Sunday, 5 February 2012

Getting a Spouse Visa

Looking back over my immigration journey I spent probably too much time worrying about all the things that could have gone wrong, but you know what? It all worked out. I thought I'd share my journey with all those who are going through it. The key bit of advice would be this, don't worry about what may or may not happen. If you are a real couple and meet all the criteria then you will be fine.

Spouse Visa 

I met Matthew in October 2007 and we  decided to get married in August 2008. I remember us beginning to figure out everything we needed to do in order for me to get my spouse visa. 

I don't remember the exact date, but Matthew and I decided to go and see an immigration lawyer to make sure we understood the process. It was definitely worth the money at the time, I remember it being around £75. We are able to ask all the questions that we wanted. The immigration lawyer offered a service where they would fill out your application for you at the modest sum of £500! Please don't waste your money. Having an immigration lawyer fill out your application won't guarantee you anything. The visa's are expensive enough without wasting money for someone just to fill out a straightforward form.

I can remember reading loads about how to get the spouse visa on the internet and at the time it was a bit daunting. I guess the most scary thing about was the uncertainty over whether or not it would be approved. Looking back I can see that it would be highly unlikely that I would have been refused, but you just never know. 

After we were married Matthew went back to London and I stayed behind in Minnesota to wait for my visa to come through. Since I was only in London on a tourist visa I had to return home to send the application.

We had to wait for the marriage certificate to be sent out before we could send off the application. In theory that should have taken a week, but for some reason instead of sending to my address in MN it was sent to London!

That was really annoying. Matthew tried to send it back to me, overnight via DHL, but that got cocked up. The letter ended up sitting in a distribution center in Detroit for several days. A week later it finally arrived and I went and sent off the application.

Once it was sent the waiting began. It was good to be spending some time in MN, but it was really hard being new married and away from Matthew. It was a weird limbo time for me. I was staying with friends and I wasn't working. Not knowing how long I was going to be in MN was a bit stressful. In the end after the spouse visa application was sent it only took about 3 weeks for it to be approved. 

The application itself was pretty straightforward. We had to prove that we were a legitimate couple. I ended up printing out email conversations, photos of us on holiday and photocopying cards that we had received as a couple. We also had to show proof that Matthew had a place for us to live and that we had a certain amount of income, basically they wanted to make sure that we could support ourselves. 

All I have to say is that if you are a real couple and you meet the requirements than you will be fine. I spent a lot of timing worrying that my application wouldn't be approved. I read way too many stories of couples who were separate for months and other immigration horror stories. Don't waste your time getting stressed over what might happen, just make sure you fill out everything carefully and be prepared to be patient if the processing times are longer than you would want them. 

Becoming British

Yesterday it was a cold and snowy day in London. I had spent much of the day in the flat doing odds and ends when finally it was time to brave the cold and go out to the shops. Matthew and I bundled up and headed out in search of ingredients for a classic tuna hot dish.  When we got back and stopped to check the post we discovered two interesting looking envelopes from our local council addressed to me. 

Since I never get any letters from the council this could only mean one thing, news about my citizenship application. After tearing open the letter I was very happy to see that my application had been accepted and I had also been assigned a citizenship ceremony to take place on the 22 of February. 

What a feeling. I would even venture to say that I was chuffed to bits!

I applied for citizenship back on November 6, 2011 and you just never know how long things might take. I was told that it could take up to six months and so that was kinda what I was expecting. I also didn't realise that they would assign you a date for the ceremony. I thought that I would have to phone up and do that on my own. I've also heard people say that it can take a long time to get a place at a ceremony. 

Matthew of course was very excited, especially because I have to pledge an oath to the Queen. I am excited too and also relieved that it's all sorted now. 

It is a bit strange to think that I am now a British citizen. It's just something that I never thought in my wildest dreams would ever happen. 

I know the journey to citizenship is a subject that people are generally interested in so I thought I'd condense my journey down so you that people can get a general idea of how it all works.

Looking back this entire process of marrying someone from another country and sorting out all the visas seemed really daunting and at times a bit scary. I can say now that it's really nothing to get worked up over, as long as you're in a real relationship with someone and you follow all the directions you'll be fine. 

I'd also like to say thank you to all the other expat bloggers out there who have taken the time to share their journeys and also all the wonderful people who take the time to write on the UK Yankee Forum. It's always comforting to read other people's stories. 

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