Visas and Decisions: To Stay Or Go

Visa Paperwork

Editors update: since the time of writing the UK visa guidance on accommodation has been changed. The accommodation requirement now allows two people living as a couple (not necessarily married) to share the same room.

There’s going to come a point in your relationship where you need to make the decision to plan for your future or break up. You don’t have the luxury of always being around each other in Long Distance Relationships (LDR) and because of this, one day you may say to yourself “The distance isn’t worth the wait”. This may be something you decide for yourself, or this may be something the two of you mutually agree on. Regardless, just be true to yourself and your happiness. If you would rather part ways then you need to be honest with yourself and your partner and tell them.

If you decide that you want to remain together you need to have a deep discussion about who is going to make the move over, when do you feel it’s time to move in together, are you going to get married? If you live in different countries, you can’t just pack up your things and expect that you can move right in without any troubles. You need to apply for a Visa, and be approved to live with your partner. Each country has their own specific rules and regulations, so make sure you read the details with much consideration.

Chris and I on holiday, before we apply for any visas.

Chris and I on holiday, before we apply for any visas.

Christopher and I have had this discussion many times. The two of us want to be together forever, so we’ll be applying for a Fiancé Visa after he has maintained a steady job for at least 6 months in England. We both are willing to live in either country, USA or UK, as long as we can be together we’re happy. We chose to apply to live in England, because we believe he’ll have better work opportunities there coming directly out of University.  By the time we apply for the Fiancé Visa we’ll have been dating for over 2 years, which we feel is an adequate amount of time before we apply for the Visa.

Going through border patrol without a visa can be a pain.

Going through border patrol without a visa can be a pain.

The requirements of the Fiancé Visa are pretty steep. The worst being (In our opinion):

The application expires in 30 days

First and foremost you have to pay well over £1000 to obtain the Fiancé Visa. The application on it’s own is very thick. You are expected to turn in lots of documents supporting your relationship and proving why you (the foreigner) are worthy of being accepted into the country. You’ll also need documents from your Fiancé too! Gathering up documents like your passport, bank statements, work history, health history,  and make photo copies of each one but still provide the master copy (certified) and the photo copy can take time to obtain, especially if you do not have them all on hand!

It also includes that you must send in your passport (an active one, but they’ll want you to submit old expired ones too!) So you could be without your current passport for a couple of months until they accept or decline your application. If you do not submit your completed application within 30 days, it expires. Then you must reapply and pay the same application fee again!

The £18,600 p.a. financial requirement

£18,600 is the minimum financial requirement that the sponsor (Christopher) has to earn, in order to sponsor me to come into the UK. It would be higher if we had any children, but we don’t and will not for quite a while after we are married. We are allowed to submit pay stubs that Chris receives from work to prove within six months, he has earned at least £9,300, half of the yearly required income. But anything less than that, then we will not be able to apply for the application since he doesn’t meet the minimum financial requirement. There is lots of controversy around this.

Lots of couples and families have been forced apart because the native resident from the UK (the sponsor) doesn’t earn the minimum of £18,600. In 2013 the UK High Court felt that £18,600 minimum financial requirement was ‘unjustified and disproportionate’. The UK Home Office filed an appeal against the judgment in July 2013.

In March 2014 this appeal was heard in the Court of Appeal, judgement is still currently awaiting. We were told that we might hear more by May of 2014, but we have yet to hear a final decision wether the minimum financial requirement will actually be lowered or remain the same. Until then, we keep our fingers crossed for good news!

Chris and I have to prove we have met in real life

Not only do we need to provide photographs, Emails, and Skype logs, but we need to have written statements from our friends or family stating that they have in fact seen us together in person, and whether or not they feel we are a good match for each other. (Pick your family and friends wisely!)

I cannot work for 6 months

This is going to be difficult, I can’t even apply for jobs at this point! I’m 25 right now, and I have only ever gone a week of being unemployed. I started working when I was 15 years old. So to be told I can’t work, can’t bring in an income to help provide for the duration of our Fiancé Visa, makes it very stressful on me.

To make up for the fact that I cannot work for a while (although Chris doesn’t feel I need to do this) I am going to be saving up as much money as I can before I move over to put into savings that we can dip into weekly for any expenses that we may need. So I can at least feel like I’m still contributing somehow until I can find a job after we’re married!

The accommodation requirement

While researching the accommodation requirements we have learned that there are significantly strict accommodation requirements. The house/ apartment we live in during the course of the visa must have at least one room per un-married person (excluding kitchens, bathrooms & hallways), else it is considered to be overcrowded and not abide by minimal health requirements. There needs to be one bedroom (or living room) per un-married person. For me I thought this was very odd. I could understand this requirement for those who are not planning to be married. Like students on Student Visas or Workers on Work Visas.

Chris and I on holiday, before we apply for any visas.

Chris and I on holiday, before we apply for any visas.

But with the Fiancé Visa, you must marry before the visa expires! The Visa is only going to permit you 6 months of residency unless your marry! So here we are forced to get a home with more rooms than we need (space isn’t so much of the issue, it’s the cost. Bigger accommodation generally equals higher costs. We’ll already be penny pinching for the wedding!) when the Fiancé Visa implies that our intention is to get married! okay okay, rant over!

