Before 9 July 2012: spouses/partners in such cases (who have been together to 4 years or more) were given a permanent visa straight away when they applied outside the UK. It was called Indefinite Leave to Enter. It is permanent visa, which does not need to be extended.
However, if such spouse/partner did not pass Life In The UK Test (also known as Knowledge of Life) then he/she was given a 2 year visa to enter the UK with wording "Spouse/Partner: KOL required".
If you happened to have such a visa it means you can apply for permanent residency as soon as you have passed a Life In The UK Test. You do NOT have to wait for 2 years on a Spouse visa.
From 9 July 2012: all spouses and partners get the visa for the same duration, however long they have been married. There is no longer provision to get a permanent visa, even if have been together for more than 4 years, even if Life In The UK Test had been provided. All spouses/partners now get a visa for 2.5 years (plus 3 months for flexibility to enter), then must extend for another 2.5 years and only then apply for permanent residency.
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