The UK Visitor for Marriage Visa Decision & Process

When Stuart and I first decided to get m…owed, I mean married, we looked at all the options. At first, things looked very discouraging and overwhelming, but now that we’re on the other side of things, in hindsight, it wasn’t all that bad.

Of course, we thought about marriage in the US. From what I could tell, he would have needed a K1 Fiance Visa, a process that would have taken about 6 months. That amount of time did not appeal to either of us. Besides, I would have had to sponsor him financially, and that wasn’t happening. We looked into marriage by proxy, but that seemed to be available only to the military unless I wanted to fly to another state where it is legal. However, not every country recognizes marriages by proxy, so this wouldn’t have helped us anyway.

Next, we looked at France. In fact, for a few weeks, we thought this was our best option because I could just go on an application-free Schengen Visa. The problem with marrying in France came down to the paperwork. Everything, passports, birth certificates, divorce decrees, etc., would have to be translated in order to get married. Then everything French would have to be translated to English for use in the US and UK. The language barrier made this a poor choice.

Frustrated, we began to look at the UK. They offer something called a Visitor for Marriage Visa. It seemed like our best bet. With this Visa, I could enter the UK for the purpose of marriage for a period of up to 6 months, and the applications were only taking about 4-6 weeks. To top it off, Stuart’s cousin is the registrar of the town where we wanted to marry. She could marry us!

So, we started the application process. It was a bit of a nightmare as these things tend to be, taking over my office floor. The online application was easy enough. It was the supporting documentation that was more complicated. Continuing to just put one foot in front of the other, though, we obtained everything we needed:

  • passports (expired and current) and my passport photo
  • my biometrics document
  • our birth certificates
  • our divorce decrees
  • our bank statements
  • my proof of ties to home (in my case, work and mortgage)
  • my credit line proof
  • our tax returns and proof of business
  • letters of accommodation from each of the people we stayed with
  • marriage registration and license receipts
  • letter of support from Stuart
  • planned itinerary including intention to purchase health insurance
  • things to prove our relationship (Skype records and photos)
My visa application about halfway complete.
My visa application about halfway complete.

Some of these things were tricky. Our Skype transcripts were nearly 500 pages long, so I needed to abbreviate them down to something manageable. Many documents needed to be originals. There were also time constraints and many agencies and people with their own priorities and timelines involved. Since I had scheduled my biometrics appointment two weeks after my application online, I then had to have everything ready to be submitted by the deadline two weeks after that. There were some moments of hair-pulling as we waited for things or discovered new things we needed to include as the deadline drew closer. The whole time, I kept feeling very sorry for people who aren’t as logistically minded as myself, let alone non-English speakers, starting this process only to find they’ve missed a piece or a deadline.

Then I went about making copies (there had to be two of everything), indexed it all with a cover letter, and shipped, being sure to include the required return postage and packaging. I also scanned the whole thing, so I would have digital copies. I got a little nervous when UPS said they wouldn’t insure my passport, but what could I do? I had to trust and send it.

UK Immigration was great about communicating through emails throughout the whole nail-biting process. Within 6 weeks, we had approval! Just in time to buy a plane ticket in advance of our selected wedding date.

If it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the visa process certainly built up our muscles. Good thing, because as an international couple, there will be lots more paperwork ahead!

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Where to Land?

This is a complicated story, so hang in there with me. In 2013, I met, fell in love, and married my husband, a UK Citizen living in France. We met over the internet, on Facebook, to be exact. You see, I recently published a book, and he happened to be working for the publisher as the book’s designer. The internet is definitely closing the gap for love across nations, but unfortunately, we live in a world of structures that have yet to recognize this.

He said that when I friended him, his immediate response was, “I’ve got to marry her!”…this from a man who swore he’d never marry again. After a week of talking, I too had a knowing, “I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this man,” even though I had pretty much sworn off relationships. But neither of us were quite ready to reveal to each other the intensity of our illogical feelings. That came later.

Once we knew, it took a great deal of effort to arrange for me to get a Visitor for Marriage Visa from the UK. It was easier than trying to marry in France because of the language issues and quicker than trying to marry in the states. That alone was a huge decision-making and action-requiring process. (Being beyond that at the moment, I’m going to focus on where we are now and maybe return to the earlier stages another day.)

We got married so we could be together, but we’re finding it isn’t quite as easy as we’d thought…or at least hoped. So here we are, married. I’m in the US, and he’s in France.

Our current task is deciding who goes where. Here are our choices:

I move to France.
He moves to the US.
We both move to the UK.

Simple right? Wrong.

Honestly, I thought that would be such an easy thing to figure out. But it is proving to be extremely complicated. For one thing, each of us is able and willing to do any of the above.

So, I’m writing about this for two main reasons. First, I’m trying to sort this all out in my very confused head; writing helps me do that. And second, I have found so much support from and value in various expat forums and on blogs of others who have taken the international marriage plunge; maybe I can help some other couple by sharing my experience.

So I’ll get back to our decision soon…