We have chosen to get married because we couldn’t imagine a future without each other in it. There is no right or wrong decision. As long as you’re happy in the end is all that matters. Just realise that dating long distance is expensive when you arrange for transportation and hotel stays, especially if you do it several times a year.

Chris and I have learned that we really struggle emotionally if we go more than 12 weeks apart. We realise we are very fortunate being able to see each other for a couple of weeks about 5 times a year. We work really hard, and save up as much money as we can so we can make it happen, because seeing each other is our top priority over frivolous spending.

I will be one of the first people to tell you that LDR’s are not that fun, and are a bit of an emotional roller coaster with good days and bad days. You’ll spend most of your days missing each other and reminiscing about your previous days you shared together. Meaning, if you are a person who can’t handle spending more days apart from their partner than they do spend together in an entire year, then LDR aren’t meant for you. I don’t like that the amount of time we do spend together in person doesn’t even add up to half of the amount of time we spend apart.

But knowing that our end goal is to get married and spend the rest of our lives together in England, is what motivates me to keep on going. No matter the distance, Christopher is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to be with him forever.

If we can survive the distance, we can take on anything.

-Chelsea

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Chelsea Martin

Chelsea Martin is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She has been training dogs professionally since 2007. She met Chris on a trip to England in 2013, Married him on New Year's Eve - celebrating 2016 as husband and wife!

  • This was sooo helpful, im thankful you wrote this piece. It is very inspirational as I too am in a relationship with a british man <3 heh the process as ive researched is very daunting, and such a downer at times. The process for the visa I mean. And I swear they think us couples are made out of money. But I am so glad you two are making it work! It serves as a message for all of us couples out here waiting for that time to make the next visit permanent. Thank you again for writing this piece, it truly is a very important step for an LDR, and not many discuss it.

    • Chris Martin

      We’re so glad you found this helpful! You’re right, it is very daunting, it’s something we have been struggling ourselves. And there doesn’t seem to be a place where all the information is together, free and up to date. We’re just doing our best, like all long distance couples, working to close the distance. Visas might not be the most glamourous topics, but they are important and, unfortunately, confusing! Wishing you the best of luck in closing the distance

  • Tim Sullivan

    Hi Chris and Chelsea!

    My girlfriend and I are also trying to apply for our fiance visa. I had no idea at all about the 2 bedroom requirement, which sounds crazy :( …we were meant to be renting a flat from a relative that’s only one bedroom, which I guess we might not be able to do now :( …do you have a link or anything where I could read up on the 2 bedroom/accomodation requirements at all? Thank you!

    Great blog btw! …and good luck with your own application! :)

    • Hi Tim, thanks for getting in touch! The information on the accommodation is quite tricky to find. However, on the UK Government website there is the Maintenance and Accommodation (MAA) Requirements which must be met for any visa (whether it is a fiancé, work or spousal one). Section 12 of this document details the situation on overcrowding. A house or apartment is considered overcrowded if two or more unmarried people must share the same room.

      It is important to note that this states “must” share the same room. This means that you are welcome to share a room, but there must be available space for you not to. I would not rule out the one bedroom apartment though, as according to the Housing Regulation Act (referenced in this document) any bedroom, living or dining room over 50 square feet can be included in this count, only bathrooms and kitchens are excluded. Therefore, if your apartment had both a separate bedroom and living room you would still meet the accommodation requirement.

      The link to the MAA document containing all the details is here.

      Hope this helps and good luck with your application!

      • Tim

        Thank you so much! This was super helpful!!! Thankfully it does have a living room over 50sq ft so looks like we’re okay! :D

  • Grace

    hi Chelsea, your blog is very inspiring and helpful. I want to ask if you have any idea on how much money the applicant will need to met the financial requirement for the fiancee visa? thanks.. :)

    • Hi Grace,

      I’m so happy to hear that our blog is giving you some helpful guidance. It’s what we hoped to provide to our readers, knowing how tedious and stressful this visa process can be. The financial minimum requirement only applies to the sponsor of the applicant. If financial records from the applicant are provided it’s usually just proof that the applicant is eligible and or capable of making an earning. The main concern of the UK government is to ensure that any applicant can be fully supported by their sponsor, without aid from the state (i.e. claiming additional benefits).

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

  • Anna

    This post was so helpful! I’m considering the fiancé visa– I know you have to reapply for a marriage visa once you are actually married but do you also have to pay another fee? I wonder if the fiancé visa makes sense or if it’s better to go ahead and just apply for a marriage visa? Thanks for the insight!

    • Chris Martin

      Hi Anna, yep – once you are married you would have to pay for the next visa (known as the spouse visa). The fiance visa is the more expensive route, and a lot of couples do apply straight for the spouse visa. However, its worth bearing in mind that if you do want to go the spouse visa route, you will either need to get married in a country other than the UK, or apply for a marriage visitors visa, get married in the UK, return to your home country and then re-apply for the spouse visa. The marriage visitor visa costs £85 and lasts for 6 months (http://bit.ly/1JUYYg2).

