I’ve been wanting to craft the perfect way to describe our experience with the spouse visa for a while now. I think the idea of wanting it to be perfect and writing it in the most effective way has hindered me from writing this post at all. In all actuality this experience was one of the hardest I’ve ever done in my life and I have yet to write something so personal on this blog. But here it goes, imperfections and all. It was super helpful and comforting for me to read the stories of other people who were going through the same thing, so I hope that this can be that source of comfort for someone else.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, or in any position to give legal advice. I am simply sharing our story.
To backtrack just a little let me start by explaining the love of my life is a British citizen, living in the UK and I was from Cleveland, Ohio. We decided to start our new marriage and life living in England. As young people just trying to survive and muddle our way through this thing called life, we were very uneducated about the whole process of moving countries and everything that it entailed. In our first attempt, I packed up my entire life in two suitcases and flew to London. No visa, return ticket, or money. Do NOT do this. I was promptly refused entry into the U.K. and had to return to the United States after spending 8 hours being detained. This was the lowest point of my life. I had left everything in the United States, my apartment, job, I had given away virtually all of my furniture. Thankfully, I had left my job in good terms and my boss allowed me to come back to work. I was able to return to my apartment and my mom helped me get all of my things back.
My then fiancé and I racked our brains trying to figure out what we should do next. Our next attempt was a visitor’s visa, that would allow me to visit the U.K. Our thinking was that we could get married while I was on the visitor’s visa and then apply for me to stay in the U.K. Also, do NOT do this. Our visitor’s visa was refused. As it turns out, you cannot marry in the U.K. on a visitor’s visa. This visa is namely for people who intend to just visit the U.K for a short period. You need to submit things like, what you plan to do while visiting, bank statements or something of the sort proving you can support yourself while visiting, also you must show some sort of proof that you intend to return to your home country. We had only provided some of these evidences, again we were very uneducated about this process. Do not be like us.
Devastation hit again. For those who don’t know, being in a long-distance relationship is hard enough on its own. So, to add on the extra stresses of being denied entry on two occasions now, was even more stressful for us. We finally resolved to speak with a lawyer. I met with a lawyer in my city and left feeling worse than before I went in. The lawyer advised that I would most likely never be able to enter the U.K. because of the two different refusals I had. I remember feeling hopeless. It’s lucky my husband is a much stronger hearted person than I am, he never gave up hope and assured me that we would find a way no matter what.
It’s funny how things work out. We ended up changing gears completely and married in the United States. I’m so happy that we did, the closest people to me were able to attend and it was the most magical day of my life. After the wedding, my husband and I decided that he would meet with a lawyer in the U.K. to get a realistic look on what our chances were for me to be there with him before we started the process for my husband to move to U.S.
The UK Spousal Visa
My husband met with a lawyer, or solicitor if you’re a Brit. She assured us that each application is looked at on its own merit. That as long as we provided all the necessary documentation, we should have no problem obtaining a Spousal Visa for me. So, after much deliberation we decided to give it a go.
We started pulling together all the necessary documentation in January. We needed things like bank statements, an agreement from the landlord, a housing evaluation, pay stubs and letter from my husband’s employer, our marriage license and wedding photos as well as photos showing that we’d actually met in person. By April we had all the documentation and funds we needed to process our application. After submitting the application with the help of our lawyer, all that was left was for me was to attend what is called a biometric appointment. All you do here is have your fingerprints taken, passport sized photo is taken and a list of your weight, height and things of that nature. I remember thinking after I left the appointment, that we had made it. That the hardest part was over. I was wrong.
About ten days later we received an email from the UK Home Office that our application was currently being processed, that it would take 12 weeks to process and we would receive an email once a decision had been made. Keep in mind that the 12 weeks only takes into account business days and excludes weekends and holidays. So, 12 weeks is really 16 weeks.
The Wait Begins
These 16 weeks were the hardest weeks in my entire life. They were much more stressful than the months we spent gathering all the evidence. I think it’s the feeling of being left totally in the dark. There is no way to track your application, no way to see what stage it’s at and no way of knowing what’s going on with it. I mean even when I order pizza from Papa John’s I can see when my pizza goes from baking to boxing to when it’s on its way to my house. This was not the case with our visa.
Every morning I would wake up and check my email to see if a decision had been made. It was agony. You send off your application with the hopes that it would be approved, but then you’re left waiting. Every day you wonder if an officer would make a decision on your application today. Maybe today would be the day the rest of your life would be decided. I spent my days going crazy wondering if everything was okay with our application, wondering if our evidence was good enough or if we made an error on one of forms.
Finally, after 16 long weeks we received an email that a decision had been made on our application. As if the process isn’t hard enough, when you finally get an email saying a decision has been made, the email doesn’t say whether or not your application has been accepted or not. What happens is that, the UK Home Office mails your application and supporting evidence back to you and if your application has been accepted, your passport will now contain a shiny new vignette sticker stating your entry clearance into the UK.
The Decision Finally Arrives
When my documents finally arrived, I opened it with my husband on Facetime to find a letter stating that our visa application had been successful. After all of our attempts, all of our hard work and weeks of waiting. I was finally on my way to starting our new life in the UK.