Best of Both Worlds for Northern Ireland-born British Citizens


John and Gwen are in love. They recently married. John lives in the UK. He has a house and works on a full-time basis. Gwen is a visa national. She needs a visa to enter the UK and live with John. She wants to apply to join John as soon as possible. However, before she makes her application, she wants to know what requirements she needs to meet and how much she needs to pay for her application.


The Answer

Northern Ireland-born British Citizens
Northern Ireland-born British Citizens

The answer will depend on John’s citizenship. Rather ironically, the couple will be in a significantly more privileged position if John is an EEA national residing in the UK as opposed to a British citizen. In order to explain the reasons, I need to explain the requirements for both routes first.


I’ll be very brief and maybe somewhat oversimplify the rules. However, the aim of this article is not to explain the rules, but to show the difference between the routes for spouses of British citizens and spouses of EEA nationals. If you need further guidance on the British spouse application YOU CAN GET IT HERE.


Spouse of British Citizens

Generally, spouses of British citizens need to take 3 steps when making their UK spouse visa applications. These are all clearly defined in Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.

The Suitability Requirements

The first step will be to meet the suitability requirements. I’ve written a detailed article, explaining these requirements. However, in very simple terms, the suitability requirements are there to ensure that Gwen is a suitable person to enter the UK. The Home Office will pay attention to things like criminality, dishonesty with present and past applications, any extraordinary medical conditions, failure to attend an interview, provide information or pay debts to the NHS or cover litigation costs of the Home Office (if applicable). In the majority cases, this will not apply to girls like Gwen, because she is just a law-abiding citizen with good intentions, like the majority of us.

If so, Gwen is ready to proceed to step No2.


The Eligibility Requirements

Northern Ireland-born British Citizens
Northern Ireland-born British Citizens

There are four eligibility requirements, which Gwen and John will need to meet:

  1. The relationship requirement;
  2. The financial requirements (it is a rather complex matter to describe in one sentence, but unless exceptions apply, John will need to show an income of at least £18,600 gross per year, earned with the same employer for over 6 months);
  3. The Accommodation requirement (suitable accommodation to live in, which is not overcrowded and the couple may occupy exclusively);
  4. English language requirement (unless exceptions apply, Gwen will need to show her ability to speak English at the level A1 of the CEFR, which should progress to A2 and then B1 levels).

Hopefully, Gwen was lucky enough to go through this step. The last step, step No3 will be to follow the correct procedure.


This is for entry clearance applications. This is when Gwen makes her application from outside the UK to enter the UK. If successful, her entry clearance (visa) will be granted for 33 months. Before the expiry of her visa, when in the UK, she’ll need to make another visa application. Gwen will need to meet the same requirements. However, there will be one more eligibility requirement (5 in total). It is called:


The Immigration Requirement

The Home Office introduced the Immigration requirement to ensure that applicants have a right to remain in the UK when submitting their extension applications. This is unless exceptions apply.

After holding her British spouse visa for 60 months, Gwen may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. This is provided she meets all the requirements. This is a special type of visa. It allows people to remain in the UK without any conditions attached to their stay.


How Much Will This Cost?

To get her Indefinite Leave to Remain, Gwen will need to make 3 visa applications:

  1. Outside the UK (entry clearance)
  2. In the UK (further leave to remain)
  3. In the UK (indefinite leave to remain)

What should we include in these costs? Quite obviously, we’ll include visa fees, one tuberculous test (if applies, done outside the UK), three English language tests, one ‘Life in the UK’ test, immigration health surcharge for 5 years and solicitors costs for three applications. Roughly, John and Gwen should budget around £10,000 to get the right to be together in the UK.


What About Spouses of EEA Nationals?

Northern Ireland-born British Citizens
Northern Ireland-born British Citizens

Spouses of EEA nationals will be making their applications under Appendix EU Family Permit (if outside the UK) and Appendix EU (if in the UK).

The Appendices have NO relationship requirement. John and Gwen just have to be in a marriage, which is recognised by the country where it was concluded. There is NO financial requirement. They don’t have to meet the accommodation requirement. There is NO English language requirement. They don’t have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. There is NO requirement to pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test either (for ILRs).

However, the most amazing part of all of this is in the fact that Gwen’s costs of making all these applications as will be …… £ ZERO!!!! Well, I have not included the solicitors’ fees here to add more dramatism to the £ ZERO figure. For Gwen to have a free ride, John should have settled or pre-settled status granted under the EU settlement scheme. Which is also free, by the way.


You May Ask Me…

Svitlana, this is all very well, but what do Northern Ireland-born British Citizens have to do within any of the above???

My friends, as you know, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. This means that if John was a Northern Ireland-born British Citizen – the procedure will be the same. In other words, his visa-national spouse Gwen would need to go through all the hassle of complying with the requirements of Appendix FM (described above). This is on top of paying the fee of around £10,000 for the privilege to live with her husband in Northern Ireland.

However, after 24 August 2020, all British and Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will be treated as EU citizens for immigration purposes. What this means is that instead of applying under provisions of Appendix FM they will have a right to apply under Appendix EU Family Permit and Appendix EU.


The Decision

The Home Office announced the news after a landmark court case on 14 May 2020. This decision will have a positive effect not only on spouses of Northern Ireland-born British Citizens but also their close relatives.


Things to Bear in Mind

If you are a spouse of Northern Ireland-born British Citizen and you are already in the UK, you need to be very careful. You need to consider all pros and cons when deciding if you would like to make your application under Appendix EU as opposed to Appendix FM. This is because you cannot combine any time spent as a spouse under Appendix FM with the time you’ll be spending as a spouse under Appendix EU.

So, technically speaking, you’ll start the clock again. For example, suppose you have only 1 year before you become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under Appendix FM. In these circumstances you probably wouldn’t want to switch the lane and apply under Appendix EU. This is because instead of 1 year to your ILR, you’ll need to wait for another 5 years again before you will become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain under Appendix EU.

Northern Ireland-born British Citizens
Northern Ireland-born British Citizens

Only Several Months Before the Deadline

The Home Office will start accepting applications on 24 August. They further added that only those who are living in the country at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply.

More Help

You can learn how to make a visa application yourself by attending one of the online courses. Get more information HERE.
You can get more information about various UK Immigration Routes HERE.

Best of Both Worlds for Northern Ireland-born British Citizens