Families and Partners

Nationals of other countries can remain in or come to the UK as the children, partners, or elderly dependants of people who are already in the UK.

On 9 July 2012, new immigration regulations came into force that altered the length of time that family members must have been in the UK before they can apply for settlement. This applies to the partners of those who are: British citizens, settled in the UK, living in the UK as a refugee or under humanitarian protection, or working in the UK under points-based criteria.

If an individual submitted an application to come to or stay in the UK on or after 9 July 2012 and was successful, they will need to remain in the UK for five years before they are eligible to settle in the country. Leave to enter will initially be given for two and a half years. After this period, the individual may apply for another period of the same length.

If the applicant does not meet the requirements for the five-year route as outlined above, they may be eligible for settlement after ten years if they were initially given permission to stay due to family, private or exceptional circumstances.

If you are a relative of an EEA national, please visit our EU LAW pages


An individual may apply for the right to enter or stay in the UK with the intention to settle in the country if their husband, wife, civil partner, fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner, or unmarried/same sex partner is currently settled or applying to settle in the UK.

A fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of someone who is living or applying to live in the UK must obtain consent to enter or stay in the UK with the intention to stay in the country as the husband, wife, civil partner, fiancé(e)/proposed civil partner, or unmarried/same sex partner of the other person.

family visaChildren

In general, children cannot live in the UK if one of their parents is living in another country. There are exceptions to this when the parent residing in the UK is solely responsible for the child or is able to show that there are serious reasons why they should not be separated from the child. This usually applies when:

In this context, the term ‘parent’ is broadly defined and includes both stepparents and adoptive parents.

Who is a Child?

At the time of their application, a child must be under the age of 18. It is also necessary to demonstrate that they have a level of dependency on the person who is settled or in the process of applying to settle in the UK. To qualify, they cannot be married or in a civil partnership and the parent’s residence must be sufficient for both themselves and the child to live in without the need for public funding.  

Temporary permission will be granted for a maximum of two years to a parent who has to live in the UK to care for a child. The child making the application will be granted the same length of stay as their parent. In addition, if they are entering the UK with a partner of one of their parents, they will normally be granted the same period as the partner (up to a maximum of six months).


Adopted Children

Adopted children are also included in this definition of a child, as long as the foreign adoption order was made in a country on the ‘designated list’ and is included in the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973. A child who was adopted in such a country will usually be given permission to stay in the UK permanently if both their parents are settled in the UK or if the parent looking to enter the UK has sole responsibility for the child. 

Parent of a Child in the UK

The parent of a child in the UK can come to the UK if certain requirements are met. They must be the parent of a child who:

Such applicants must be solely responsible for the child, or the child’s parent in the UK must not be their partner.

Elderly Relatives

Elderly people can apply to join a person living in the UK if they are wholly/mainly financially dependent on the settled relative. To qualify, they must have no other close relatives in their own country that could support them; they must be solely dependent on the settled person.

The settled person with whom they wish to stay must solely occupy or fully own the accommodation; the elderly relative must not require the assistance of public funding. Those looking to settle in the UK under this category must be:

Children, siblings, uncles and aunts who are above the age of 18, as well as parents and grandparents who are under 65, may be able to request settlement in exceptional circumstances but must satisfy the criteria above.

Family Reunions

Asylum seekers can apply for family members to enter the UK under the Family Reunion Programme if they have been separated; in some circumstances, they may be given leave due to compassionate circumstances. Such family members must have been part of the family unit before they were split up (e.g. spouses and children under 18).