*Disclaimer* I am not a lawyer, solicitor, legal expert or person who has even read one single law book in her entire life. I have watched Legally Blonde about 10,000 times, and I did score well on the LSAT. BUT the following post is not a substitute for professional legal advice and I cannot be held liable for any mistakes, expenses or heartbreak resulting from your visa or immigration experience.
Prior to meeting Daley, I had one simple rule. I would not fall in love with anyone in the military or anyone who lived in a foreign country. My fear of being widowed was equal to my fear of the bureaucratic paperwork required of multinational couples. Obviously that rule went out the window pretty quickly, because I told Daley one cold winter evening in England that yes, I would love to marry him. Before I’d even skyped my mom to show off my shiny new ring, I’d jumped down a rabbit hole of visa red tape. If you’re not interested in how to get a UK spouse visa, stop reading here. But if you’ve fallen in love with a Brit and need help getting your visa for British residence, sit tight! I’ve written this post for you; it’s exactly what I needed when I was in your shoes.
I was on a six month tourist visa in the UK when we decided to get married. This meant I could spend more time getting to know Daley, but I could not work, volunteer, or use the national health service (NHS). We soon found out that it also meant I could not get married in the UK without first returning to my home country (the US) and applying for a Settlement Visa (fiance route). The language on this throughout the UK’s visa info site is ambiguous, so I ended up consulting with a solicitor for clarity. He was clear: If you get married or attempt to get married while in the UK on a tourist visa, you have a high risk of being deported or having future visas rejected.
No matter what, you will have to return to your home country before getting married. Annoying? Absolutely.
If you are in the UK on a tourist visa and you decide you want to get married, you have two options.
Option 1: Go back to your home country and apply for a Settlement Visa (fiance route), then return to the UK when/if your visa is approved, get married in the UK and then apply to change your status from fiance to spouse (requiring an additional visa application and fee).
Option 2: Both of you return to your home country, get married there, and then apply for a Settlement Visa (spouse route). This way, you only have one application (and application fee) to contend with. Because Daley already has a 10 year multiple-entry visa to the US (another visa story for another day), we decided to fly back to my hometown in Texas together to get married, then apply for the Settlement Visa (spouse route).
J. Lo Was Wrong When She Said Love Don’t Cost A Thing
Brace yourself, because this is going to get expensive. Here’s what you can expect to pay as an American applying for a UK Settlement Visa (spouse route):
Visa Application Fee – $2,024
Immigration Health Surcharge – $800
Settlement Priority Visa Service – $834
Roundtrip UPS Worldwide Express – $220
Total cost: $3,878
You can save yourself some cash by forgoing the Settlement Priority Service, but I highly highly highly recommend you bite the bullet and pay for it. Priority Service means the Home Office will aim to decide on your application within 90 working days. That’s like four months. If you don’t pay for Priority Service, you could be left hanging without an answer for a year or more! It is a gamble, yes, but not one we were willing (or able) to take. We got our answer about 3 months after I applied.
There Are More Steps to this Process Than Ariana Grande’s Average Day
I’m a list person. Do yourself a favour and make Evernote your new best friend. If you don’t like Evernote, just use something that will sync between your devices and let you make dynamic checklists. Trust me. Just do it. Here’s the exact Step By Step checklist I used throughout my UK spouse visa process.
- Complete online visa application (from your home country)
- Choose where to pick up Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) once back in the UK
- Book biometric appointment at Application Support Centre (ASC)
- Pay IHS fee, $800
- Print copy of IHS reference number and payment receipt
- Pay visa application fee, $2,132
- Print copy of visa payment receipt
- Pay priority service fee here, $834 (highly recommend if you can afford it)
- Print copy of priority service receipt
- Download and print 2 copies of your completed application form
- Sign pages 2, 11 & 12 of the printed application form
- Print copy of biometric confirmation receipt
- Print Appendix 2
- Fill in Appendix 2
- Compile supporting documents
- Assemble application package
- Go to biometric appointment at ASC for photo & fingerprints
- Get biometric confirmation receipt stamped at ASC
- Mail application package within 5 days of biometric appointment to:
International Operations and Visas6 MillsandsVulcan HouseSheffieldS3 8NHUnited Kingdom
- Mail application package within 5 days of biometric appointment to:
- Wait for decision to be mailed and application package to be sent back
- Pick up visa and passport at ASC or wait for it to be mailed back to you
- Book return ticket to UK
- Collect BRP within 10 days of returning to UK
Get Your Timing Right To Meet the Income Requirement
For couples who meet while traveling, meeting the income requirement is often the biggest hurdle in the visa process. Your British partner must have six or twelve months of pay slips matched to their bank statements as proof of income (unless you’re going the savings route, in which case, congrats for being rich, please consider donating to my patreon). They’ll also need to include a letter from their employer verifying their employment and income. And before you ask, no, your income as the non-British applicant does not count towards the minimum requirement.
We had just returned to England in December 2017 after traveling in the US, so Daley had been working exactly six months when we returned to the US to apply for my visa. We submitted pay slips and bank statements for December 1 – June 15. One thing to watch out for is the dates on your pay slips. Daley’s first pay slip was issued on December 15 for the pay period starting December 1. So we had to provide pay slips through June 15, not June 1, in order to meet the six month requirement.
Don’t Freak Out Over Proof of Relationship
There is so much conflicting information out there about how much to submit to prove you’re in a legitimate relationship and not just seeking British citizenship. The truth is, there’s not an official way to meet this requirement. But after days of focused research, I came up with a way to concisely show that our relationship is genuine.
I provided two or three captioned photos per month of our relationship, showing us traveling together, meeting each other’s families and celebrating important milestones. I just used Word to create a basic document, where each month of our relationship had one A4 page of captioned photos. Then, I provided one page of messages per month of our relationship, including texts, emails and photos of handwritten notes. Again, I just screenshotted these messages and dropped them into a Word document. Finally, I provided our original marriage certificate.
Keep Your Application Package Organised
For your sanity, and the sanity of whatever poor soul reviews your application over at the Home Office, organise your application package!!
I broke my application package into sections: Receipts, Application Forms, Applicant’s Documents, Sponsor’s Non-Financial Documents, Sponsor’s Financial Documents, Accommodation Documents, Relationship Documents, Return Materials.
Remember what I said about Evernote? Seriously, just get it already. And no, I’m not in any way sponsored by them or receiving any monetary compensation from them for this post.
Here’s My Application Package Checklist:
You Don’t Have To Do This Alone!