Check if you can stay in the UK as the parent of a child who lives here

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you have a child aged under 18 who lives in the UK, you might be able to get a parent visa.

If you get a parent visa and you have other children aged under 18 who need visas, you might also be able to get child visas for them. You can:

  • apply for the parent and child visas at the same time

  • apply for the child visas when you already have a parent visa

Parent and child visas are types of family visa. It will cost over £1,500 for each person to get a family visa.

If the child’s other parent is your partner

If your partner is allowed to sponsor you to get a partner visa, you must apply for a partner visa instead of a parent visa. Check if you can get a partner visa.

Your parent visa will usually last for 2 years and 6 months - or 2 years and 9 months if you’re outside the UK when you apply. Child visas last until the parent visa ends - even if the child visas start later. You can usually apply:

  • to extend both types of visas before they end

  • apply for you and your children to stay in the country permanently after you’ve had a parent visa for 5 years

To work out if you and your children can get family visas, you’ll need to check:

  • if your child has a right to live in the UK

  • who can apply for parent and child visas

  • if you need to take an English language test

  • the rules about your income and savings

  • the rules about where you live

Check if your child has a right to live in the UK

You can get a parent visa if your child is living in the UK and they have one of the following:

  • British citizenship

  • Irish citizenship

  • indefinite leave or right of abode

  • settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme

If your child has pre-settled status, you can get a parent visa but only if:

  • your child came to the UK by 31 December 2020

  • you’re outside the UK when you apply

If you’re in the UK when you apply, you can also get a parent visa if your child has been living in the UK for 7 years - this depends if it would be reasonable for them to leave the UK to live with you. For example, it wouldn’t be reasonable for them to leave if there would be a risk to your child’s health.

Check if you can apply for a parent visa

You’ll can only apply for a parent visa if one of the following applies:

  • you have sole responsibility for your child

  • your child normally lives with you

  • you have access rights to your child

You have sole responsibility if you’re the only person responsible for your child's upbringing and welfare. This usually means your child’s other parent isn’t involved in their life.

You have access rights if you have a right to see your child. You might have agreed this with the other parent or you might have an order from a family court. If you have access rights and you’re already in the UK you’ll need to show you’re using them - for example visiting your child regularly.

Get help from a specialist adviser if you’re not sure if you have sole responsibility or access rights.

If you’re already in the UK, you can only apply if you have a visa that was for more than 6 months when you got it. You can’t apply if you’re in the UK on a visitor visa. If you were on a visa but it has ended, get help from a specialist adviser.

You can’t apply for a parent visa if you owe £500 or more to the NHS.

If you have other children who need visas

When you apply for a parent visa, you can also apply for your other children aged under 18 to get child visas at the same time.

If you’ve already got a parent visa, you can still apply for child visas for your children.

You don’t need to apply for children who already have a right to be in the UK - for example if they’re British citizens or they have indefinite leave.

You can only apply for a child visa if either:

  • you have sole responsibility for them

  • there are very good reasons why the child needs to live in the UK - for example if there’s nowhere else they can go where someone can look after them properly

You have sole responsibility for your child if you’re the only person responsible for their upbringing and welfare. This usually means your child’s other parent isn’t involved in their life.

You can’t apply for a child who is independent, for example if they:

  • are living with a partner

  • have left home - unless they left home to study

Check the rules about your income and savings

You must show you have enough income to look after yourself without using public funds. This is called the ‘adequate maintenance’ test.

To check if you can pass the adequate maintenance test, you need to first work out how much income the government says you need each week. You then need to check if you have enough income.

Work out how much income you need each week

To work out how much income the government says you need each week, add together:

  • £77 if you’re single or £121.05 if you live with a partner

  • £70.80 for each child aged under 18 who will live with you

  • your housing costs - these are your rent or mortgage payments plus your council tax

If you live with a partner who gets benefits, don’t include any part of your housing costs that will be covered by their Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.

Example

Rohan lives on his own in the UK. He applies for a parent visa - he will not be living with his child.

The total weekly income the government says Rohan needs to get a parent visa is £77 plus his housing costs.

Rohan’s rent is £200 each week. His council tax is £20 each week. £200 plus £20 is £220.

The total income Rohan needs each week is £77 plus £220. This is £290.

Check if you have enough income

Work out how much income you’ll get each week after tax. If you live with a partner, you can add their income to yours. You can include earnings, pensions and income from things like rent or shares.

If you have any savings, you can add them to your income - you must have had the savings for at least 6 months. Divide the amount of your savings by 52 - this is how much you can add to your weekly income.

If your total income is high enough, you pass the adequate maintenance test.

Example

Rohan is applying for a parent visa. The total weekly income he needs to get a parent visa is £290.

Rohan’s weekly earnings after tax are £270 - he has no other income.

Rohan has £2,600 in savings, which he’s had for the last 6 months. £2,600 divided by 52 is £50. This is added to his income.

£270 plus £50 is £320. Rohan’s total weekly income is £320. This is more than the income he needs, so he can get a parent visa.

If your total income isn’t high enough

When you work out your total income, you might be able to include other benefits your partner gets - for example some parts of Universal Credit. It depends on your circumstances.

If you need help working out if you can pass the adequate maintenance test, talk to an adviser.

