As I talked about in my last post, I’ve now officially moved over to the United Kingdom. I’m now living in Yorkshire, and absolutely loving it. I had such a great response from that post, and a few questions across the social medias about the processes and how we went about getting my visa and how I sorted it all out. It was honestly so much, but I thought I’d make this a sort of mini-series, so I don’t overwhelm you all! Today I thought I’d start with the immigration process that we went through, and what sort of things we submitted to the UK government for consideration. Keep in mind that all of this is specific to our case, so if you’re thinking about a similar move, they might require different documentation based on your circumstances.
Note that this post will be very long and word-heavy. I’m not going to include any photos of the actual documentation, as it’s all sensitive information, but I will add some nice photos of Rohan & I to break it up. I hope it will be helpful to some of you!
WHAT VISA IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
The first thing you need to do is determine which kind of visa is right for you. This will effect everything going forward. There are so many kinds of visas, whether you are claiming a familial connection, a student visa, a work-sponsored visa, etc, etc. These all require different proof, and require different papers to submit. When I studied abroad in the UK, I had student visitor visa that the universities sorted out for me. However for a more permanent visa there is a lot more documentation that they require. We went for a spouse/partner visa, on the basis of our long-term relationship.
PROVING YOUR CASE
Once you’ve chosen your appropriate visa, the next thing you need to do is get all your proof together. There is a load of information on the UK government website that details what kind of proof you need and what kind of information you will need to provide. For the type of visa we chose, you have to be able to prove that one of the following:
- that you’re in a civil partnership or marriage that is recognised in the UK
- you’ve been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years when you apply
- you are a fiancé, fiancée, or proposed civil partner and will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving.
You also have to prove that you have a good knowledge of English. If you are from the USA, you don’t have to prove that you speak English, you just write in the application that you are from the US. If you are from a country where English isn’t an official language, you will have to take a test proving that you have a good handle on the language.
For starters, you will need identification proof. To apply as a partner/spouse, you both need to be at least 18 years old. Your partner must be a British citizen, have settled in the UK (have an ILR visa, etc) or have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK. For this, we included copies of both Rohan’s birth certificate and passport. As far as your own identification the government website lists what kind of proof you need to include.
A very important part of the visa is your income. There are a few ways you can prove that you can financially provide for yourselves, without relying on public funds. Generally you have to be earning a combined income of £18,600 per year to apply for the family visa. You can also use savings to show your financial stability, but as we didn’t go that route, I’m not clear on the details of that.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that if you don’t currently work in the UK and don’t earn your money there, your partner is the only income that counts. For example, my income in the States didn’t count towards our combined income, so we had to use Rohan’s salary as financial proof. To prove his income we included a letter from his employer, his paystubs (backdated 6 months), and his bank statements. We also included any stocks and shares he currently holds. Another important note is that your sponsor has to be earning said income for at least 6 months before you apply. All the information about income requirements and the caveats of that can be found here.
One of the biggest things we get asked about is what things we included in our relationship proof section. For this, we figured more is more, so we really threw everything we had at them. We included screenshots of calls we had between the two of us, screenshots of texts (or rather Facebook/Whatsapp messages), photos dating back to when we met, and flight itineraries from when we’ve visited each other. We also included copies of cards we’ve exchanged over the years, letters, and the like. This was probably the bulkiest section of our documentation, but we thought that the more they had to look at, the less doubt there would be.
This will again vary on what type of housing you are going into when you move. If you are renting and have a lease, definitely include that. If your sponsor owns the property, you can get added to the documents and use that. We are currently living with his parents until we find and buy our own house. What we did was get his parents to write and sign a letter acknowledging that we would be living there, and that they were happy for us to do so. Additionally, we had the house surveyed by the Home Office to prove that the house can physically sustain another person living there.
AFTER YOU APPLY
After you do the online application you need to set up a date to provide your biometric information. For this appointment, you need to bring the application and your IHS number (we’ll get to that in a moment). During the appointment, you basically get your fingerprints taken and a photo. They will also stamp and sign your application verifying you’ve had your biometrics taken. After the biometrics appointment, you have 5 days to send the application and all other relevant documents to the UKVI office in New York (this may be different based on where you’re applying from).
Let’s get into the cost of a visa. Long story short, it isn’t cheap. To apply for a family visa outside the UK, as we did, it is £1,523. You also may have to pay for a national healthcare surcharge. Unless you are applying for a student or Tier 5 visa, you will have to pay £400 per year that your visa is valid. As the first round of my visa is for 3 years, we paid £1,200. This basically enables you to access the NHS while you are in the UK. Once you pay, you’ll get an IHS reference number, which you’ll need to bring to your biometrics appointment. Additionally you have to pay £19.20 for your biometrics. For my visa, the fee total came to £2,742.20, which is about $3,305.20 USD.
Okay, so you’ve done all the applications, gone to your biometrics appointment, and sent off everything to the UK office. What now? It takes up to 12 weeks to get an answer on your visa, unless you pay for priority service. Mine came in 10 weeks to the day that we sent it off. Once you get your visa, you have 30 days to arrive in the UK, as the visa placed your passport is only valid for that long. Once you arrive in the UK, you have 10 days to get to your assigned Post Office to collect your biometric residence card. You’ll need to bring your passport to collect this. This is essentially your green card, and you should keep it with you.
Whew!! I know that was a lot, and if you made it this far, I applaud you. I hope that this was/will be helpful for any of you looking to do the same thing! It was definitely a long journey, and quite complicated, but it was definitely worth it in the end! If you have any questions about specific details, or you just aren’t sure where to start, let me know in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading & stay golden!