Our Secret American Wedding

On December 31st 2015, Chelsea and I held a small legal wedding ceremony while I had visited her in her hometown in Washington state. As long time followers of our blog might already know, it was never our original intention to marry in America. In fact, for nearly a year, we have been planning our dream wedding at The Alverton, in the UK. So why did we decide to marry earlier than anticipated in the US?

The first, and most important thing to note, is that this wedding is not replacing our UK wedding. We have been referring to this legal ceremony as our visa wedding which in international long distance relationships is a lot more common than not. Particularly when applying for a UK settlement visa, a visa ceremony prior to application can be a significant benefit. The reason for this is that between the two partner visa options (Fiancé & Spouse), those applying for a spouse visa (i.e. couples that are already married) are viewed significantly more favourably than those that are not. This is because marriage is much stronger proof of the relationship than evidence that the couple plan to marry.

Another reason that helped us come to this decision is the financial implications of applying directly for a Spouse visa, compared to applying for a Fiancé visa and later transferring to a Spouse visa. The cost of applying for a Fiancé visa is £649. However, by the end of the 6 months, if the couple wish to remain together in the UK, they must transfer to the Spouse visa – which costs an extra £649, plus a £600 IHS fee. The total for this route comes to £1898. Couples that opt to have a visa wedding, such as we did, have the option to apply directly for the Spouse visa directly & much quicker – bringing the total of this route to £1249.

Visa Weddings & ‘Real’ Weddings

In addition to making the visa application process easier & more financially viable – there were a few other considerations we took into account when deciding to have a visa wedding. One of these was the impact it would have on our ‘real’ wedding – the one we have been planning in August.

Ultimately, we concluded that being together transcended the way we wanted to do it. We love each other and will do whatever it takes to be together in person. Sacrificing the wedding of our dreams happening as we originally intended was one of the things we would do to improve our chances of being together & starting to build a life together after being separated by distance for so long.

Of course,  it is important to remember that this does not mean we won’t be having our dream wedding in August. We still refer to it as our ‘real’ wedding because that is how it feels to us. In December 2015, we held our small legal ceremony, and in August 2016 we will be holding our ‘real’ wedding. This is the one we want to have the emotional impact. It is after this one that we will feel married. Keeping the visa wedding small, intimate and short is one of the ways we created this separation.

For us (and others in similar situations) a visa wedding is cheap. We asked a family friend to perform the ceremony in a public park. The only costs for us were the wedding license and our clothes for the day – which again, were not formal wedding dresses & suits to help create the separation between this and our big day in August. Because visa weddings can be so cheap, they help save money in the long run. We spent a total of less than £60 on the visa ceremony, but saved ourselves a £649 Fiancé visa application. This is money we can put towards our real wedding in August, to help it feel even more special.

But just because the visa ceremony was cheap, and we have been creating separation between it and our ‘real’ wedding in August – this doesn’t mean that it is any less genuine. We are still married in the eyes of the law. And the day was still special to us. It is, after all, the day we became husband and wife! There was no big celebration like we will have in August, but the intimacy of the ceremony created a different, unique and personal atmosphere that we will remember forever.

Multiple Weddings

Before holding our own visa wedding, we looked around online to see how common this actually was. What we found was surprising. Multiple wedding ceremonies are an astoundingly normal aspect of a lot of international long distance relationships. There were three commonly cited reasons for this. The first was similar to ours. To obtain the required visa, the couple must already be married – but maintaining an international long distance relationship is expensive. So, to save money, couples often hold a small ceremony immediately, and then a larger wedding day after they have obtained their visa and are able to sufficiently save.

The second reason is where two different cultures are involved. It is not uncommon in international relationships, for couples to come from different cultures, traditions or religions. While the couple make their own path through this, the decision is often taken to hold two separate weddings – one rooted in each culture to honor each individually.

The third reason is much more practical. In extreme long distance relationships, the cost of travel for come can be too high. While some couples choose to wed in the middle, there are still plenty of situations where even meeting in the middle leads to high travel costs. So instead, the best way forward is to hold multiple wedding ceremonies – one in each country (or city), so that each family is equally as able to celebrate with the happy couple.

In the end, the decision is down to you and what you feel is right. Multiple weddings are an option. They are an option that are frequently used by long distance couples to overcome challenges – whether those are visa, culture or distance related (or even all three). And remember, if you do choose to have multiple weddings – it means more anniversaries too. Each will be special in their own way. You can choose to select one to celebrate, or take advantage of all three. Plus if you forget one… you don’t have to wait a whole year until the next!

Navigating Family Drama

We were fortunate when planning our visa wedding. We did not encounter any family drama, or those that told us not to do it However, we know that it can be a real risk. One of the reasons a lot of people are hesitant about the idea of holding a visa wedding is how their family might react to it. It is an understandable concern. However, it is not your family that is in a long distance relationship – it is you.

Maintaining an international LDR does not have the same rules as a traditional relationship. You can’t see each other when you want, you need  to spend a lot of money on travel to do so. You might be in different timezones or hemispheres. You might only have a few hours of each day to talk. And most of all –  you don’t have any physical contact for the majority of your relationship.

In long distance weddings it is no different. Because of the added complications of the visa & distance, the rules are not the same. But holding a visa wedding is not seen as an elopement. It is a necessary step to being together. You are not hiding from your family – you are only doing what you have to. Sometimes you only have one chance to get married & advance your visa application. When that chance arises, you need to take it – because it might be months or years before the next. Sometimes that means sacrifices have to be made. People you wish could be there might not be able to. It is an unfortunate truth about LDR marriages – but one that cannot be avoided.

If you are concerned about how your family might react to the news of a visa wedding, one of the steps you can take is explaining how and why you came to the decision. For those not in a long distance relationship, it can be hard to understand the need to marry legally before your big day. It is obvious to us living it, but not necessarily those that are not.

One of the best ways to explain your decision is to put together a short video – announcing your marriage, but also answering any questions family members might have. We, ourselves, compiled a 10 minute video that breaks down the visa process for our friends & family and distributed it to wedding guests. The message is: this doesn’t replace our August wedding, it is a necessary step in our relationship. We break down how & why we chose a visa ceremony, and put to rest any fears that the wedding in any way diminished our big day in August.

Our Visa Wedding

So what exactly happened on December 31st 2016? This is the (brief) story of our visa wedding. The day started similar to those before it. I was visiting Chelsea in America – we woke up together in her apartment. We left almost immediately to take care of the last minute arrangements. We stopped by a store to buy a small bouquet of flowers, as well as pick up a small breakfast. Upon our return to the apartment, Chelsea packed a small bag. At 11am, her uncle arrived – who would be preparing for the wedding with me. At the same time, Chelsea left to prepare with her Aunt.

Almost 2 hours later, just before 1pm, Chelsea’s Uncle Doug & I set off in his car. He gave me a short pep talk in his car, as we drove to Zuanich Point Park – a waterfront public park which we had selected for our ceremony. We unloaded 8 chairs from the car and walked them over to the end of the path where we would be holding our ceremony. As we headed back to the car, our officiant (a family friend) arrived. We greeted him and handed him bottle of whiskey… the only payment he would accept!

As we begun to set up the final touches (party poppers & gold streamers for a New Year’s Eve theme) – our guests began to arrive. There were 8 guests in total. Family that we knew could not make it to the UK wedding, plus Chelsea’s maid of honor. When we recieved word that Chelsea had arrived, we all took our places & her Uncle Doug left to walk her down the aisle.

She arrived, and she was beautiful. I can barely remember much of the words that were spoken during the ceremony – my heart was pounding so loudly in my chest. I remember reading my vows. I remember Chelsea reading hers (she cried)! I remember exchanging the rings, after almost dropping them, and the kiss. That was it! Only 15 minutes after she had arrived, we were married.

The Wedding Ceremony

The Wedding Ceremony

It was a surreal feeling as we stood by the waterfront, taking pictures with family. We were actually married. The whole ceremony had been a blur. I remember feeling the weight of the ring on my finger… it was going to be an adjustment getting used to that. But I was happy. The weather was perfect (surprisingly for an outdoor mid-December wedding). I had just married the love of my life. Nothing could bring me down.

