9 July 2012 saw the introduction of the Home Office’s changes to the rules governing family migration. After that date, those who wished to live in the UK with their British or otherwise settled partner (an umbrella term which includes spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners) would have to make their application under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules.

Appendix FM introduced a number of new requirements. Most notably, the controversial financial requirement was brought in and the route to settlement was made longer (from three to five years).

9 July 2017 will mark five years since the introduction of Appendix FM. The route’s trailblazers will now be gearing up for their indefinite leave to remain (ILR) applications this summer. They will be pleased to know that much has changed since the route was first introduced, but, have no fear, in this blog we will aim to identify the main pitfalls to be avoided.

English language requirement

If you are thinking about making an application this summer you should already be aware that, as a part of your application, you will be required to meet the English language requirement. Those of you who do not meet the English language requirement by way of your nationality, or a degree you have completed, will previously have had to take and pass an English language test at A1 of Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

However, since October 2013 a different requirement has been in place for ILR applications.

In order to meet the criteria for ILR you will need to show that you are at B1 standard which, surprisingly, is actually higher than A1.

In addition, following changes brought in just last year, only authorised English language tests can be relied upon and they must have been sat at a test centre on the Home Office’s approved list.

In practice, those who previously had to rely on an English language test will need to take and pass a new test for their ILR application – queue some last minute revision. The good news is that this test can be relied upon for a subsequent application for British citizenship.

Absences

There is no formal absence requirement that partners seeking to settle in the UK are required to meet. However, those preparing their ILR applications this summer may be surprised to see that in the application form they will be asked to provide details of all periods of absence from the UK during the time that they have lived here.

All periods?” I hear you say. Yes, all periods. This will mean preparing a comprehensive travel schedule covering the entire length of time that you have been here, even if you lived here before being granted leave as a partner – no mean feat.

“Why?” you ask. Well, one reason is that there is an underlying expectation that your time will be spent with your partner in the UK. In the Home Office’s words,

Where there have been periods of time spent outside the UK, they have been for good reasons and the reasons must have been consistent with your stated intention to live with your partner permanently in the UK.

This could spell trouble for those of you who have been avoiding our manic weather (or your significant other) and spending extended periods abroad.

On a serious note, if you have spent extended periods abroad individually or as a couple they will need to be explained as a part of your application. We know that there are often good explanations for absences, but it will be important to have those set out clearly so that the Home Office can take them into account.

Again, your efforts spent going back over those wonderful holidays you had enjoyed and forgotten about will not be wasted. Preparing the travel schedule will be a useful opportunity for you to assess your absences in preparation for a future application for British citizenship. If you intend to make one you should be aware that you can do so immediately after your application for ILR has been approved.

Life in the UK

The final aspect of the application which is likely to be new to you is the Life in the UK requirement. This is satisfied by passing a taking and passing the Life in the UK test.

Be prepared to grapple with questions on the national flowers of the United Kingdom (yes, we have them), the origins of Halloween and the terms of Scotland’s devolution agreement.

Making your application

Once you have skilfully navigated your way through the above and the other application requirements, you will need to prepare and submit your application.

We have been working with couples and their families for over 20 years and have been preparing and submitting applications under Appendix FM ever since its introduction. We understand how important it is to get the application right – the first time – and our extensive experience means that we are well placed to submit the first settlement applications under the route this summer.

Should you have any questions about this blog or wish to speak with someone about making an application please contact Sean O'Beirne, Andrew Tingley or another member of our immigration team.

What to do if your application is refused

If you are reading this too late you will need to act quickly. Although you may have a right to appeal the decision, appealing may not be the quickest resolution but that is something we can discuss and advise you on.

If you find yourself in this position please feel free to contact us and we would be happy to arrange a consultation (fee charged) with you.