Transitioning from a Student Visa to a UK Spouse Visa

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When my husband and I got married, I was on a UK Tier 4 Student Visa. After we got married, I wanted to transition into the Spouse Visa, which would allow me to stay on a more permanent basis, and be able to work without restrictions.

When I was getting ready to apply for the visa, my husband and I did a lot of research. We read about other peoples’ experiences, but I noticed that most of them were years old. I thought I’d do a post about my experience, in hopes that it would prove helpful for someone who’s now looking to apply!

Step 1: Fill out the application

The spouse visa application is a 50 page beast. It may look intimidating, but it wasn’t actually as bad as we thought because we got to skip huge chunks of pages that are only relevant if you have dependents.

Supporting documents

The application asks for a lot of supporting documents to prove that you’re married, meet the financial requirements, and things like that. Here’s a list of the documents we chose to include:

  • The completed application.
  • My passport and my husband’s passport.
  • Two passport-sized photos of me, one of my husband.
  • My husband’s bank statements from the last 6 months.
  • A letter from my husband’s employer, confirming his employment.
  • My husband’s employment contract, which states the length of employment and his salary.
  • Our marriage contract.
  • A collage of photos of us together. We chose to throw this in because I read about some other people including photos or emails to prove a “genuine relationship”.

Step 2: Booking an appointment

With this process, I had two options:

  • I could send my application and supporting documents in the post. This costs Ā£578 and the turnaround time seems to usually be about 4-5 weeks, but can be as many as 12!
  • I could book the “premium, same-day service”. This means physically going into the Home Office, turning in my application, then wait for them to give me an answer that same day. This costs Ā£953.

There is a Ā£375 difference between the two. Due to time constraints (and my own impatience), I went with option #2. So I booked an appointment at the Croydon office in London.

Step 3: Turning in the application

We arrived at the Croydon home office at about 12:30. We waited around outside before finally going in at about 12:50. We went through security, which was airport style with the bags going through x-ray machines and people going through a metal detector. But it was super quick. We then proceeded to registration, where they briefly checked some details on my application and my passport before returning the documents and giving me a ticket number. We were then told to wait.

The waiting room (which was PACKED, but also had a Costa Coffee) had numerous TV screens on the walls that cycled through the various application stages, such as: Arrival, Awaiting Biometrics, Awaiting Biometrics Verification, Awaiting Review, Under Review, Completed. Each stage had the associated ticket numbers below it, so as an example, we could see all the numbers that were “Awaiting Review”.

At this point, we could confirm a few things:

  • The different stages of the process
  • The average turnaround time was 2-2½ hours

At 1:20, my exact appointment time, my number was called to one of the check-in desks. My husband and I just sat at the desk for about 15-20 minutes while an employee inputted my application into the computer. She didn’t speak to us at all, except to confirm that the name I put down was my maiden name.

After that, we were told to wait in a new area to get my biometrics taken.

We waited like an hour.

IT issues delayed the process

Turns out, the Home Office was having “technical problems”. They take peoples’ biometrics, then run them against police databases to check your records. They could take the biometrics, but they were having problems communicating with the police databases. So for a while, they stopped taking peoples’ biometrics entirely. When they finally started up again, they did so suuuuuper slowly.

After I finally got my biometrics taken, my husband and I went to lunch. We then returned to the Home Office at around 3:15, careful to get back before the public doors closed at 4:00pm.

When we got back, we saw that my ticket number was “Awaiting Review”. This means it was not yet under review, but was waiting to be passed on to a case worker. So, we waited.

And waited.
And waited.

My number NEVER moved. Numbers after mine got moved into “Under Review” (and even “Completed”) before mine moved at all.

We waited for 4 hours!

Finally, at 5:30, we saw some movement. My number was still in “Under Review”, but they called me to the collection desk. When I arrived, I was informed that my application could not be completed today because of their technical issues. They returned all of my documents and explained that my application had been reviewed except for the IT parts, and they would send the decision in the post the following day. They also said I would be refunded the “premium, same-day” fee since I would not be getting my answer the same day.

