Hello everyone! I’m beginning a new blog series covering my experience with UK immigration. My goal is to provide all of my knowledge in the hopes that it will come of use to people thinking of immigrating! I know when Jon and I started out, we were overwhelmed and confused by it all, and a ton of information in one spot ended up helping a great deal.
Today’s intro post is a brief overview, along with our document checklist and our start-to-finish timeline. Specifics (such as relationship evidence, accommodation, and financial details) will come in subsequent posts.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an immigration advisor. I am not any kind of professional. I’m merely giving my own input and experience in UK immigration, and it should be treated as such. However, I hope it eases your confusion and helps you on your journey to Britain!
An incredibly helpful and active forum for folks looking to immigrate to the UK. I can truly say that I don’t think we would have been approved without the help of the folks here. They only offer their own opinions, knowledge, and personal experience, but I find that far more applicants have been approved with their help than with the help of anything else.
Where you’ll be creating an account, completing the online portion of your application, and paying the appropriate fees. An online application is editable for a couple months before you hit that Confirm button, so if you’re really anxious about filling it out, you can do bits at a time and save as you go.
If you want to pay Priority for your application, this is where you’ll be doing so after your online application has been completed and paid for on Visa4UK.
Choosing Type of Visa and Financial Category
First, you’ll need to figure out what kind of application you’re applying for. There are a number of different options. I am only experienced in one kind, and that is Spouse Settlement, with Category A financial requirement from my husband’s (sponsor’s) end.
Category A’s requirement is that the sponsor has to have been working at the same job for six consecutive months or more, making £18,500 per year. If they haven’t been working at the same job for six months, are on savings or are self-employed or whatever else, you can choose a different financial category to apply under.
On the forum, we were encouraged to get married in the US and Canada and then apply straightaway for a spouse settlement visa. That would save us the rather pricey wedding fees for the Leicestershire area, at least in comparison to Toronto, and the visa fees themselves. And when you land on a fiance visa, you have six months to turn that visa into a spouse settlement visa, which entails more paperwork and more expensive fees! So I highly recommend getting married in the applicant’s country, even if that means just having the legal ceremony first, then having a bigger wedding after you’ve landed in the UK.
Research and Apply
Do loads of research and ask loads of questions well before you’re ready to apply. As soon as you and your British partner get engaged is a great time, because it’ll give you at least a few months to gather as much information as possible. It’ll give you peace of mind to find out everything you possibly can and go into the process feeling confident. And thanks to the forum, it will be incredibly easy for you to find everything out.
Jon and I did not use an immigration advisor. They do a lot of the work for you, but they cannot guarantee a positive outcome on your application. And from what I’ve seen on ExpatForum, the site that gave us a vast wealth of information and advice and helped us put together our paperwork, some immigration advisors seem to have outdated or altogether wrong information, which has gotten some applicants rejected. So if you want to save money, consult ExpatForum!
As I gathered information pertaining to my application, I copy/pasted it all into a Word document under different headers, such as “Financial” and “Accommodation”. It kept things neat and organized!
Once you’ve done all this, you’ll start gathering your paperwork and evidence of your relationship (which I’ll get into in a future post). Once that’s all together, you’ll fill out the online portion of your application, pay the fees, and schedule an appointment for biometrics. In Toronto, this will be done at the VFS Visa Application Centre, or VAC, and your paperwork will all be sorted and mailed out with DHL. It’s the applicant’s job to submit the application, so the sponsor will need to send you his or her end of the paperwork (payslips, etc) in the mail so you can include them.
And then it’s just a matter of waiting! But do pat yourself on the back, because immigration to another country is hard but you got that damn paperwork out!! Woohoo!!!
Our Document Checklist
I’m sharing my final checklist as an example of what the application package can entail. There is no official checklist, since all applications have different circumstances and may need differing information, but this is what I was advised to give and I was approved. This is all in the order I was recommended to put it in, although the Toronto VAC arranged it a bit differently when I brought it in. It’s a good idea to not staple or paperclip anything together.
– Priority payment receipt from VFS
– Visa payment receipt
– IHS surcharge receipt
– Biometrics appointment confirmation letter
– Application, signed on both declaration sheets and IHS number written on top of first page
– Appendix 2, filled out by hand
– Introduction letter for applicant, typed and signed
– Proposed flight itinerary for whatever date you want to fly to the UK (you can make it for a few weeks to a couple months after you send in the application)
– Introduction letter for sponsor, typed and signed
– Sponsor’s passport bio page, scanned and printed in colour
– Photocopy of my Canadian permanent resident card to prove I’ve been allowed to live in Canada
– Company-headed employment letter
– Employment contract
– 6 latest payslips
– 6 latest bank statements spanning two banks (as Jon switched from HSBC to FirstDirect this spring)
– Typed note from sponsor briefly explaining why he changed banks
– Spreadsheet noting where each payslip is recorded in its corresponding bank statement, for ease of reference
– Overcrowding inspection report
– Permission letter from sponsor’s parents saying we were allowed to live with them for the time being, typed and signed
– Land registry document
– 2016 council tax bill schedule
– Divorce certificate from my previous marriage
– Marriage certificate with Jon
– Brief, typed summary of travel instances to visit each other
– Plane tickets and flight itineraries, scanned and printed in colour
– 16 photos across our relationship, including a few from the wedding, with captions that include location, date, and brief descriptions
– 5 pages showing Skype screenshots, one per month while we’ve been apart
– 5 pages showing a record of Skype video calls, one for about every 10 days while we’ve been apart
– 5 1/2 pages showing a record of Viber chat logs, a small selection for every seven days while we’ve been apart
All important documents that we’d like returned (such as payslips, job contract, etc)
Timelines vary greatly from applicant to applicant, depending on the straight-forwardness of the application, as well as the time of year and the processing office being used. All American and Canadian applications go through the Sheffield office, which experiences a dramatic slowing down from early summer through early autumn. If you’re applying at this time of year, expect to wait longer than usual for your application to be processed. Even priority applicants have to wait a bit longer sometimes. From what I’ve seen, Canadian applications moved slower than American ones did this year. I’m not sure if this has always been a problem or not, but in the end it didn’t take so long at all for us.
Type of application: Spouse Settlement (Priority)
Country applied from: Canada (Toronto)
Visa office processing application: Sheffield
Projected timeline given: 8-12 weeks
Online application submitted/fees paid: August 15
Biometrics appointment: August 31
Documents received by Sheffield: September 1
Decision made: October 27
Visa received: November 2
I hope this helps someone out there! 🙂