The Newly Announced Chris & Chelsea Martin

The Newly Announced Chris & Chelsea Martin

After taking photos, we all took to our cars and drove our separate ways. We would be meeting at 4pm at a local restaurant, Mambo Italiano, for a meal to celebrate. In the meantime, Chelsea & I headed to a local cupcake parlour with her maid of honor Amber and her partner Ian. On the way, we drove past an ivy heart on the side of a building. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. So, of course, we used it as a backdrop to a few extra wedding day photos.

A Post Ceremony Photo Opportunity

A Post Ceremony Photo Opportunity

At dinner, we were joined by our wedding guests. We ate well, and enjoyed good company. It was a great end to the day. After the meal, Chelsea’s Aunt Jayna produced a wedding cake she had baked for us earlier. Chelsea and I attempted to cut it, though our cutting skills might not have been perfect. We distributed a slice to everyone, ate until we were full and thanked everyone for joining us. It had been  a long, exhilarating day. It had been small, intimate and for us – perfect.

Our Wedding Cake

Our Wedding Cake

Are you planning on having a visa wedding? Are you unsure about whether or not you should have one? We hope this post sharing our experience helped you decide! If you want to ask us a question about our day, or advice for yours – leave us a comment below, or make a post in our visa forum.

– Chris

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Chris Martin

CommonTime Head of Marketing. Responsible marketing advocate, avid technophile, part time consultant and full time husband.

  • Jade

    A huge congratulations! I am going through the grueling process of booking all the appointments needed for a wedding ceremony in England as an American fiancée, even though I have the time (with no employment), but am under the stress of getting it done before my visa expires. All the best to you both!

    • Congratulations :3 Do you mind if I ask where you are getting married? I love wedding planning!

      We are nearly complete with our wedding blessing plans. We’ve got a few more small things to finish up but we can’t do this until after I’m there. It’s been difficult trying to plan this over the past year while separated. Boo to the distance!

  • Verniece

    Congratulations Chris and Chelsea. When do you think you’ll apply for the spouse visa? If you don’t mind me asking

    • Chris Martin

      Hi Vernice,

      Thank you! We’ll be applying for our visa as soon as we can gather all of the documents required for evidence, which we hope to be by the end of February.

    • Especially before the costs raise in April! IEEEE so nervous x.x

      • Madeline

        What costs are going up? Visa costs? :(

        • Hi Madeline,

          Yes, all visa prices will be going up unfortunately. You can find a list of the price increases here: http://bit.ly/1Ha8BpB.

          All the best,
          Chris

  • Madeline

    How does this work legally? I did think I wanted to do a ceremony in America so my family could come right after I graduate college in one and a half years. Then I’d like to go straight to England and get married for real. Maybe getting married during my winter break and moving after I graduate would be a great idea! Do you have to fill out special paper work to get married in the US as a Brit?

    • Hi Madeline,

      The US wedding is the true wedding in the eyes of the law. You won’t be able to have an official wedding afterwards in the UK if you do this – but could have a wedding blessing (conducted by friend or family member). There’s no extra or special paperwork you need to fill out to get married in the US, just the standard form.

      Hope that helps,
      Chris

      • Madeline

        Thank you so much! That would be awesome. My boyfriend has been looking into it himself and said that some people say going this route (you married on a tourist visa, correct?) could possibly cause people to think you’re doing a visa scam. What are your feelings on this? Did you tell immigration when you came in that you were planning to marry? How far in advance did you plan this wedding?

        Also, congratulations!!!! It must be so exciting and now I’m excited about this potential plan for myself.

        • Hi Madeline,

          There is nothing wrong with marrying in the US on a visitor visa (or visa waiver program as we did), although there is always a risk that the border official will deny you entry to the country if they suspect you are travelling to the US to marry – as it increases the risk that you are planning to stay there illegally.

          Some people may feel as though you are trying to scam the visa system. It is definitely not the ‘traditional’ route, however there is significantly less risk if you do not plan to settle in the US. We only went this route as we knew we were planning to planning to settle in the UK afterwards.

          We did not tell the immigration officer that we intended to marry in the US and refrained from making any plans to do so until we were both in the country.

          Hopefully this helps,
          Chris

          • Madeline

            Do you think I could make the plans in advance and simply have my partner say he’s visiting? As long as they have no reason to believe we’re getting married, it should be fine? Or would someone looking through a spouse visa application want that sort of information? Because I think I might like to have my “real” ceremony in America and just a small thing in England.

          • Hi Madeline,

            Yep that is absolutely fine. Though you are not meant to plan to get married while visiting the US, we do know couples that have done so before and then settled outside of the US, so you should be fine. So long as the border official doesn’t suspect you plan to marry you’ll have no trouble. The Entry Clearance Officer looking through your UK spouse visa application won’t look at the circumstances of your wedding – only proof that it took place and was genuine.

            Though the 30/60 day rule does exist, so long as you aren’t planning on changing yours or your partner’s US visa status while in the country you should have no problems. In our situation, I was in the US for 8 days before our wedding. It would be if you didn’t leave the US at the end of the visa waiver/ tourist visa period and tried to change visa status where the 30/60 day rule comes into affect.

            Hope that helps,
            Chris

          • Madeline

            You guys are the best. I’m sorry for all the questions, but you’ve been super helpful. My partner and I are now planning to have our wedding in January. Getting past the fiance visa garbage will really lift a weight off of our shoulders! Thank you again!

          • Thank you Madeline! We’re glad we could help in some small way. All the best for your wedding, we hope it goes well for you.

          • Madeline

            Did you seek legal advice before doing this or did you just go for it?

          • Hi Madeline,

            I have a dog training client who is an Immigration Attorney here in Bellingham where I currently reside. She told me that marrying here in the US first was completely legal according to state laws without a visa (she knew he is from the UK) It’s illegal by Federal laws only if he wanted to remain here afterwards – which was not our plans. So we wen’t for it.

            I have provided a video from youtube, posted by Allan S. Lolly, another Immigration Attorney. This video discusses how couples can marry on the ESTA visa waiver programme. This is a direct quote from a comment reply he made on his video “You are welcome to marry in the U.S. before returning to the U.K. Marrying is a function of State law. Immigration is Federal law. The problem arises when the couple wants to remain in the U.S. after marriage since that becomes an immigration function. Since you have no intent to remain here, you are welcome to marry and have her immigrate to the U.K. Check the U.K. rules on spouse visa processing. Also, if you ever decide you would consider immigrating to the U.S., speak to a licensed U.S. immigration attorney such as myself about a year or so before you want to locate here.” https://youtu.be/1KF_8ElIOq0

            We hope this information helps!

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

          • Madeline

            So it wouldn’t be considered fraud to not tell an official about your plans even if you’ve hired a venue since you’re not breaking any laws, correct? If he says he’s visiting, it’s technically true. And since he’s returning home, it’s legal.

          • It’s not information I would share with the Officer willingly. Knowing that it is legal by state laws, I feel comfortable withholding that knowledge. We could choose to be completely open and honest but even if you bring all of the proof of intent to return home (e.g. work contract, lease agreement, work schedule, £££ in the bank, return ticket, etc.) The Officer could still turn anyone away.

            In my opinion, he is just visiting. What you do during his stay does not have to be explained in exact detail. Yes you will be getting married, but you’re not breaking state laws, and he’s going back home. He’s here to visit you and your family :3

          • Madeline

            Does your lawyer friend agree with that? My stepmother’s sister is a lawyer (but not an immigration lawyer) and thinks I should pay to see one, but it’s expensive and I feel like they’re not going to tell me something that I don’t already know. I’m very conflicted over whether I should plan the wedding in advance and have it be lovely or just have a courthouse wedding after he gets here. I guess I just worry a lot. Do you have any advice?

