When it comes to applying for any long term visa, be it to live, or work in a new country, the process can be daunting and often complex. While we don’t claim to be experts on the UK spousal visa process, we do know from experience. So you are likely to have a few questions regarding the topic. That is why we decided to put together this blog post to help answer any topline questions and share with you our personal experience when applying for the spousal visa.
*Please note: All prices and timelines will be based on the 2020-2021 year. Prices and timelines are subject to change
USA or UK?
When we first began talking about our long term goals, our future together, and our relationship, we knew that at some point one of us would have to move. Packing up and saying goodbye to our home, family and friends would be difficult and while neither of us was extremely keen on doing so, we made our decision based on one major factor: TIME.
Seeing as though we already were separated due to the pandemic, we wanted to ensure we were apart for the least amount of time possible. With the political landscape in the US, the transition of a new president, and all the backlog of visa applications due to the pandemic, the spousal visa process for the US was taking upwards of over a year for approval. On top of that, the green cards, and the ability to work legally in the US, also had a significant backlog, taking almost a year!
Ultimately when it came down to it, the UK spousal visa process was much quicker at only 4-6 weeks. Thus, the decision was pretty much made based on that factor alone, time.
Additionally, the costs of the visa applications change yearly, so please be sure to look up the most recent fees. That being said, below are the average processing times for the spousal visa for the US and UK along with the current price for each visa!
Processing Times & Cost
USA Spousal Visa:
Processing Time: 10-13 months
Cost: Roughly $2,500 (not including lawyer fees)
UK Spousal Visa:
Processing Time: 4-6 weeks, or 1-3 months
Cost: Roughly £3,395 (not including lawyer fees)
When deciding which route to take, you truly have to analyze your specific situation and see what is best for you. Yes, the US visa may be cheaper but the requirements to meet that visa may be harder to achieve. You really have to look at your life goals, work aspects, the cost of living, where you want to live ect. It’s a huge life choice so you have to spend a lot of time thinking about your options.
Fiance Visa or Spousal Visa?
When you have a rough idea of what country you want to move to it’s time to choose the right visa. Although this blog is about the spousal visa there is another option we wanted to touch on…the fiance visa. We have all seen the show 90-day fiance and the rush it takes to get married in 90 days. This is because the fiance visa is the quickest option for most couples. For the US, the K-1 visa can be accepted within 4 months, allowing your loved one to enter the United States pretty quickly, but as the title of the show says, you only have 90 days to get married! Which at the time of writing can be extremely difficult with COVID.
I know what you may be thinking… ‘4 months! That’s not too bad!’ Well, there are some caveats when it comes to the fiance visa. First and foremost, it’s actually more expensive than the spousal visa. This is because you are still required to pay for the spousal visa once you are married. It costs £1,523 to apply for the Fiance Visa from abroad and £1,033 to apply within the UK. So this would be added on top of the spousal visa cost. The second drawback to choosing the fiance visa over the spousal visa is that if granted the fiance visa, you are not automatically granted permission to work. You have to apply for a green card which takes nearly a year to be approved. Whereas with a spousal visa, you are automatically granted the right to work once approved.
Should I Hire A Lawyer?
Now is the time to decide if you want to hire a solicitor (lawyer), or do it yourself. The answer to this will vary case by case. For us personally, we opted to use a lawyer for peace of mind, however if you feel capable enough you can definitely submit your application on your own!
We suggest that if you have a complicated application you consider hiring a lawyer to help you, we can only speak from experience, but having the help definitely left us at ease as we awaited our decision.
After reading endless amounts of blogs, watching YouTube videos and reading dozens of articles, we felt confident that we could do it ourselves, but honestly, hiring a lawyer was the best decision we ever made. From requesting all the documents that we would need to any financial proof we would have to show, our lawyer made the whole process incredibly easy. We did read horror stories of visa being rejected because a simple piece of information was missing, so having a professional hold our hand through the whole process made it totally stress free.
We’re not saying that it’s impossible to do it yourself or that you are likely to mess up a small detail. But if you have the money to hire a solicitor, you won’t regret it. When it comes to the cost of a solicitor there are plenty of numbers that go around, but on average you are looking at £800 – £2000.
What You Need For The Spousal Visa
As you’ve just read, there is a lot that goes into deciding what visa you should apply for. Once you have decided and feel clear on the direction you are going, you will need to begin planning and gathering all the necessary documentation for the visa.
For those who have been married and choosing to apply for the spousal visa, you will need to provide documents providing proof of these four major buckets.
- Proof of Relationship
- Proof of Finances
- Proof of Accommodation
- Proof that you both speak English.
Proof of Relationship
This should be relatively easy to provide and pretty straightforward. Essentially you need to prove that you are in a committed relationship with your significant other. To do this you can show any plane tickets and trips together, text messages, photos, timelines, basically any information to prove that you have been together in person and in a genuine relationship. You can also include letters from family and friends describing your relationship and that they have spent time with both you and your partner.
Proof of Finances
In order to meet the financial requirement you must be able to prove one of the following; a. Earn £18,600 a year or b. Cash saving of £62,000 or c. a combination of both, for example, if you don’t earn enough you can make the rest up with cash savings. It is important to note that if you choose to go with the cash savings route, the total amount of £62,000 must be held in a bank account under your name and must be held in an account for a minimum of 6 months prior to applying. The funds also can not at any point drop under this amount throughout the 6 month period of time! According to our lawyer, this is where most people struggle when filling out the application alone. This can oftentimes be due to the wrong documentation, payslip, or insufficient proof of funds. Thus, we were happy to have our lawyer help with this portion of the application.
Proof of Accomodation
You must also show proof that you have a stable place to live once you come over to the UK. You must show proof of utility bills or council tax bills to showcase that you have the proper living arrangements once you arrive.
English Language Requirement
For any foreigners looking to come on the spousal visa, they must also be able to pass the English language written and oral exam. If you are coming from a country such as the United States, or any other English language speaking country you are exempt from having to take this test.
Once you have all the requirements ready it’s time to send the spousal visa off! Normally the spouse applying has to apply from their home country or at least from outside the UK. Therefore, I had to return back to California to officially apply and await my decision.
When we both flew back to San Diego we were so excited and nervous to send it off. It was a point in time we will never forget, we worked so hard to get to this point. There was no looking back now. First, we had to pay and upload our documents to the government website, once that was done we got a date for my biometric appointment. At the biometric appointment, you must fill out more paperwork, get your fingerprints scanned and photo taken before shipping your passport off to the immigration offices in New York.
The process currently is taking 8-12 weeks due to the pandemic. All I can say is hang in there, it takes time but it will all be worth it in the end. We found out 11 weeks after sending it off. If you have seen our stories you will know that this was the biggest day of our lives, Hanna was shaking and I was nervously waiting. Hanna opened the letter and we got ACCEPTED !!!
The day I received my visa was one of the happiest, most fulfilling days of my life. It was such an exciting day for us, no more waiting, no more long distance, we could finally spend our lives together!
I hope this blog was helpful for anyone considering, or looking into applying for a spousal visa. If you have any more personal, or specific questions feel free to leave a comment down below and we will get back to you!
Literally such an exciting day for us, no more waiting, no more questioning yourself, no more long-distance, the UK spousal visa process is done! we could finally spend our lives together!
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