General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK

There are over 85 UK visa types. To help you understand various UK immigration routes, I’ve divided these visa types into six main categories.

There are visas for:

  1. Visiting the UK
  2. Studying in the UK
  3. Working in the UK:
    1. Long-term UK work visas
    2. Short-term UK work visas
    3. Investor, business, and talent routes
    4. Other work-related routes
  4. Joining family members in the UK:
    1. General rules
    2. Family members in work routes
    3. Family members of those who are settled in the UK
  5. EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens
  6. Protecting citizens

This article is a part of the ‘UK Immigration and All UK Visa Types in 2022’ article series. You can get all the links to articles and videos from this series HERE.

In this article, I’ll explain the general rules about all dependants. Then, in the next article, I’ll concentrate on the rights of dependent family members in work routes to join their loved ones in the UK. In article No3 I’ll elaborate on the rules for family members of British citizens and those settled in the UK.


Who Can Apply as a Dependant?

In the majority of cases, only partners and children can apply.



General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK
General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK

According to Immigration rules, ‘child’ means a person under the age of 18 at the time of making their 1st application.

Children over 18 can only apply if:

  • they are making an application for permission as a dependant of their parent or parents, having last held permission as a dependant of the main applicant. The Home Office calls the main applicant: ‘lead applicants’.
  • they are not leading an independent life after the Home Office granted their first visa application.

Also, for children to qualify, they’ll need to prove that they do not lead an independent life and are dependent (financially and emotionally) on a lead applicant.


Child Leading an Independent Life

What does this mean?

Although it may help, there is no requirement for partners and dependent children to apply at the same time.

When children are over 16, they’ll need to prove that they are still dependent on the lead applicant or their dependent partner when applying.

In other words they:

(a) do not have a partner; and

(b) are living with their parent (except where they are at boarding school, college or university as part of their full-time education); and

(c) are not in full-time employment; and

(d) are wholly or mainly dependent upon their parent for financial support; and

(e) are wholly or mainly dependent upon their parent for emotional support.

How can you prove this?

Usually, the Home Office will accept the following documents:

  • bank or building society statement (which may show funds that their parent is providing to support them)
  • credit card bills
  • NHS registration document
  • an official letter from their current school, college, or university that confirms their address

Suppose you are not living with the family because you are attending school, college, or university. In that case, the Home Office will usually want to see more evidence confirming that you are not leading an independent life.

So, if you live at a separate address, you will need to provide confirmation that it is due to you studying elsewhere.

Evidence of this can include:

  • official confirmation of your studies from school, college, or university
  • evidence that your parents are financially supporting you up to the point of applying (for example, evidence covering 3 months before the application).



In the definition of ‘partners’, the Home Office included the following categories:

  • Spouses
  • civil partners
  • partners who are not married or in a civil partnership. However, in these cases, the UKVI will usually expect the applicants to prove that they have lived together, under the same roof, for at least 2 years.

They all have to be over 18 to qualify.


Children from Previous Relationships

The term ‘parent’ includes:

(a) the stepfather of a child whose father is dead, and reference to stepfather includes a relationship arising through civil partnership; and

(b) the stepmother of a child whose mother is dead, and reference to

stepmother includes a relationship arising through civil partnership; and

(c) the father, as well as the mother, of an illegitimate child where the person is proved to be the father; and

(d) an adoptive parent, where a child was adopted in accordance with a decision taken by the competent administrative authority or court in a country whose adoption orders are recognised by the UK;

(e) in the case of a child born in the UK who is not a British citizen, a person to whom there has been a genuine transfer of parental responsibility on the ground of the original parents’ inability to care for the child.


Biometrics and Immigration Health Surcharge for Children

General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK
General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK

All family members will need to pay the fee for visa application, Immigration Health Surcharge, and provide their biometrics.

Children under the age of 6 only need to provide their photos only. Those, between 6 and 16 will need to provide their photographs and fingerprints. Children over 16 will also need to sign their visa applications.

Children under 18 will need to pay Immigration Health Surcharge at the reduced rate of £470 per year (the full rate is £624 per year).

How to Prove Your Relationship with the Lead Application

If you are married or formed a civil partnership, your marriage or civil partnership certificate should be enough to demonstrate proof of the relationship. It is provided these documents are recognised in the country where marriage or civil partnership took place.

Partners in Durable Relationship

It gets trickier with partners in a durable relationship. To succeed in your application, you’ll need to provide evidence confirming that you have lived together for at least 2 years before the date of the application. The documents, which you may submit with the application to prove this, may include, but are not limited to:

  • bank/building society statements, council tax, or utility bills
  • residential mortgage statements or tenancy agreements
  • official correspondence or documents that link the lead applicant and their partner and show they are living at the same address

You will need to complete a 2-year period before the date of the application.

Exceptions to these general rules are possible. However, you’ll need to gather solid evidence to prove that:

  • it was not reasonably possible for the other partner to accompany or join the lead applicant, and
  • also you’ll need to provide evidence confirming that the relationship continued throughout the period of separation, after the departure of the lead applicant to the UK. For example, you provide documents confirming that you visited each other regularly. Also, you can submit letters, logged phone calls, shared financial accounts, etc.


Parental Relationship

The documents, which will prove that the main applicant is your parent, include:

  • a full birth certificate, which includes the names of both parents
  • a court order such as a special guardianship order
  • a government-issued household registration certificate


The Home Office does not accept affidavits as these are only evidence someone has made a sworn statement regarding a claimed relationship, and not evidence of that relationship by themselves.


Financial Requirements

General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK
General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK

If the immigration route of the main applicant permits the dependants to join them, you’ll need to provide documents confirming that you meet the financial requirement.

There are several exceptions to this general rule:

  1. you don’t need to prove that you meet the financial requirement if you are applying for permission to stay and have been living in the UK with permission for 12 months or longer on the date of application;
  2. if the route requires evidence of adequate maintenance and accommodation for the lead applicant (for example, Representative of an Overseas Business and UK Ancestry).
  3. Finally, the last exception is when the lead applicant is in the UK on Temporary Worker routes, the Intra-Company routes, the T2 Minister of Religion route, the International Sportsperson route, and the Skilled Worker route, the sponsors can confirm financial support instead of the lead applicant.

If these exceptions don’t apply, you’ll need to have:

  • £285 for a dependent partner
  • £315 for the first dependent child
  • £200 for any other dependent child

Funds have to be in the lead applicant’s account for at least 28 days


General Rules for Family Members Travelling to the UK