Visa Applications Involve a Lot of Work

by - December 26, 2013

Welcome to A Yank in Blighty!

I thought it would be somewhat appropriate if my first post explained a bit about my visa process, as that’s something I’m always curious about and maybe someone will stumble across it and find this account helpful.

I came to the UK in August 2012 on a Tier 4 student visa. I was completing my Master’s Degree at a university in London. Fortunately you are allowed to get married on a Tier 4 visa, so when my husband and I decided to get married that was legal and easily sorted.

After the wedding is when everything got interesting and needed lots of documentation!

My pile of visa documents

I had already spent a lot of time on the UKBA website seeing what types of requirements I’ve need to fulfill to extend my stay, but as a spouse. So I started with the application and the guidance notes they provide.

Then I collected the documents definitely required: passport sized photos of me (2) and my husband (1), each of our passports, our marriage certificate, six months of my husbands payslips and a letter from his employer confirming his employment and and salary, six months of his bank statements (which I procrastinated on and didn’t have time to request from the bank so had to be printed), and the lease for our flat.

Although it wasn’t necessarily listed as being required (I think mostly because this category is typically for those who have already proved it), I wanted to show that is the a genuine and subsisting relationship. So I went through and found some cards, letters, flight itineraries, skype and chat logs and the like through our years together. I added this to the photos and cards from the wedding and hoped that all those documents combined would show it wasn’t a sham marriage/marriage of convenience.  

Also I collected mail that was sent to us/either of us at our address. This seemed to be mostly required for non-married partners, but as it was on the checklist I included it just in case.

Once I had the documents together I went to book an appointment at a Public Enquiry Office. i could have mailed it in, but as it can take a few months to get processed and my husband needed to travel soon, i opted for the (much more expensive) in person but near immediate option. However, the closest office to us in London was booked up past when my current visa would expire, so that wouldn’t we booked the appointment at Solihull outside Manchester Birmingham (as I've been corrected, oops!).

The day of the appointment we left quite early so we could go to a local branch of our bank to have the statements stamped as authentic (which apparently banks don’t like to do, but we got a very nice woman that printed new ones so they could be signed). So we were off to the actual appointment. When we first got in we were told they were a bit behind so to leave and come back in a couple of hours. We went to a pub just up the road and had a little snack and just sat and talked for awhile. Then a few minutes before they time they gave us we went back to the office. After going through some light security we began a long wait.  

We were given a number and noticed there was a screen with several categories and numbers in the corresponding rows. After a while our number was announced and the screen flashed with an arrow telling us which way to go. We went back to a room with several (chained down) chairs and a few glass window covered stations. We sat at one of the stations and there was a woman UKBA agent on the other side. She asked for our documents and had us point out a couple of specific ones. I think we might have signed something or other but we weren’t there for long. She then had us go back to the waiting area.

We sat for a long time and were concerned because my number wasn’t on the screen and several after mine were. It felt like the longest wait ever, though probably wasn’t, but eventually my number popped up and thankfully was still in the right order! After a bit it was called and the screen pointed the other way this time into a little room where they took my biometrics (fingerprints and picture) which only took a few minutes.  

Then when we were back in the main waiting room after a few minutes an agent asked if we had our receipt and if so told us to come back at a certain time (which was like half an hour before the office closed or something like that) and as it was several hours away we went to the shopping center up the road and had lunch and walked around before eventually settling in at a coffee shop where my husband got a little work done.

We went back the the office just before they told us to and after going through the light security again we sat and waited. Finally just after the advertised closing time, and when all but us and one or two other people had been called and left we were finally called forward. I was given a letter saying my visa had been issued and to expect my biometric residence permit (BRP) in 7 to 10 working days. And we were free to go and celebrate basically!

And we celebrated in the most British way my husband could think of...tea on the train home!

Celebration Tea on the way home

All in all I would say I had a pretty pleasant experience. It was a bit of an annoyance to have to go so much farther away, but it was my own fault for waiting too long to book the appointment.

There was a lot of waiting, but the staff at the Solihull Public Enquiry Office were really great to keep us informed and where possible let us go do our own thing instead of being cooped up in the waiting room.

My BRP came much faster than they said, which was great timing as we were planning on my accompanying my husband on a work trip as a sort of mini-moon.

And in a couple years I’ll get to do it all over again (though I’ll probably be more prepared and do it by mail to save the £400 extra!). Ah the life of an immigrant in the UK!

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  1. Wow - what a process!!
    I wonder if it's like that in other countries?
    I'm glad that you got accepted though.
    How's British life?
    Tell that lovely husband he needs to take you to the Ritz or Harrods to celebrate properly and in style. ;-)

    1. I think in most other countries it's a pretty similar process. I know it would have been as much or more preparation for a US visa for my husband if we had chosen that route (though from what I understand it doesn't have the be repeated like here in the UK).

      British life is mostly good. A few things I'm still adjusting to/may never get over missing from home haha!

      We'll probably save the fancy celebration for when I get to be done with the process and have my Indefinite Leave...but he did take me to tea at the Ritz on a visit a few years ago and that was amazing and fancy (dress code and everything!)

  2. Yay for getting your visa the same day! And you're right - I remember that no sooner had my husband received his indefinite leave to remain then we started all over again to apply for his citizenship. Our whole process was helped because we'd been married over 5 years and we'd also come to the UK on honeymoon back in 2002 so that was his first spousal visa.

  3. Wow. I didn't realise it was so difficult!

    Moving to Iceland was easy for me, a much simpler process in comparison. I came over as a spouse as my husband was in employment, I had a quick 3 page form to complete, submit to the registers office, my husband had to write a letter to state that he would support me financially and then 2.5 weeks later I got my kennitala and officially able to work if I chose to!

    1. Ah that sounds so easy in comparison! The application I had to fill out was like a 50 page PDF, and almost all of the pages needed something filling out!

      I mean I get it. They want people who are legit and not cheating the system...but it gets a bit frustrating when you know you aren't taking advantage of anything but the process is still so complicated!