As for the status of my application, my husband and I speculated. Since they returned my application, passports, and other supporting documents, that must have meant that they read and reviewed them. If there was a problem with that part, they would have flat out denied me. So we figured, I was going to be approved, but they were waiting for the biometrics to come back and confirm that I wasn’t on a no-fly list or wasn’t a serial killer or something.

So, we waited.

Three days came and went, and still no letter. I was starting to get a bit annoyed.

But finally, on Friday, I got a letter in the post! There was no, “Congratulations, your application has been accepted!” message. It was actually quite vague. They just jumped right ahead and said, “We’ll be sending your biometrics permit in the post. It should arrive within 7-10 days.” My application was obviously accepted, I just found it quite odd that it didn’t actually say the words “accepted” ANYWHERE in the letter.

I got my permit in the post about a week later.

Things we learned

  • The public doors close at 4:00pm. That means they will not let any non-employee into the building after 4:00pm.
  • They have to give everyone some kind of answer that day.. even if that answer is, “We need to perform more checks on your application, so we’ll send your decision by post tomorrow.”
  • If you do not get an answer that same day, you will get refunded the premium fee.
  • The numbering system is bullshit. Sometimes when your number is “Awaiting Review”, it’s actually probably “Under Review”, because we saw numerous applications switch straight from “Awaiting Review” to “Completed”.
  • The order the numbers appear in on the screen have no bearing on what order the numbers are processed in. So just because you’re listed first on “Awaiting Review” does not mean you will be the next number “Under Review”.
  • You do not need to include pages and pages of Skype logs or email conversations with your spouse (it may be a good idea if you’re unmarried though).

I feel like I got a pretty good deal!

Although the IT issues were annoying, I think I lucked out. I ended up getting my decision within a few days, but didn’t have to pay the premium costs for it (assuming my refund comes through!).

Do you have any experience applying for a visa? How was the process?

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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    1. Me too! šŸ˜€ Phew. I’m glad it’s over with.

      Now we just have to work on getting the US equivalent for Coding God. Bahaha.

    1. My thoughts exactly!! I think that’s what annoyed me the most. We learned about the IT issues very early in the day (at like 1:45). So surely they could have just told me right off the bat:

      “We may not be able to come to a decision today. You’re welcome to go home and we’ll send you the decision by post tomorrow.”

      But nooope!

      At least I wasn’t the worst one. We saw one lady who was one of the first people to arrive (at like 8 or 9am) and she didn’t get called to collect her documents until shortly before we did (around 5pm). She waited like 8 or 9 hours!! O_O

  1. I applied in Canada for a similar visa: the permanent residency for sponsored spouse. The procedure took a very long time : two years, to be exact. And I’m not rounding it up: it really took twenty four months. It was nerve-wracking because we almost got zero feedback during the whole time. I got one letter a full YEAR after my application to tell us that my charming-prince was approved as a sponsor, then another one six months later to tell me that “they took a decision” (but didn’t tell me which one) and then another letter in August asking me to go to Immigration Canada and mentioning that, by the way, I was approved!
    In terms of cost, it was kind of the same. I paid 550$ CAD for the application and 490$ when I was accepted. It makes a total of around 650Ā£.
    In any case, congratz, you must be relieved!

    1. OMG!!! Two years?!?! I assume you had to send in documents (like passports)? How long did they hang onto those for?

      1. Fortunately, for the application, they ask you for photocopies of your passport. Some documents can’t be copies but it’s the kind of document you can have remade (birth certificate, police certificate…). On the day they ask you to come at Immigration Canada to finally approve you, they check your passport. I guess they are used to be so slow and they know they can’t take your ID for so long!
        Even after I got approved at Immigration Canada, it took 8 weeks to receive my permanent resident card.
        I was so glad when it was all done. Finally!

        1. Wow. I’m floored by how long that took. Even the “slow” version of the process in the UK is loads faster than that. I think the average turnaround time is like 4-8 weeks. But this is insane!

          Lucky they didn’t need your actual passport. If that were me and they had that for like 2 years, I’d be screwed! šŸ˜›

  2. I guess they are underfunded and overwhelmed… At some point, they had entirely stopped the PR submission for sponsored parents and grand-parents. At the moment, the delay is 100 months! I mean, I’m wondering if some applicants pass away before they read their application!!!! šŸ˜€

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