            Edit: Also, I see for NYS weddings (http://www.usmarriagelaws.com/marriage-license/new-york-state/city-town-clerks/office-requirements.shtml) you might need to put down a Social Security number. How do you do this for a foreign spouse? Was that a requirement in your state?

          • Hi Madeline,

            It’s nice to hear from you again :3 When I was with my client, working privately with her, her daughter and their adolescent puppy, we did chat for a while about my life and where it was going. I had known them for several months by then, and we often chatted after our classes about travelling and marrying a foreigner. At that time Chris and I were planning on applying for a fiancé visa and then getting married officially in the UK. She was one of the first people to tell me that it was perfectly legal to marry him in the US according to our state laws, because she wanted to make the process easier on us, especially if we knew he was going to return home fairly soon afterwards. Had out intent be to have him remain here, she did state that this was not a good route to take in order to do so.

            Originally we were going to get married at the courthouse. But my aunt asked our family friend who works for the city of Bellingham (who officiated her wedding to my uncle) and has been ordained for 10+ years, to marry us instead. We got married outside by the harbour, and it was cold! We had 8 people in attendance, 4 of which were my grandparents whom I knew could not make it over to the UK for the big wedding.

            When Christopher and I went to my local auditors office, we had to apply for our wedding license together in person. Yes, they did ask about social security numbers, but when they learned that Chris was not a US citizen, I became the primary applicant, person “A”, and he because secondary person “B”. When filling out the paperwork, it had spots for him to fill out as a non US citizen, and we were able to acknowledge on the forms through the provided answers to select the fact that only I had a Social Security Number. It did not impact our wedding license application in the least bit.

            Here is a link from one of Washington States local auditors offices, there you will also find the details on the requirements Chris and I had to fulfil (http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/recorders-office/marriage-licensing/applying-marriage-license.aspx), if you review the marriage requirements you will also find this direct quote “Applicants are not required to have a U.S. Social Security number in order to obtain a marriage license. However, one of the marriage license forms requires the inclusion of one’s Social Security number OR the applicant’s signature on a declaration that they do not have a U.S. Social Security number. This will not impair the couple’s ability to receive their marriage license.” I hope this helps.

            Here is a thread we found on visajourney that would pertain to you and your circumstances http://www.visajourney.com/forums/topic/278465-social-security-number-required-for-marriage-license/

            Ultimately if you are not comfortable getting married in the US, please do not push yourself to do it. Chris and I were able to marry here successfully, I am confident you will too, but I’m not trying to pressure you. I’m only providing you the information that I am aware of from when I researched this myself several months ago.

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

          • Madeline

            No, this is great. Thank you so much! We’re going to start our planning now and I’m so excited. We’ve been together for five years and always planned to close the distance once I graduated and this route seems perfect for us! Thank you so much!

          • I’m happy I was able to assist you and clarify your concerns. I hope that your wedding planning goes well and that you are able to enjoy it as it is a magical time :3

            Kind regards,
            Chelsea

          • Madeline

            Thank you! Just to check, my fiance for some reason isn’t happy that he needs a birth certificate and wanted me to ask you if Chris brought a birth certificate with a raised seal and his passport to get married.

            I hope I haven’t bothered you with all the questions. I’m honestly just so thankful for all your help and so excited to close the distance.

          • Hi Madeline,

            When Christopher and I applied for our wedding license in Washington State, his passport was the only government issued documentation they asked to see. We did not bring his birth certificate.

            Looking at the city clerks office website for NY they write…

            “Proper Identification:
            You and your prospective spouse must have one form of proper identification in order to apply for a Marriage License.”

            Here is their list of what they accept: http://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/about/identification.shtml

            Hopefully this will help ease everything :D

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

          • Madeline

            Thanks! I think NYC is different than the rest of NYS for some reason. I might call the city clerk again just to be sure. My local one wasn’t too clear the last time I called.

          • Madeline

            Did you seek legal advice before doing this or did you just go for it?

          • Marrying here first has definitely benefitted us. The money we save in visa application costs and not having to rent a larger home is totally worth it!

  • Taylor Martyn

    A little confused by the gov.uk website; imagine that! ;) Just wondering if you could clarify something for us. If Chelsea applies as your Spouse will she get 33 months to start with? Or does she still have to do the 6 months initially and apply there-after for leave to remain? If this does cut out the initial 6 month period will Chelsea be required to pay the NHS supplement during the first application?

    Congratulations!! To you, Chris, and to your beautiful bride Chelsea. The video was an excellent idea and well done. You certainly did get good weather for that time of year. Being from just across the pond in Victoria, Canada I know that the weather is typically wet in the winter. So that was quite the bonus!

    It turns out Helene and I will be in England this August, so I will raise a pint to you two, from Kent, on your day.

    Two wedding anniversaries could get expensive.
    At least the first one is ‘Paper’. ;)

    All the best.

    • Hi Taylor,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Yes, we were extremely lucky with the weather, especially for the middle of winter. To answer your question, yes this removes the 6 month visa.

      To apply for ILR you must be in the UK for 5 years, so the typical route is:
      fiancé (6 months) -> spouse (33 months) -> spouse (33 months) -> ILR

      However, by doing this, our route becomes:
      spouse (33 months) -> spouse (33 months) -> ILR

      We will have to pay the IHS fee for the first application as it is a spouse visa (over 6 months). I hope you enjoy your time together in August this year, and we wish you all the best with your visa application too!

      All the best,
      Chris

      • Taylor Martyn

        Thank your for getting back to me so quickly. That is definitely a benefit, not to mention the way it looks on paper to UK Immigration. As Helene is going to come to Victoria for Christmas this year, we are now considering doing the same. Thank you for sharing this.

        • It definitely is a benefit – hopefully it will pay off and our application will go smoothly! If you need any advice on how to arrange that kind of wedding don’t hesitate to let us know – and we wish you both the best of luck if you do decide to go for it!

  • Brooke

    My fiancé and I were going to choose this option but we were told once he is here he needs to stay here to get the forms approved however when he is trying to get over here he needs to have all evidence that he is going to go back. He came down his maximum amount of days (90) in September and just went back in January. We traveled in October to England together and back to America October 10th where he was then told by the guy at the border that he shouldn’t try to come back in until September of 2016. However, we see online that once you are here for 90 days on a visiting visa it is not likely that they allow you back in for 90 days. So how would he stay here while forms are approved & would he need to wait until September?

    • Hi Brooke,

      I’m not sure I understand your question. After the wedding, where would you both be planning to settle? If it is in the US, we would not recommend this route, but instead the K1 visa route. If you are planning to settle outside the US after the wedding, then you should be able to marry in the US on a visitor visa or ESTA.

      The exact rules on how long you must be in the US vary depending on the state. In our case, I had to be in the US 3 days before the wedding so we could obtain our marriage license (which was valid after 3 days of applying). There was no period after the wedding I had to stay in the US for for paperwork to process. However, as I said, this varies by state – so it is worth looking up the rules in your particular state.

      As with all ESTA and visitor visa trips, your fiancé must show evidence that he plans to leave the US within 90 days (through flight bookings). There is no minimum period of time to wait between trips, and September 2016 seems particularly far in advance. However, the border official must be convinced that your fiancé is entering the US to visit and not living in the US by proxy (living in the US for most of the year, and only leaving to reset the 90 days).

      I would suggest waiting a couple of months before re-entering, but this is only personal opinion – this really is down to the border official. Obviously the longer between trips the less suspicious it looks, but September 2016 strikes me as being further out than necessary.

