In May 2017 my husband and I got married. We went through the fun, albeit sometimes daunting, process of wedding planning. We actively made a million decisions about flowers, place cards, invitations and seating charts. In the background, we were also working on keeping me in the country.
I entered the UK in June 2015 on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, which is only valid for 2 years. When my husband and I met, we both knew we only had 2 years before I’d have to head back to Canada (or at least out of the UK). 6 months after meeting, we got engaged in Istanbul whilst on holiday. The excitement of getting engaged and planning our wedding was somewhat marred by the task of having to apply for a visa to ask the Home Office if we could actually stay together in the UK after we were married.
For reference, this is my personal experience in applying for FLR(M), and no one else’s. I am not an immigration expert and things at the Home Office change all the time. All of the information is accurate as of when we applied in June 2017. It is likely that there have been changes to the process since then, so if you are applying it is best to double check with the guidance notes available on the Home Office website.
I printed off the ridiculously long application in November 2016, as well as the guidance notes, and began filling out the questionnaire, rummaging through our house for supporting documentation, and making sure we had enough extra money in our account for the super expensive process of actually applying.
Our wedding was on 13 May 2017, and two days later we were heading out on our honeymoon (Cuba). This presented two tricky windows for me that required some planning. You have a window of when you need to pick a date for your appointment (if you go premium, which we were). I also had a window that I needed to have an appointment by before my visa expired. For the latter, I had to have my appointment for a date before 12 June. You can book your premium appointment 45 days in advance of the day you want. So with that in mind, I calculated the week before my visa was going to expire minus 45 days and put that day in my diary. I needed to log into the Home Office website on that day, pay the fees, and book a date.
We decided to do our appointment in Liverpool for a number of reasons, but mostly because it holds a special place in our hearts. Our second little weekend break together was Liverpool and we had a brilliant time away together. We also thought it would be nice to have an excuse to go away over night as we’d need to book the full day off work anyway. That, and we had always heard horror stories about our the office closer to our flat.
The Application / Process
So, the application process, what can I say about it? It’s tedious. You feel yourself answering a lot of the same questions over and over again. You need to prove that you are, in fact, in an actual relationship and have been for two years. If you haven’t (we hadn’t), you need to provide proof that you’re in a substantive relationship essentially. Because we hadn’t lived together for the full two years, we asked his parents to write us a letter to say we lived with them (we did live with them), plus provided our mortgage details and a load of supplementary documentation to prove we lived together for the time we did. Because we were married, were living together in the UK, and were able to prove this, we didn’t have any issues being accepted.
In the guidance notes, it specifically outlines what you need to provide + copies of everything you have to provide. Don’t short them on anything. Provide everything you need and then some.
When I initially printed the application to fill it out, I started then stopped when wedding planning got a bit more serious / time consuming. Later on, I realised I needed a new copy and when I went to reprint I noticed there was an updated copy. Please check to make sure you have the most up to date version of the application or you stand a chance to be rejected.
We provided additional documents and photos of our flat, holidays, family members etc. We were told this wasn’t required and they didn’t bother to look at them.
I had a lever arch file that was divided by sections in the actual visa application. Under each section, I had labelled clear plastic A4 pockets with what its contents were. Each one was meticulously organised and cross-referenced to the visa application. In case that wasn’t enough, I brought a bag that had extra documents & photos, just in case.
The appointment itself was like any other government appointment, really. In a government building where no one really spoke to you or give you updates on what was happening. My husband and I arrived early & went through security (bag check, body scan), and took a number then a seat. Shortly after sitting down, my number was called & I submitted my massive file for their review.
I sat for another short while before I was called over and given a new number. They then shuffled my file to another person who would be looking after it / reviewing it / making the decision. After sitting back down for about ½ hour, my new number was called and I went in to do my biometrics in a curtained off area. After that, the time went relatively quickly. I sat with my husband while we looked at wedding & honeymoon photos and talked rubbish. After just over 3 hours, my number was called and I was told that my visa application had been successful. I was told I was very organised & it made their job so much easier. About 5 minutes later, another bloke called me to his desk and I was given a piece of paper outlining the acceptance and that my BRP card would be posted to me in 5 business days.
After the Appointment
We drove back to London from Liverpool in the worst rain I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t actually see the road in front of us for a good portion of the drive. Weather aside, we were elated that the appointment went well and that we were able to live together as husband and wife! Within a few days, the BRP was delivered to my office.
My thoughts on the Process
It’s bloody expensive. It’s a hassle. It seems a bit moot. If we were willing to spend £25k on a wedding, surely they should give us fools the right to live together in the same country, no?
I find the most irritating part of the process is that the visa is actually a five year visa, but you need to renew it 2.5 years in. That means for us, in December 2019, we will go through the same process again. We’ll need to shell out the £2500 or whatever it is at that point in time to prove that, yes, we’re still married, and yes, we still wish together in the UK.
- How many bank statements do I actually need?
You will need to provide at least the last 6 months’ worth of statements for you & your husband. You should also provide the last 6 months’ for your joint account, if you have one. The statements should either be originals, or should be printed by your branch and stamped on each page.
- Is the Premium Appointment worth the extra fee?
For us, it was. We can only talk about our experience, but we didn’t want to risk my passport being sent off to the unknown for an ungodly amount of time and be at Home Office’s whim of sending it back to us. We also figured that if we were there, in front of the person approving / rejecting our visa, that we could answer any potential questions or if there was anything we screwed up on, they could maybe take some pity on us and let us fill out the correct info.
- Can I switch from Tier 5 to FLR(M) from within the UK?
With the Tier 5 visa, you can’t actually switch to any other visa; however, with FLR(M), it’s actually a brand new visa, so you’re able to apply for FLR(M) from within the UK whilst you’re on any other visa (excluding visitor, I believe).
- Will I have a new visa in my passport to replace my old one?
In my passport, there is nothing to indicate that I have FLR(M). On my Tier 5 visa, in pen, someone wrote that it had been superseded by FLR(M), but that’s it. My BRP card is my new ticket into the UK and I must travel with that when I leave / enter the UK.
- Do I need an immigration lawyer?
Everyone’s situation is different. I felt quite confident we wouldn’t need one as our situation was quite straight forward. The application form, whilst it is tedious, isn’t that complicated. Just be prepared and organised. Make sure you start early, review everything, and have copies of everything you may need.
Do you have any other questions about my experience? Are you applying soon?