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 Continued: Hurray!

Hurray! Stuart and I have finally come to a decision about where we will settle as a newly-married international couple. It is actually the decision we had started with, but now, having taken time to consider all our options, it is the obvious choice.

And the winner is…France!

The Reasons Why

I’m sure this does not come as a surprise if you’ve been following this blog. I’ve been leaning that way all along. Even though it is mostly irrational and somewhat of a bigger challenge for me, something in my heart keeps saying, “France” and I’ve decided to listen…even though it is a little scary. In addition to the dream I had about Paris being “home” and the knowing I had that I would be moving to France a couple of months before meeting Stuart, I also had some astrocartography done which revealed the region in which Stuart and I will live as a very supportive area for both of us. I also had a psychic tell me that my destiny lies in France…and since I already knew intuitively that was true, I take it as a confirmation. I release expectation, though, because who knows? Maybe my destiny lies in France because I have to go to France to learn my destiny lies somewhere else.  : )

As for the logical reasons, first of all, it allows us to be together sooner rather than later. And hello, we’re middle-aged newlyweds. We don’t want to wait an additional 6-12 months on top of the time is will take to organize this venture in order to start our life together! As mentioned in my earlier post about France, as a non-EU spouse of an EU citizen, I can arrive in France without obtaining a special visa and apply for a Cart de Sejour once there. (FYI: This option doesn’t apply in all situations; most folks will require a passport…even fiances.)

Second, as a result of our deliberations, we discovered something miraculous and wonderful called the EEA Family Permit. So, should we decide we’d like to settle in the UK after all, we can do so by applying for the currently-free family permit, available to UK citizens (and their spouses) exercising their treaty rights in the EU, which Stuart is doing by working in France. We therefore bypass the rather complicated and expensive UK Spousal Visa.

Third, France has the winning climate and a location for easier travels to other European destinations. France will give us the best of everything.

As for the Negatives

The language, the lack of choices in the grocery stores, the difficulties in establishing work and collaborations there…none of them need be as daunting as my mind tries to tell me. I musn’t forget my potentials, all that I have so far achieved in this life, that I am the creator of opportunity, and that I will be with my thoughtful, talented, loving and kind Stuart. This chance holds too many gifts to forsake it out of fear. And as for the negatives of which I am as yet unaware, I shall endeavor to see them as gifts…and forgive myself when I forget. I know the little challenges will be balanced by little triumphs.

I will without question miss my friends and family, my sweet house, and many of the things with which I have identified in the US. There will probably be periods of homesickness and grief, but these will be balanced by unexpected pleasures and newfound joys. And even better, I will not be one of those people who wonders what would have happened if.

Looks like this is really, truly happening! All I can say is “Holy Merde!!!!”

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…