      Hope that helps,
      Chris

  • Ash

    Hi Chris and Chelsea. Congratulations! We admire your commitment and dedication greatly.
    My husband is British and I am Australian. We met in 2011 while I was living in London on my 2 year Youth Mobility Working Holiday Visa. In October 2012, my Visa reached its expiry and we left London to backpack around India and South East Asia together for 3 months. By the end of 2012, we returned to our respective countries and began our long distance relationship. We broke up mid 2013 as the LDR took a bad toll on us, but got back together mid 2014. Since then, we visited each other every 6 months. He proposed to me in Valencia at the end of July 2015, and on 31st December 2015 we got married for real in Sydney, with him being on his tourist visa. He went back to London mid Jan 2016, and we are now in the process of gathering documents for our UK Spouse Visa. This process is so daunting at the moment as we are in separate countries and the UK/AUS time differences and our long hour jobs make it quite hard to communicate at times. We’ve gathered most documentations required, except for the financial requirement. My husband has been self employed in London for the past 2 years as a sole trade and was getting paid through his personal account. However, in May or June 2015, he created a limited company and started getting paid through his company account instead. He is employed by an events company, but as a contractor and he is not on their company payroll. So now, even though his income can easily satisfy the financial requirement as self employed, his new company has not done one full financial year as yet, and so we are stuck in limbo at the moment, not being able to proceed further as the forthcoming end of financial year for the UK is 5th April 2016. It is so frustrating just waiting around and being a newly married couple, we long to start building a life together so badly. Sydney is so far from London, and we both can’t take more than 4 weeks annual leave a year to visit each other. But it is what it is, I suppose. I’m just so afraid the time will take a toll on our patience.
    Have you and Chelsea started your application? If yes, how are you guys going? We wish you guys all the best and thank you so so much for creating this website. I visit your website frequently as it gives me a sense of reassurance and trust.
    Many many thanks.

    • Hi Ash,

      First of all – wow, thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s always great to hear the perspective of another long distance couple and the unique journey that you have been through. I know Chelsea and I have an 8 hour time difference, but I can only imagine how difficult the time difference is between the UK and Australia.

      I certainly understand how difficult waiting can be. Chelsea and I have been in a similar situation recently, where because I transitioned from a part-time to full time job after finishing university, we still had to wait 6 months to accrue all of the payslips I needed. It is tough waiting, and you can often feel as though it will never end. Being patient is not easy, especially when there is such a large time difference between you. Remember everything that you have been through together already, and how much you look forward to building a life together once you are there in person. That is how Chelsea and I try to think when the waiting is tough (although it’s easier said than done).

      We have just submitted our visa application online now and are waiting to take the next steps. It hasn’t been easy, but knowing the application process has been started is a big relief. A bigger one will come when we receive our decision which is (hopefully) positive.

      I wish you the best of luck with your visa application when the time comes! Thank you so much for your kind words. Please do feel free to keep in touch and let us know how it goes for you (as well as any help we can give).

      All the best,
      Chris

  • Katie

    Hi Chris and Chelsea,

    I actually came across you because your Facebook page was on my page suggestions. I am from England and my husband is from America. Long story short, after looking at both visas, we have decided to go the other way and we are currently in the process of getting a U.S Spouse Visa for me to move there. Just wanted to let you know that we had an intimate ceremony too on 29th December 2015! :). Just 6 people including my husband and I and we had it at Gretna Green in Scotland! We are also having a wedding reception for extended family and friends to join us at in the summer. Good luck with your visa!
    – Katie

  • Katie

    Hi Chris and Chelsea,

    I actually came across you because your Facebook page was on my page suggestions. I am from England and my husband is from America. Long story short, after looking at both visas, we have decided to go the other way and we are currently in the process of getting a U.S Spouse Visa for me to move there. Just wanted to let you know that we had an intimate ceremony too on 29th December 2015! :). Just 6 people including my husband and I and we had it at Gretna Green in Scotland! We are also having a wedding reception for extended family and friends to join us at in the summer. Good luck with your visa!
    – Katie

    • Hi Katie,

      Thanks for getting in touch – congratulations, that’s awesome. I hope you enjoyed your wedding, I’m sure your reception will be just as amazing. Hopefully your application goes smoothly, we wish you both the best of luck!

      All the best,
      Chris

  • Sara Beth

    Hi Chris and Chel

  • Sara Beth

    Woops sorry, submitted that too quickly (I’m new!)
    Anyway, Hi Chris and Chelsie! :)
    Just want to start out by saying thank you so much for posting this website, it is helped immensely in this whole confusing process! I am from the US and my fiance is from the UK. We are going with a spousal visa (for me to the UK). We are planning to get married in the US in May, coming back to the UK for a couple months, and then I’ll come back to the US and apply for the Visa around Christmas time. That way we can enjoy a little married life together! My question is, should I go ahead and just apply for the spousal visa in my maiden name? I’m wanting to travel with him, and I would have to send my passport back to get my name changed. I find a lot of people apply for the spousal visa in their maiden name, then get it changed once the visa goes through. What did you two do??

  • Sara Beth

    Woops sorry, submitted that too quickly (I’m new!)
    Anyway, Hi Chris and Chelsie! :)
    Just want to start out by saying thank you so much for posting this website, it is helped immensely in this whole confusing process! I am from the US and my fiance is from the UK. We are going with a spousal visa (for me to the UK). We are planning to get married in the US in May, coming back to the UK for a couple months, and then I’ll come back to the US and apply for the Visa around Christmas time. That way we can enjoy a little married life together! My question is, should I go ahead and just apply for the spousal visa in my maiden name? I’m wanting to travel with him, and I would have to send my passport back to get my name changed. I find a lot of people apply for the spousal visa in their maiden name, then get it changed once the visa goes through. What did you two do??

    • Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! It sounds like this will be a very busy year for you both.

      In my opinion, I wanted to change my name right away because I didn’t want my visa to be issued out to me in my maiden name. I wanted to take on my new surname and have my government I.D’s all reflect it before I applied. The reason is, You’d need to travel with both passports plus your marriage certificate (with English translation if necessary). Or you’d have to apply for BRP in your new name through Transfer of Conditions (TOC). It costs £183 by post or £400 extra at premium service centre. I didn’t want to take the risk of any of that.

      About what I’ve done:
      Our officiant is a close friend of the family, so he allowed me to bring the wedding license to our auditors office myself, to print out my certified copies straight away. Due to holiday closures the soonest I was able to go in was on January 4th. It literally only took about ten minutes from start to finish, I chose this option because I didn’t want to wait for the copies to be mailed (too slow for me). Once I had my certified copy, that same day I went to my local social security office to change my name. The next day I went to the DMV, and changed my name on my drivers licence also picked up a passport renewal form from my local post office.

      I took longer to prepare this one as I was busy with work, but I paid to expedite my passport renewal with my name change, and It was delivered to me in 8 days (not business days ;3). I waited nearly 2.5 weeks for my original passport to come back, as they do not return the two together. But overall it was a very fast process and worth the extra little bit of money. Because I was renewing, I was also able to tick-off the box for a 52 page passport book for free! So when I live in the UK I can travel lots, without worrying that my passport will run out of pages within the next five years while I wait to be able to obtain British citizenship. I’ve heard that ordering extra passport pages can be costly :/

      Should you decide not to deal with the name change before you go, your maiden name will be used for the 30 day passport vignette and your BRP card. It will cost extra to renew your BRP card to match your married name, and the renewal process for all government I.D’s and things can be a very slow process while living abroad. Passport renewals made from outside of the US are not available to be expedited, so it would take 4-6 to process as well as extra time for shipping back to the UK.

      If you were really determined to get this done before you apply for your visa, you could easily get this done within a month-month and a half tops (although I would not anticipate it taking a month and a half, I think you’d have everything done and back in your hands within 3-4 weeks max).

      I hope this helps!

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

  • Jos Ramos

    Hola Chris and Chelsie!,

    Congratulations on your wedding, it looked lovely <3, I too will be getting married this year (June 24th) with my fianceé who is Scottish (I'm Venezuelan) and filing for the visa as soon as possible, we will hold a wedding ceremony here in Venezuela for both Visa reasons and cultural, I am my mother's only daughter and for us south americans family duty is a big thing, nevertheless, we will have another ceremony at exactly a year from our ceremony here in the UK with my fianceé's family and friends, so everyone can feel part of the celebration!

    There are a lot more challenges for us than for some other couples since my country is currently undergoing a really bad financial and political moment, so lots of venezuelans are leaving the country and many resort to illegal ways to enter other ones, this creates some sort of profile, so immigration people usually assume there's some sort of scam when any venezuelan tries to enter another country, therefore and to ensure us not having lots of trouble, our ceremony here will be a complete wedding (as we can use the picture of it to support our visa application), it's going to be at the shore of the caribbean sea here in my home town in Falcon, wedding planning is quite stressful but the excitement overtakes all of that.