      Hope this helps,
      Chris

  • Hi Chelsea and Chris,
    Congratulations on your persistent endeavours you should be proud of yourselves!! I’m in the same dilemma at the moment. I recently proposed to my amazing girlfriend before her work visa from Australia expired and she went back home. Now it’s very difficult and stressful for me. I miss her terribly and want to get her back asap!! It’s so confusing though. I think I make enough as a waiter, or will do in the 6 month period including Christmas but I’m living with my parents currently to save more money and figure out which visa to get. I’m starting to think we should just go on holiday to Cyprus or something and then she could go back and apply for the spousal visa?? Seems ridiculous shelling out a grand to get a 6 month countdown for the wedding!!! Maybe I’m not as organised as some people but I’m really struggling for a solution. Your info was brilliant though and I really appreciate the time and effort you’ve both taken to help others in similar situations. Thank you and I wish you both all the happiness in the world!!
    Leighton.

    • Chris Martin

      Hi Leighton,

      Thank you for your kind words, and congratulations on your engagement! In your situation where money is tight, I think marrying abroad and applying directly for the spouse visa will be the best option for you. It will be cheaper, and less stressful, to get married outside of the UK and then apply as a married couple. Not only are accommodation requirements less strict in this route, but your application should be helped by the fact you are already married (plus you don’t have to pay £1000 for a 6 month period in which your fiance is unable to work).

      So yes, I think you are along the right lines. Best of luck with your application and let us know how you get on,
      Chris

      • Thank you so much for the quick response Chris. As you can imagine or already experienced first hand this is an impossibly difficult situation! Stacey and I appreciate all the brilliant advice and info!! Keep up the good work and keep us informed on your similar fairytale!!

  • paul

    I think you might be supplying incorrect information about accommodation. Only one room is required for a couple living as Husband + Wife ? Re-read the UK gvt text.

    • Hi Paul,

      We are very familiar with the government text. You are correct that only one room is required per married couple which we state clearly in our article on the accommodation requirement, as well as in this article:

      “There needs to be one bedroom (or living room) per un-married person.”

      However, because this post covers both the fiancé and spouse visa we must also talk about the one room per person requirement on the fiancé visa as so not to mislead anyone.

      All the best,
      Chris

      • This is one of the many reasons we opted to marry in the US first, then apply for the spouse visa a few months later.

      • paul

        Hi Chris, i think there might be a misunderstanding about the language here. ‘Living as husband and wife’ does not mean as a Married Couple, it means exactly what it says. If you were correct, it would mean that the UK government was rolling back the history of couples to sometime around 1950, when living together before marriage was considered morally wrong. I don’t believe the UK govt is still taking this position ! However, i’m happy to do more research on this and get back to you soonish.

        • paul

          Hi again, take a look at Post 4 of this authoratitive thread –
          http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/787968-fiance-visa-for-uk/
          One room for THEIR – ie, the un-married couple’s – Exclusive use. It is very serious if you are putting out incorrect information isn’t it ?

          • Hi Paul,

            We try to be as accurate as possible. however, I would like to point out this is not a visa website, nor is it an immigration site- it is a personal blog. We are very clear that our articles are based on our understanding of the laws. We don’t have any legal training and are only able to update the site in our spare time.

            At the time this article was written, which was a while ago now, our information was – to our knowledge, correct. I have looked at the IDI document since your comments and the text now reads:

            “The room standard is contravened under the Act when the number of persons sleeping in a dwelling and the number of rooms available as sleeping accommodation is such that two persons aged 10 or over of the opposite sex who are not living together as a couple must sleep in the same room.”

            Again, to stress – this was not the wording of the document at the time of writing. We will need to update the site to reflect this.

            I thank you for bringing this to our attention. I only wish you could have done so in a less accusing way.

            We are not legal professionals. We do not run a visa specific blog, we write a blog in which we talk about our experiences as a couple. We are also very clear that our information may not always be correct as it is based on our understanding only. we try to keep information up to date, but with such a large topic that changes so frequently, I hope you can appreciate this is difficult to do in our spare time alone.

          • paul

            Hi Chris – no problem here – just trying to help everybody. I have lived in Thailand for 7 years with my partner and spent many a dull hour trying to keep up to date with the ever-changing UK vis rules ! I fully appreciate yours is not an official guide, but i was seeing it from a newbies point-of-view, who might rush into marriage abroad solely because they thought they would need 2 rooms in order to enter the UK as an Engaged couple. Good luck for the future !

          • Thank you – I appreciate the response. As I said, we do try to keep our info up to date, we will work on getting this updated also. I’m glad you can appreciate the difficulty in keeping up to date with the rules. Good luck to yourself & your partner to the future also!

  • Dênia

    Hi, Chelsea. Reading this made me very emotional! You said exactly what I feel and what I’ve been through this past 2 years. My fiance and I feel the same and we want to spend the rest of our lives together as well. We are starting the huge road on this Visa situation now and I truly believe that everything will be fine. I am from Brazil and he is a British citizen. Best regards! Dênia.