. Similarly, it may be cheaper to register your civil partnership in a neighbouring country which recognises them and then apply for settlement as a civil partner rather than follow the proposed civil partners route to UK settlement.

Also, spouses and civil partners can work immediately they arrive in the UK, fiances and proposed civil partners cannot work until they have FLR.

Unmarried and same sex partners.

Unmarried partners are male and female, same sex partners are, well the same sex!

To qualify for this the couple need to show that they have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least the last two years. Short periods apart are acceptable, but one partner living in Thailand and the other in the UK and just visiting regularly would not be.

Like a spouse and civil partners visa, it is valid for 33 months and after 30 months in the UK the Thai partner applies for a 30 month extension and after this they can apply for ILR.


Those applying in any of the above categories will need evidence that they meet the basic English speaking and listening requirement; unless they are exempt.

Even though the language requirement is just for speaking and listening, most, I think all, approved English test providers in Thailand insist on candidates taking, and paying for, the full test including reading and writing. You will not get a certificate unless you pass all 4 elements.

However, the embassy has confirmed that as long as the applicant has a test report showing that they scored the equivalent of A1 or better in speaking and listening then it does not matter what they scored in the reading and writing elements. Even if they failed these and so did not receive a test pass certificate. See this post from Visa Plus.

In addition to the English requirement for the initial visa, you will, unless exempt, also need to meet a harder requirement for ILR.


If applying for ILR before October 2013 you need to have passed the Life in the UK test or progressed at least one level on an ESOL with citizenship course, see here.

If applying for ILR from October 2013 you must have


All settlement applicants in Thailand aged 11 and over will need to provide a TB certificate obtained from the International Organisation for Migration in Bangkok.


Children cannot normally come to settle in the UK unless both parents are settled here or have been given permission to settle here. The only exceptions are where:

  • 1 parent is dead and the other is settled or coming to settle here; or
  • the parent who is settled or coming to settle in the UK has had sole responsibility for the child's upbringing (which is the most common for members here); or
  • 1 parent is settled or coming to settle in the UK and there there are serious reasons why the child must be allowed to come here.
The term 'parent' includes the stepfather or stepmother of a child whose father or mother is dead, both parents of an illegitimate child, and an adoptive parent in certain circumstances.

To qualify as a child you must show that they:

  • are not leading an independent life;
  • are not married or in a civil partnership;
  • have not formed an independent family unit; and
  • are aged under 18.
If a child or children are applying at the same time as their parent, and are living with that parent, the application is usually straightforward; if the parent is successful then the child will almost certainly be as well. A separate application form must be completed and a separate fee paid.

It is when parent and child(ren) have been separated that complications may arise. The problem being showing that the parent has been exercising sole responsibility during the separation.

Therefore my opinion is that, if at all possible, parent and child should apply at the same time. If this is not possible then you should keep a record of all contact between parent and child and parent and child's carers plus details of all monies sent for the child's support.

A child settlement visa is normally tied to the parents and will expire when the parent's does so that they can apply for ILR together on the same form. However, if the parent already has ILR then the child will be given ILE, which is the same as ILR but granted outside the UK, not in.

Children under 11 do not need a TB certificate and the English requirement does not apply to child applicants as they are not spouses, partners or fiances.

Financial requirements.

The link above is to the requirement for partners, but the requirements are the same whichever category you are applying under. Note that additional finances are required if any children are applying; unless they are British citizens or qualify for ILE.

Funds for this can come from the income (earned and/or unearned) and/or savings of the applicant, the sponsor or both. Note, though, that any potential income the applicant may have once they are in the UK and working will not be taken into account at the initial visa stage, although any unearned income they may have, such as from investments or a pension, will be.

However if the sponsor has been living and working outside the UK and earning at least the minimum income (£18600 at 9/7/12 plus the extra for any children applying) for at least 6 months prior to the date of the application, e.g. in Thailand, and has a confirmed job offer in the UK starting no more than 3 months after they return to the UK; then income from this new employment in the UK will be taken into account.

Third party support, even short term, is no longer acceptable. Financial gifts from friends and family to enable the sponsor and/or applicant to meet the requirement are acceptable; provided they can show that the money is a gift not a loan and has been in their possession and under their complete control for at least 6 months prior to the application.

Note that you will need to show you meet these requirements at each application stage; the initial visa, the FLR after marriage if entering as a fiance, the extension after 30 months and ILR. For in UK applications the applicant's earnings, if any, will be taken into account.

Children who qualify for ILE, i.e. whose parent(s) is already living in the UK with ILR, are not subject to these financial requirements, but their parent(s) must be able to show that the child(ren) will be supported and accommodated in the UK without recourse to public funds.