    Anyway I just wanted to share a bit of why some people have different types of wedding as you did in the article, I'm so happy for you guys! All the love and good vibes all the way from Venezuela ;) <3

    • Hi Jos,

      Thank you for getting in touch. It’s always great to hear from other long distance couples who are making it work. It definitely sounds as though you have some challenges and very unfortanate factors working against you. But it is inspiring to hear that you are doing it anyway! Your wedding sounds lovely and we hope it is an awesome day for you both.

      If you ever wanted to be a featured couple on our blog, just drop us an email – we’d love to share a story like yours!

      All the best,
      Chris

    • Hi Jos,

      Thank you for getting in touch. It’s always great to hear from other long distance couples who are making it work. It definitely sounds as though you have some challenges and very unfortanate factors working against you. But it is inspiring to hear that you are doing it anyway! Your wedding sounds lovely and we hope it is an awesome day for you both.

      If you ever wanted to be a featured couple on our blog, just drop us an email – we’d love to share a story like yours!

      All the best,
      Chris

  • Jos Ramos

    Hola Chris and Chelsie!,

    Congratulations on your wedding, it looked lovely <3, I too will be getting married this year (June 24th) with my fianceé who is Scottish (I'm Venezuelan) and filing for the visa as soon as possible, we will hold a wedding ceremony here in Venezuela for both Visa reasons and cultural, I am my mother's only daughter and for us south americans family duty is a big thing, nevertheless, we will have another ceremony at exactly a year from our ceremony here in the UK with my fianceé's family and friends, so everyone can feel part of the celebration!

    There are a lot more challenges for us than for some other couples since my country is currently undergoing a really bad financial and political moment, so lots of venezuelans are leaving the country and many resort to illegal ways to enter other ones, this creates some sort of profile, so immigration people usually assume there's some sort of scam when any venezuelan tries to enter another country, therefore and to ensure us not having lots of trouble, our ceremony here will be a complete wedding (as we can use the picture of it to support our visa application), it's going to be at the shore of the caribbean sea here in my home town in Falcon, wedding planning is quite stressful but the excitement overtakes all of that.

    Anyway I just wanted to share a bit of why some people have different types of wedding as you did in the article, I'm so happy for you guys! All the love and good vibes all the way from Venezuela ;) <3

  • Madeline

    Are you guys planning to get a lawyer for the spouse visa process? I’m mostly worried about all the fees and the possible expatriation taxes seem confusing. Do you have to move over right when you’re approved, or can you file in advance?

    • Hi Madeline,

      We have finished the application process now and recieved our decision – we were accepted. We did not use any lawyers to assist with the application. A good alternative to paying high fees for a legal firm is to use the OISC database of registered immigration advisors to find an immigration advisor near you. You can search by area and also filter by paid for & free services: http://bit.ly/1MEbqhl. We did not use this service, but know it popular with a lot of couples.

      Expat taxes are definitely confusing, it’s something we have been looking into a lot recently. Fortunately there is a H&R Block branch in the UK which has positive reviews, as well as other smaller firms that deal specifically with US expat taxes.

      In regards to the time frame in which you have to move over: you have days from the date the visa was made valid from. This may either be the date it was approved, or the proposed travel date you state in your application.

      All the best,
      Chris

      • Madeline

        Oh my god, I am so happy for you guys! Congratulations! That’s got to feel so good! Thank you so much for that advice. There is no housing requirement for the spouse visa, right?

        -Madeline

        • Hi Madeline,

          Thank you so much! We are relieved we do not have to worry about visas for a couple of years, and can finally close the distance :3

          There is a housing requirement, but it’s not as strict as you’d come across with the Fiancé visa. Depending on who owns the home, the sponsor will need to prove that they have adequate accommodation suitable for the couple to live in it together. My husband rents his home – so we needed to include his rental contract, a letter from his landlord stating that I had permission to live there, and we added his most recent city council tax bill and utility bills like water & electric – all these bills were made out and addressed to him at this house.

          Only good things,
          Chelsea

          • Madeline

            My partner lIves in a council house with his father. The house is in his father’s name, but my partner pays most or all of the rent to him. So would I get a letter from his dad and from the council? Will someone come to look at the house to make sure it’s suitable? We originally thought of getting a flat before applying, but his father’s house is obviously cheaper and it would be nice to save money.

          • Hi Madeline,

            Because in this situation your partner’s father is essentially sub-letting to him, you’ll need a letter (or statement) from the council proving his father rents the house from then, and then a letter of permission from his father stating that your partner lives there and that he gives his permission for you to live there.

            No-one will come visit the house unless you request a property inspection report. When your partner’s name is not on the lease and there are multiple people living at the residence this is generally recommended. It costs approximately £80 and can be requested by contacting his local council.

            Hope this helps,
            Chris

          • Madeline

            Why is it recommended? Is the application less likely to be approved with multiple people living in the same house?

          • Madeline

            If my partner was to get his own apartment, would it be recommended that he lived there for a certain period of time before submitting the application? Is the property inspection report just to prove that the space is large enough? Could the council simply provide documentation proving this?

          • Chris moved into our home in December 2015, We applied for our visa in February 2016 providing that home address for our accommodation – Our visa was accepted so I imagine as long as he has been there long enough to provide bills in his name at that address that you’ll be fine.

            The property inspection is recommended when other people live in the home in order to prove there is adequate enough space for the couple & the other occupants. It is not necessary to have this inspection when he has accommodation of his own and it will just be the two of you living there.

            His lease agreement, letter from his landlord or estate agent, council tax bill + a utility bill, will be sufficient enough evidence.

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

          • Madeline

            Thank you! I’m sorry for all the questions. My partner didn’t like the idea of the inspection for some reason, but if he’s to stay there, I would prefer to be safe. I think it may work for him to get a flat in January as we probably won’t apply until March or April. Thank you so, so much. It’s so nice to see successful stories with all the horror stories out there and it gives me a huge amount of comfort to have your advice!

          • No worries, I completely understand! I am the same way. Especially when you have so much depending on this visa decision, you want to make sure you gave it your all, and that you can’t look back on it later and say “I wish I did this differently…” It’s definitely much better to be safe :3

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

          • Madeline

            I hope that one day I can meet you guys and take you out to dinner or something to thank you for all the help! The official websites can be so confusing and you’ve really helped us by breaking it down into plain English. You both are awesome. :)

          • Madeline

            I hope that one day I can meet you guys and take you out to dinner or something to thank you for all the help! The official websites can be so confusing and you’ve really helped us by breaking it down into plain English. You both are awesome. :)

          • We’re always happy to meet up! Just let us know when you’re available to officially plan for it. Oh and feel free to add me on FB too.

            Only good things,
            -Chelsea

          • It’s will mean that you’ll have to prove there is adequate space for everyone to live comfortably in the household. The Home Offices wants to make sure there is no overcrowding.

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

        • Hi Madeline,

          Thank you so much! We are relieved we do not have to worry about visas for a couple of years, and can finally close the distance :3

          There is a housing requirement, but it’s not as strict as you’d come across with the Fiancé visa. Depending on who owns the home, the sponsor will need to prove that they have adequate accommodation suitable for the couple to live in it together. My husband rents his home – so we needed to include his rental contract, a letter from his landlord stating that I had permission to live there, and we added his most recent city council tax bill and utility bills like water & electric – all these bills were made out and addressed to him at this house.

          Only good things,
          Chelsea

  • Tams Brewst

    This is amazing and congratulations to you both. My partner and I are going through exactly the same thing. He is the one in the US though. How quickly was it after you got married that you submitted paperwork for a visa to come to the UK? And how quickly was the turnaround for them to accept? Am I correct when I read that once accepted you have 30days to to move to the UK?

