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 Behaviour Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She has been training dogs professionally since 2007, and is the Head Coach for Dogs Trust Dog School Nottinghamshire. She met Chris on a trip to England in 2013, Married him on New Year's Eve - celebrating 2016 as husband and wife!