Visas for expat contractors’ spouses, partners and family members

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Expatriate (expat) contractors who want to contract in the UK and are applying for a Tier 1 high-value migrant or Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visa can also apply to bring their dependants with them, or to join them at a later date once they have established themselves.

Entry for dependants, which generally means spouses, or civil partners, and children, is not automatic. Dependants have to apply for entry clearance to the UK in their own right and with a separate dependant application form.

In addition, there are conditions for dependants entering the UK, mainly relating to the contractor’s ability to support them, and the cash they have in the bank at the time of application.

Who are the contractor’s dependants?

Contractors can apply to bring their spouse or partner and children to join them if they are successful with their own application for a visa. If the contractor’s visa application is unsuccessful, the contractor’s dependants will not gain entry to the UK.

The contractor can apply to bring their husband or wife. If unmarried but in a long-term relationship, the contractor can apply for their partner to join them, but the contractor has to prove the length and seriousness of such a relationship.

Contractors can also apply for entry and leave to remain on behalf of a same-sex partner; the documentary evidence required is the same as for a different sex partner. Contractors cannot apply for a spouse or partner to join them who is a relative of such a close nature that they would not be permitted to marry in the UK.

There are special conditions for children over the age of 18, or children who appear to be living ‘independent lives’, so contractors should check the UK Border Agency’s website to see how its dependants policy applies to their own circumstances.

Financial costs of entry – visa fees and ‘maintenance funds’

The expat contractor must bear the cost of their own application, as well as the costs of each separate application on behalf of their dependants. Such costs can be substantial, particularly if the contractor is using the services of an immigration adviser.

The expat contractor must bear the cost of their own application, as well as the costs of each separate application on behalf of their dependants

For example, if applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa for skilled workers from outside the UK, the contractor must first pay £400 in their local currency for their own visa application, and an additional £400 for each dependant – for a family of four, that is £1,600. These figures are correct at the time of writing.

The contractor also has to prove that they can support their dependants and have sufficient spare cash (‘available maintenance’), as they will not qualify for UK state benefits. If coming from outside the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa, the expat contractor has to show they have £533 in available funds to support each dependant on application. This is in addition to the £800 Tier 2 maintenance they must have in their bank account for three months prior to and during the application process.

Supporting documentation

The rules are very strict about the documentation contractors need to support their applications. They must have all the correct, original documents or their application will probably be refused. Contractors must prove:

  • They are married to their spouse or have been in a relationship with their partner for at least two years
  • That they have sufficient cash in their bank account to cover maintenance for themselves and their dependants
  • That their children are under 18, that those children cannot support themselves financially, and that they are not married or living independently.

An immigration adviser can be helpful for ensuring documentation is complete. Whilst such a service will cost money, it can also save considerable time.

Other family members

Under some circumstances, it is possible for other family members, such as parents, to join an expat contractor when they are working in the UK on a contract. Contractors should ask their immigration adviser or check with their local Visa Application Centre for more information.

Updated: Monday, March 05, 2012

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