    • Hello,

      We were married on New Year’s Eve, and then started preparing our visa together on Valentines day (we thought it was better than buying each other a gift because it meant so much to us to finally close the distance). Our application and supporting documents arrived in Sheffield by February 29th. On March 3rd we received a generic email stating that they received our application, so I imagine this is when they started to prepare it for processing (organising it to the liking of whichever Entry Clearance Officer it was assigned to). March 9th we were told a decision had been made, and my passport made it to me on March 11th with the approved visa.

      I’ve seen some couples with faster turn arounds than us, but their quick decisions truly depend on how many visas they are processing at the home office during that time. We paid for priority processing, and we felt it was worth the extra money.

      Yes, you’ll only have 30 days to arrive from the start of your issue date. When you receive a visa, you’ll have an issue date assigned to you located on your vignette, some are lucky enough to have it for the time frame they asked for, while some others are not as fortunate and they’ve been assigned completely different entry dates altogether. You can give an intended travel date up to 3 months out from the date of your online application but no further than that. I applied in late February asking to travel on April 3rd, and my issue date started on March 27th – April 25th.

      The vignette they put in your passport is your temporary visa. After you’ve arrived in the UK, within 10 days you must collect your biometrics resident permit card which will be used as proof of your visa for the remainder of the time.

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

      • Tams Brewst

        Brilliant, Thank you very much for all that information.
        Wish you both best of luck for your future together as husband and wife in the same timezone!!!!
        T

  • Tams Brewst

    This is amazing and congratulations to you both. My partner and I are going through exactly the same thing. He is the one in the US though. How quickly was it after you got married that you submitted paperwork for a visa to come to the UK? And how quickly was the turnaround for them to accept? Am I correct when I read that once accepted you have 30days to to move to the UK?

  • Megan Dixon

    Hi Chelsea,

    I was just wondering whether or not you had to apply for the fiancé visa to get married in the USA or did Chris just go over on a trip?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Megan,

      I just visited Chelsea for a trip. So long as you aren’t planning to settle in the USA, and the wedding isn’t officially pre-planned, it is completely fine to marry in the US on a tourist visa or visa waiver.

      All the best,
      Chris

      • Megan Dixon

        Hi Chris, Thank you! But if it’s my intention to do that won’t it be pre-planned or do you suggest that i make all the plans when I’m there? Do you have to do a notice like over here or can you just get married? Also do I need to take any additional paper work over with me?

        Thanks for your help all this is giving me nothing but stress!

        • Hi Megan,

          Technically you are not allowed to enter the US with the intent of holding a wedding unless you are on a K1 visa (which is difficult to obtain). However, if you decide while you happen to be there to get married – there is nothing stopping you doing this. If a Border Official suspects your intent is to marry and you do not have a K1 visa, you can be denied entry to the US. For that reason, I would suggest not planning anything until you are there. The more that is planned and booked, the greater your financial loss if you are denied entry.

          Different states have different wait times. We married in Washington State and had to wait 3 days between collecting our marriage license and the ceremony (including the day it was collected). There will most probably be a few days you’ll have to wait, but nowhere near as much as the UK’s 28 day notice period. Paperwork varies by state again, so it is worth checking. In Washington, I needed two forms of photo ID (passport and driver’s license).

          All the best,
          Chris

          • Megan Dixon

            Thanks Chris! Such a big help I’m sure I’ll be back with more questions, but your site is so useful I’m grateful I found it! :)

            All the best!

          • Megan Dixon

            Thanks Chris! Such a big help I’m sure I’ll be back with more questions, but your site is so useful I’m grateful I found it! :)

            All the best!

        • Hi Megan,

          Technically you are not allowed to enter the US with the intent of holding a wedding unless you are on a K1 visa (which is difficult to obtain). However, if you decide while you happen to be there to get married – there is nothing stopping you doing this. If a Border Official suspects your intent is to marry and you do not have a K1 visa, you can be denied entry to the US. For that reason, I would suggest not planning anything until you are there. The more that is planned and booked, the greater your financial loss if you are denied entry.

          Different states have different wait times. We married in Washington State and had to wait 3 days between collecting our marriage license and the ceremony (including the day it was collected). There will most probably be a few days you’ll have to wait, but nowhere near as much as the UK’s 28 day notice period. Paperwork varies by state again, so it is worth checking. In Washington, I needed two forms of photo ID (passport and driver’s license).

          All the best,
          Chris

      • Claudia Celovsky

        My fiance and I might look into this option (him coming over and us getting married here). Couldn’t this then hurt the chances if, let’s say in ten years, we want to live in the US? Because he had somewhat “snuck” around it? You said “so long as you aren’t planning to settle in the USA” which is what made me think of it.

        • It would be a problem if you decided you wanted to settle in the US right after marrying. If you wanted to come back a few years later, it would not be an issue.

          • Claudia Celovsky

            Thanks very much. How did you obtain the marriage license and where? Didn’t Chris have to give his birth certificate/passport/identification, and how was that allowed? When I look into info for obtaining a marriage license from Michigan, it doesn’t have info into the situation if my partner is from another country. Is Washington State one of few which allow internationals to marry US citizens or something?

          • Hi Claudia,

            |How did you obtain the marriage license and where?
            We went to my local auditors office last December where we filled out our marriage license application and paid for it there.

            |Didn’t Chris have to give his birth certificate/passport/identification, and how was that allowed?
            The auditor only needed to see Christopher’s passport when we were filling out everything, we also had his UK drivers license ready. The websites will always lists several pieces of evidence to bring in to obtain a marriage license – so as the US citizen, make sure you have those available. A US citizen can marry a foreign national but it won’t be made evident on the auditor’s website.

            | When I look into info for obtaining a marriage license from Michigan, it doesn’t have info into the situation if my partner is from another country
            They just don’t mention it on their website because it’s not common, but a US citizen is allowed to marry a foreign national. If they ask about your future plans after the wedding, you can make it very clear that you are marrying in the US in order to apply for a UK spouse visa to relocate to the UK to be with your partner – bring your documents if you feel that will help support you.

            Very recently I had a friend marry in Gettysburg, PA to their UK fiancé – no problems. Their UK fiancé even mentioned to the US border control officer at the airport when he arrived that he was in the US to get married. He brought documents proving he had a return ticket back home, his work contract from the UK and tenancy agreement which proved he had responsibilities forcing him to go back, the officer congratulated him and let him through. My friends married, took a short honeymoon, and then after her husband went back to the UK, they worked on applying for her spouse visa (which was approved ;3).

            Comparing her local auditors website pertaining to obtaining a marriage license and two from Michigan (Kent county where my dad lives, and Kalamazoo) I’d say you’d be fine, but if it makes you feel better, call them and confirm over the phone. It may be better to fill the application there in person and not online.

            |Is Washington State one of few which allow internationals to marry US citizens or something?
            I know some county clerks can be more strict than others, but I believe a marriage to a foreign national is not controversial. You can marry a foreign partner in the US without a visa as long as you do not intend to both remain there to settle. What will get you in trouble is if they change their mind and suddenly want to stay for the long term. But if your partner plans to return back to their country while abiding by the US immigration laws to their length of stay, meaning they did not get deported or overstay – they’ll be allowed re-entry into the country without problem, and in a few years time if you both decide to relocate back to the US you’ll be able to apply for a CR-1 or K-2 visa to bring your foreign spouse to the US.

            I hope this helps a little bit even if I couldn’t answer all of your questions.

            Only good things,
            Chelsea

          • Claudia Celovsky

            Are you kidding me, this helped a lot, and was very thorough! Thank you.

          • Chanel Montfort

            “Very recently I had a friend marry in Gettysburg, PA to their UK fiancé – no problems. Their UK fiancé even mentioned to the US border control officer at the airport when he arrived that he was in the US to get married. He brought documents proving he had a return ticket back home, his work contract from the UK and tenancy agreement which proved he had responsibilities forcing him to go back, the officer congratulated him and let him through.”

            Do you think this is the best option to do? Since you are not suppose to come with the intent to marry without a visa? Darren & I are FINALLY taking a step towards being married. I just don’t want to hurt his chances getting in. Did Chris say anything to the border control?