The above is a very brief description of what can be a complex requirement, with various ways and combination of ways of meeting it. Full details of this requirement can be found by clicking here.


This can be wholly occupied by sponsor and applicant(s) or with a third party, such as sponsor's parents, friends etc.

Evidence should be supplied to show that the accommodation is suitable and that you and the applicant(s) can live there; i.e. proof of ownership or a landlord's letter confirming you all can live there.

If living with a third party then they should write a letter of invitation and briefly describe the property and who else lives there to show that there will be at least one room for your exclusive use plus adequate room for any children coming with you. They should also provide proof of ownership, such as a mortgage statement, or, if they rent, a letter from their landlord as above.

See also

Application forms can be found at Applying from outside the UK; but applications in Thailand must be completed online. Once the online form has been completed and submitted and an appointment made with the UKVAC for biometrics you must print out the forms and have them signed by the applicant who takes them to the UKVAC to hand in with the supporting documents when attending their appointment.

Further information, including current fees, can be found at UK Border Agency in Thailand.

Note that not everything contained in this will be relevant to all. Also, the information may go out of date, so check with the official information linked to above.

N.B. If you find that you have made a mistake on the online application form after you have submitted it you can amend the print out and include a note explaining what you have done. See this post from VisaPlus.

Finally, it is a good idea to carry the visa application supporting documents and the TB test certificate in your hand baggage in case you are questioned by immigration when entering the UK; though this is unlikely to happen.

As ever, E&OE.

Any comments and suggestions are most welcome; but please do not use this topic to ask specific questions about individual situations.

Updated in January 2014, to include an email regarding language certificates.

Thank you for your email correspondence of 30 December regarding the English language requirements for leave to remain and settlement applications.

I am sorry about the conflicting and incorrect information you have received regarding the expiry of English language tests. Our email of 16 December was incorrect. I can confirm that an expired A1 English language certificate can be provided for further leave to remain (LTR) in the UK as a spouse but not for LTR under the points based system.

An expired A1 or B1 certificate can also be provided for settlement and naturalisation applications. All certificates must be originals and issued by a valid provider as given on our list of providers which is subject to change.

(my emphasis)


This is from the Cambridge English website. They will no longer be offering BULATS tests for UK settlement visa purposes:


Exams and qualifications

Certificated BULATS Online

Please note that after June 30 2014, Certificated BULATS Online will no longer be available for UK visa application purposes.

However, results from Certificated BULATS tests taken on or before 30 June 2014 will continue to be valid for UK visa purposes.

You can find a range of Cambridge English exams approved by the UK Home Office in Cambridge English exams for UK visas and immigration.

This below is from Vantage Siam, the only tester in Thailand who currently offers the BULATS Online test. They will now be offering the Key English Test :

Introducing KET for UK Visas

From July 4th, Vantage will be offering the computer version (CB) of the Key English Test (KET). Cambridge English has decided to discontinued offering Certificated BULATS at the end of this month. However, any BULATS results taken on or before 30 June, 2014 will be valid for two years.

KET is run by Cambridge English and is one of the 15 Cambridge tests that are approved by the UKVI (formerly known as the UKBA).

CB-KET has significant advantages over the paper based KET (PB-KET) including:

Short registration deadlines one week for the CB-KET versus 5 weeks in advance for the PB-KET.

Faster Results 2 weeks for the CB-KET versus 4 to 6 weeks for the PB-KET

No Expiry KET results are good for life.

Its important to note that KET candidates must register in advance. You cannot walk in to Vantages Test Centre and take the test without a reservation.

Our first KET test date is July 4th. Registration for that exam must be by June 27th. You can register online through our website.http://www.vantage-siam.com/bulats_test.php

Edited by theoldgit
BULATS update
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  • 1 year later...

Updated information regarding English Test Certificates, as provided in an email to 7by7 from his MP.

I am sorry about the conflicting and incorrect information you have received regarding the expiry of English language tests. Our email of 16 December was incorrect. I can confirm that an expired A1 English language certificate can be provided for further leave to remain (LTR) in the UK as a spouse but not for LTR under the points based system.

An expired A1 or B1 certificate can also be provided for settlement and naturalisation applications. All certificates must be originals and issued by a valid provider as given on our list of providers which is subject to change.

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  • 4 weeks later...

You will see from British citizenship basics that not all children born abroad to a British parent are themselves British.

So if they wanted to come to the UK, in any category including settlement, they would either need to first become British and get a British passport or obtain the appropriate visa.

You say that your children already have British passports, so that page does not apply to them.

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