All spouses with ‘spouse visas’ are eligible to work in the UK, regardless of their nationality. They are a valuable addition to the workforce and many spouses also find that working is a way of becoming part of the wider community, making friends and improving their language skills. Unfortunately some spouses have found that their immigration status can be a barrier to employment. AFF F&C Specialist, Katherine Houlston, looks at the problems and what can be done to resolve them…

Eligibility to work

This is wrong. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) website states, ‘If you have a residence permit that allows you to live here, it will say what restrictions (if any) there are on your employment.’ Essentially, if your visa does not say that you can’t work, then you can.

Immigration status

If you make an application before your authorised stay ends, your existing immigration status will continue until a decision is made, even if this is not until after the end of your permitted stay. If your existing visa or other permission to stay here allows you to work, you can continue to do so until your case is decided.

What can I do?

If you are already working and have made an application to extend your visa, show your employer;

  • your application acknowledgement letter from UKBA
  • evidence from the UKBA website (above) to confirm that you can still work.

Unfortunately the employer does not have to allow you to continue working even with this evidence. UKBA offer an ‘employer checking service’ which employers can use to check your right to work if you have an outstanding application. However, they have no obligation to do this.

In a recent case, AFF was contacted by a spouse who had been suspended from her job because her visa had expired. She contacted the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Helpline who said that it may be possible to start a formal grievance procedure.

Visa expiring

I am receiving an increasing number of enquiries from spouses who are already employed but have been suspended because their visa is due to expire or has already expired. These spouses have made an application to extend their stay and are waiting for it to be processed.

If you have made an application to extend or renew your visa and have been waiting for six months or more, go to the F&C pages of the AFF website, for more information.

Case study
Rita Boadi was trying to get a job as a cleaner, as she thought it would be a good opportunity to make friends and get out of the house. Rita is a qualified care worker but as she doesn’t drive she needed a job on camp which she could walk to. She applied for a job but was told that she was not entitled to work because she had a temporary visa. Rita’s husband contacted the UKBA employers’ helpline, who said that she was entitled to work and that the employer should phone them for confirmation. The couple still had no luck and eventually after two years of frustration they contacted AFF. Our F&C Specialist was able to speak the company’s regional HR manager, who agreed that Rita was eligible to work and the information was passed on to the branch concerned. Rita is now enjoying her job.


Useful links

UKBA website –


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