          • Hi Chanel,

            It’s really very much down to the individual Border Official – it sounds as though this person was extremely lucky and was interviewed by an understanding Officer. However, from our experience, this is rare. Because this person stated they planned to get married whilst in the US, they ran the risk of being denied entry.

            Personally, when I arrived in the US, I did not mention this. I stated that I was there to visit my fiance and the date I was leaving. I would still recommend taking proof of ties back home and a return travel itinerary, but only showing it if asked.

            All the best,
            Chris

          • Chanel Montfort

            “Very recently I had a friend marry in Gettysburg, PA to their UK fiancé – no problems. Their UK fiancé even mentioned to the US border control officer at the airport when he arrived that he was in the US to get married. He brought documents proving he had a return ticket back home, his work contract from the UK and tenancy agreement which proved he had responsibilities forcing him to go back, the officer congratulated him and let him through.”

            Do you think this is the best option to do? Since you are not suppose to come with the intent to marry without a visa? Darren & I are FINALLY taking a step towards being married. I just don’t want to hurt his chances getting in. Did Chris say anything to the border control?

      • Claudia Celovsky

        My fiance and I might look into this option (him coming over and us getting married here). Couldn’t this then hurt the chances if, let’s say in ten years, we want to live in the US? Because he had somewhat “snuck” around it? You said “so long as you aren’t planning to settle in the USA” which is what made me think of it.

  • Nunekhiia

    Oh no! we didn’t know that as soon as your fiancee visa is approve you need to be there right away :S like 30 days from approval is nothing! even to buy flight tickets is no good, not enough time. Is this still a thing now in 2016? where can I see the info about this to send to my fiancé. I’m panicking. we didn’t get married here because we thought it’d be best to marry in the UK for better chances lol. Also, is it really the whole 6 months you’re there that you can’t work… like let’s say we get married just as I arrive in the UK. do I still need to wait for those 6 months to end before switching to a Spouse visa? :0

    Thank you a lot in advance!

    • Hi Nunekhiia,

      The rule is not that you must arrive within 30 days of your visa approval date. You must arrive within 30 days of your visa start date. On the application form there is a question which asks for your intended date of travel. So long as this is within 3 months of your application, the ECO will usually set the visa start date to within 30 days of your intended date of travel. If you fail to provide one then the visa start date will usually be the application approval date.

      I’m not sure if this is officially written anywhere, we found this out from a lot of anecdotal evidence.

      As soon as your married ypu can apply for FLR(M) and as soon as it is approved you can start working. If you married on the week you arrive, a postal application submitted the next day can take up to 8 weeks to be approved. So the earliest you could work is most likely 9 weeks in.

      All the best,
      Chris

    • Hi Nunekhiia,

      The rule is not that you must arrive within 30 days of your visa approval date. You must arrive within 30 days of your visa start date. On the application form there is a question which asks for your intended date of travel. So long as this is within 3 months of your application, the ECO will usually set the visa start date to within 30 days of your intended date of travel. If you fail to provide one then the visa start date will usually be the application approval date.

      I’m not sure if this is officially written anywhere, we found this out from a lot of anecdotal evidence.

      As soon as your married ypu can apply for FLR(M) and as soon as it is approved you can start working. If you married on the week you arrive, a postal application submitted the next day can take up to 8 weeks to be approved. So the earliest you could work is most likely 9 weeks in.

      All the best,
      Chris

  • Chanel Montfort

    Hi, we thought about this as an alternative to fiancé visa. However we would do the visa wedding in England, as well as the actual wedding. We were thinking of doing it on our next trip, and when I come back to the US apply for Spouse visa. Can you let me know the costs and what process I would need to follow. Lastly, does this sound like a good idea as an alternative to getting the fiancé visa and then the spouse. I still have a little time until I can move, but I thought this might shave off some time and once I have the spouse visa I can start working once I move

    • Hi Chanel,

      Unfortunately you won’t be able to make it work this way around. Unlike the US, it is strictly illegal to marry in the UK whilst on a visitor visa. In addition, the registrar office will not allow you to give notice of marriage (which is required) whilst on a visitor visa.

      If you are looking to skip the fiancé visa step, I would either recommend getting married in the US or in another country close to the UK and then applying direct for the spouse visa.

      All the best,
      Chris

      • Chanel Montfort

        Did you need a visa to marry in the US? Or you just went to visit and got a wedding license? Do you know if this is possible in all states?

        • Hi Chanel,

          We did not need to get a specific visa to get married in the US. Technically, you cannot travel to the US without a visa with the intention to marry. However, if you happen to decide to get married whilst in the US – there is no law stopping you from doing this. This is what we did.

          All the best,
          Chris

  • Hi Chanel,

    The marriage visitor visa is still a valid route, but is only open to couples not planning to settle in the UK. If you marry on a marriage visitor visa and then attempt to make a settlement application (e.g. for the spouse visa) then you will most likely be denied. It is possible to obtain a UK settlement visa this way, but highly unlikely. The marriage visitor visa is for couples who wish to marry in the UK but settle abroad.

    All the best,
    Chris

    • Chanel Montfort

      Bummer! knew it was too good and too easy to be true. thank you for all your help

    • Chanel Montfort

      Bummer! knew it was too good and too easy to be true. thank you for all your help

  • Michelle

    Hi, after you were married, do you have to wait a certain time to apply for the spouse uk visa? Or can you just apply right away? Does my fiance have to stay in the US after our marriage to prove that we live together too?

    • Hi Michelle,

      |after you were married, do you have to wait a certain time to apply for the spouse uk visa?
      No, you can apply the day after you marry if you wanted. So long as you were legally married before submitting the online application for the spouse visa is all that matters.

      |Does my fiance have to stay in the US after our marriage to prove that we live together too?
      If you are applying for the spouse visa, you are not expected to have ever lived together. Chris and I have not lived together until after we received our spouse visa. He returned to the UK 3 days after our wedding, then shortly after we applied for our visa.

      I hope this helps :3

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

      • Michelle

        That’s really good to know! So glad we don’t have to wait much longer. We’ve been together for 3 years and can’t wait to be in one place together :) Your website is super helpful! Thank you so much for putting it together and update new infos.

        Congratulations to you guys!

        Cheers,
        Michelle

  • Marius Magnus

    Hi Chelsea & Chris,

    My fiancée and I love reading your blogs. They are indeed great help and also a
    lot more simple to read than other websites/forums.

    We have a question in regards to when we are actually able to apply online for
    the Spouse Visa.

    We will get officially married 19th August in Brazil and 1 week later have our
    “real” wedding party and then go on honeymoon.

    We want to opt for the fast track process and have this running while on honeymoon and hopefully she can come abck to UK with me early October. Work allowed me to work from there a few weeks :-).

    In Rio there are just 2 days available for an appointment where we can drop of
    all docs. So we thought in order to guarantee an appointment on the 23rd or
    24th August, we would just already apply online this week but hand in all docs
    including the marriage certificate (dated 19th August 2016) on the 24th august.

    Do you think this is possible? I understand we won’t be legally married when
    submitting the application online, but when providing the docs we will be
    married. Can’t find too much information on this online.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Marius

    • Hi Marius,

      |Do you think this is possible? I understand we won’t be legally married when submitting the application online, but when providing the docs we will be married. Can’t find too much information on this online.
      No, the date of the online application matters. Your supporting documents have to be in existence at the time of making your online application – not after. This includes marriage certificates.

      The safest thing to do would be to create your online application – the progress will be saved for up to 60 days and you can log in & out as many times as you like. Your information will all be saved. Immediately after you legally marry then submit your online application.

      I understand you guys want to be together and have this visa taken care of as soon as possible, but you are risking a refusal should you apply online before you are legally married.

      -Chelsea

      • Marius Magnus

        Thats good advice and not worth taken the risk then. Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Hi Marius,

      |Do you think this is possible? I understand we won’t be legally married when submitting the application online, but when providing the docs we will be married. Can’t find too much information on this online.
      No, the date of the online application matters. Your supporting documents have to be in existence at the time of making your online application – not after. This includes marriage certificates.

