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.
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 £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 £953.
There is a £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.
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!).