Check the rules about where you live

You’ll have to show that where you live is safe, suitable and large enough for the number of people you want to live there with you. You don’t need to own your own home but you do need somewhere you can stay long term. For example you might have a tenancy agreement or a room of your own in your parents’ house.

If you live in council housing or your landlord is a housing association, you can check how many people are allowed to live in your home. This is called the ‘permitted number of persons’ (PNP). The PNP is usually on your tenancy agreement, or you can ask your landlord. Children under 1 year old aren’t included in the total, and children between 1 and 10 years old count as half a person.

If you’re not a council or housing association tenant, check your local council’s guidance about overcrowding. You can find your local council on GOV.UK.

Check if you need to take an English language test

You usually need to take an English language test before you apply for a parent visa. Your children don’t need to take an English language test.

You don’t need to take a test if one of the following applies:

  • you already passed the test to get a visa - for example a partner visa

  • you’re from a country that’s exempt because English is an official or majority language there - for example Jamaica or the USA

  • you have a degree that was taught or researched in English

  • you’re under 18 or over 65 years old

If you have a physical or mental condition that stops you passing the test, you might not have to do it. You'll need to ask your doctor to confirm your condition:

  • is unlikely to change

  • makes it impossible for you to learn enough English - for example, a learning disability or brain injury that stops you learning the language 

You can check the full rules about who needs to take an English language test on GOV.UK.

Taking an English language test

If you need to pass a test, it must be at least level ‘A1’ on the ‘Common European Framework of Reference for Languages’ (CEFR) scale. This tests if you can speak in English and understand spoken English - it doesn’t test reading or writing in English.

You must use an approved test provider. You can find an approved English language test provider on GOV.UK.

If you can speak English well

It’s worth taking a higher level test than A1 - this means you can use the result for later visa applications.

You will need to pass a test at:

  • level ‘A2’ when you apply to extend your parent visa

  • level ‘B1’ when you apply to live in the UK permanently - this is called ‘indefinite leave’

If you don’t meet the rules for parent and child visas

You and your children might be able to get family visas if an exception applies. The exceptions depend on whether you’re living inside or outside the UK when you apply.

If you’re already in the UK

You should be able to get family visas if there are ‘exceptional circumstances’. There are exceptional circumstances if any of the following apply:

  • not getting a family visa would cause ‘unjustifiably harsh consequences’ for you, your partner or a child under 18 years old - for example, if you need special care which you can only get in the UK

  • you and your child would have difficulty living together anywhere else in the world - for example if there’s no country where you’re both allowed to live

  • you have a child under 18 who’s in the UK and is either a British citizen or has lived in the UK for at least 7 years

You might also be able to get family visas if refusing your application would affect your ‘right to private or family life’. Your right to private and family life might be affected if any of the following apply:

  • it would be very difficult for you to live in the country you would have to return or move to - for example because of a lack of work, education, family or friends, or if you wouldn't be accepted back there

  • you’ve lived in the UK for 20 years or more

  • you’re aged 18 to 25 and you’ve lived in the UK for at least half your life

If you get a visa based on exceptional circumstances or private and family life, you can only apply for indefinite leave to remain after 10 years.

When you apply for your visa, you should also ask for access to ‘public funds’ if you need it. This means you’ll be allowed to claim benefits and apply for council housing. It’s easier to show you need access to public funds if you’ll be living with your child.

Get help from a specialist adviser if you want to apply based on exceptional circumstances or private and family life.

If you’re applying from outside the UK

You should be able to get family visas if there are ‘exceptional circumstances’.

There are exceptional circumstances if not getting family visas would cause ‘unjustifiably harsh consequences’ for you, your partner or a child under 18 years old. For example, you might need special care which you can only get in the UK.

If you and your children get visas based on exceptional circumstances, you can only apply to stay in the UK permanently after 10 years.

When you apply for your visa, you should also ask for access to ‘public funds’ if you need it. This means you’ll be allowed to claim benefits and apply for council housing. It’s easier to show you need access to public funds if you’ll be living with your child.

Get help from a specialist adviser if your partner and their children need to apply based on exceptional circumstances.

Check your rights if you get a visa

If you and your children get family visas, you will have the right to:

  • work or study

  • rent or buy somewhere to live

  • use the NHS

  • leave the UK and return as many times as you want

You can’t usually claim most benefits or apply for council housing. This is called having a ‘no public funds’ condition. Check what benefits you can get while you have a ‘no public funds’ condition.

If you get a visa based on exceptional circumstances or private and family life, you might be able to get benefits and council housing. If you’re not sure, check if it says ‘no public funds’ on your documents or Biometric Residence Permit.

Check the rules about staying in the UK at the end of the visa

You can apply to extend the visa before it ends. The extension will be for 2 years and 6 months. If you have children with child visas, you can apply to extend them at the same time.

When you’ve been in the country for 5 years, you can usually apply to stay in the UK permanently. This is called ‘indefinite leave’.

If you get a visa based on exceptional circumstances or private and family life, you can only apply for indefinite leave after 10 years.

If you have children with child visas, you can apply for them to get indefinite leave at the same time as you, or when you’ve already got it. It doesn’t matter how long your children have been in the UK.

Apply for a parent visa

Check how you can apply for a parent visa.

Page last reviewed on 11 July 2022