      The safest thing to do would be to create your online application – the progress will be saved for up to 60 days and you can log in & out as many times as you like. Your information will all be saved. Immediately after you legally marry then submit your online application.

      I understand you guys want to be together and have this visa taken care of as soon as possible, but you are risking a refusal should you apply online before you are legally married.

      -Chelsea

  • Sophie

    Hello Chris and Chelsea
    After getting married in th UK and take my husband last name should I have to renew my passport
    All the best
    Sophie

    • Any time you want to legally take on a new name, you must change your name on all of your legal identification – otherwise your name change will not be recognised.

      -Chelsea

      • sophie

        Thank you Chelsea is it okay if I leave my last name the way it istill, then changing it to my husband last name

        • Hi Sophie,

          You can change your name whenever you want – you can keep your maiden name for as long as you want. But if you intend to take your husband’s last name and use it for signatures in day-to-day life, banking, tenancy agreements, etc. it will need to be legally changed first. Just realise that once you change your name, all of your government identification must reflect it no matter where you live. Make sure you update everything when you do this.

          Only good things,
          Chelsea

        • Hi Sophie,

          You can change your name whenever you want – you can keep your maiden name for as long as you want. But if you intend to take your husband’s last name and use it for signatures in day-to-day life, banking, tenancy agreements, etc. it will need to be legally changed first. Just realise that once you change your name, all of your government identification must reflect it no matter where you live. Make sure you update everything when you do this.

          Only good things,
          Chelsea

          • sophie

            Thank you very much Chelsea is it okay to leave it now the way it is
            Is it gonna make no problems for my flr when I apply with my last name I am planing to Change it after my extension is that fine
            all best
            sophie

          • sophie

            Thank you very much Chelsea is it okay to leave it now the way it is
            Is it gonna make no problems for my flr when I apply with my last name I am planing to Change it after my extension is that fine
            all best
            sophie

      • sophie

        Thank you Chelsea is it okay if I leave my last name the way it istill, then changing it to my husband last name

    • Hi Sophie,

      Unfortunately the OISC has threatened to prosecute us for providing immigration advice as we are not solicitors (despite our legal disclaimers & that we try to only speak from personal experience). As such we have had to remove all visa guidance, articles and videos from our site & YouTube page. We are also unable to answer any questions about the visa process or else risk criminal prosecution.

      You can read our full statement here: http://bit.ly/2bml3qI.

      Apologies again.
      Chris

    • Hi Sophie,

      Unfortunately the OISC has threatened to prosecute us for providing immigration advice as we are not solicitors (despite our legal disclaimers & that we try to only speak from personal experience). As such we have had to remove all visa guidance, articles and videos from our site & YouTube page. We are also unable to answer any questions about the visa process or else risk criminal prosecution.

      You can read our full statement here: http://bit.ly/2bml3qI.

      Apologies again.
      Chris

  • Grazielle Mattos

    Hello Chris and Chelsea,

    Hope both you guys are doing well!

    First of all, I would like to thank you very much for all the information available in this website. It is just brilliant!
    I have taken all the advice available in your website about sponsor and applicant documents to be submitted for our fiancee visa application. And I can say that it was extremely helpful for me and my partner to get my UK fiancee visa. Thank you again!

    All the best,

    Grazielle

    • Thank you Grazielle!

      Did you get my email by chance? I sent it to you yesterday.

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

      • Grazielle Mattos

        Hello Chelsea!!

        I got it!! You are superb!!
        If you don`t mind, I replied to you just with few things that are still keeping me insecure.

        I wish you and Chris all the best! xx

  • Maggie

    Love your site. My fiance who I met in England is also here on a K1 Visa. Our “visa wedding” is 2 weeks from today! We are doing ours in a courthouse with just my parents and then going on a 5 day mini-moon to Orlando! We are having a “real wedding” in Italy in 2018. One thing I want to ask you about is, if you are having two weddings, how to you ensure the second one still feels real if you are already married. I’m considering postponing changing my last name until 2018. What did you guys do?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Maggie,

      Congrats on your engagement and successful K-1 visa! Closing the distance is such a wonderful feeling <3

      | how do you ensure the second one still feels real if you are already married… What did you guys do?

      When Chris and I legally married in the US we made sure that we kept the two events separate through a number of ways:

      1. We made sure that our attire worn on the legal wedding day was different from the big wedding. We didn't want to have a super formal ceremony and because it was also New Year's Eve we wanted to acknowledge it too, so while we did dress up it just was more holiday influenced than wedding. I wore white, cream and gold with flashy sequins because it suited NYE and Chris wore complimentary colours to mine and a shiny matte gold tie. We thought it was very important that our wedding blessing attire was not going to be worn twice for both occasions.
      2. The ceremony was incredibly small. We invited my grandparents because we knew they would not be able to make the long journey comfortably, and then we invited my best friend & her boyfriend, and my aunt & uncle who were to be our legal witnesses. I felt if I invited more people than that it would change the dynamic of the day and that most would not bother coming to the blessing because they had "already seen it".
      3. We tried to keep it as unemotional as possible by not investing so much thought and energy into the plans (planned it out in a month) – BUT I will admit that no matter how hard you try and distance yourself from those feelings that it's still an emotional day because it's still your wedding. Following normal traditions we still got ready separately and wrote personal vows for that day.
      4. Our after-party plans were to highlight the holiday as part of our way to continue to separate the feelings of the day so our wedding blessing would be more sentimental. After we all ate dinner together and had cake most of us went our separate ways. My best friend & her boyfriend met up with us at our local movie theatre where we watched the new Star Wars film. Then the four of us travelled back to Christopher's and my luxury spa hotel room to eat junk food, drink champagne and follow the NYE countdown on tv while hot tubbing. Because we were focused on celebrating New Year's it didn't feel like we were so focused on it being a wedding day.
      5. (Attempted) We originally planned only to wear the wedding bands on the legal wedding day for show, but in the end we decided to keep them on permanently. Having to say goodbye and wait a few months again to see each other it made the rings feel more special.

      |I'm considering postponing changing my last name until 2018

      You can legally change your at any time there is never any need to rush on that. In my situation, applying for a UK spouse visa it made more sense for me to change my name immediately. Changing my name and having to update my accounts and renew my passport would have been a huge inconvenience while living in the UK. The name change was very weird for me as it was a reminder that we did get married and to this day I still do double takes when I see my new name on paperwork and when writing down.

      I hope this helps!

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

  • Natalie

    Hello, I’m so glad to see other people going through the same things! We are planning on getting married in the summer in the UK but my fiances family wont be able to make it, so thinking of doing it in America first!
    Did you need to inform anyone official in the UK when you decided to get married in America or have any documents to identify you? Also, one marriage certificate, two people in two countries trying to change their name, did you get a copy? Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Natalie

      I’ve just seen my questions answered below! :)

    • Hi Natalie,

      My apologies for the delay, I’ve been ill and resting. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! I can only imagine how excited you both are :D

      |Did you need to inform anyone official in the UK when you decided to get married in America or have any documents to identify you?

      -You will only need to bring documents if you have been divorced. Otherwise all the UK citizen needs it their passport. The US citizen will be the main signer when applying for the marriage license at their local auditors office because the UK citizen does not have a social security number. You’ll both need to go together in order to apply.

      |Also, one marriage certificate, two people in two countries trying to change their name, did you get a copy? Thank you thank you thank you!
      When Chris and I married I received one certified copy of my marriage certificate automatically when turning in our papers to the auditors office after the wedding, then I paid $3 each for an additional two more.

      Will you both be changing your last names? I changed my last name before I applied for my visa because it’s twice as slow of a process trying to do this while living abroad.

      I hope to hear from you soon!

      Only good things,
      Chelsea

      • Natalie

        Thank you Chelsea, I arrived in the US yesterday and we are off to the City Clerks on Monday.
        This website you both set up is amazing and has helped me feel so much less stressed about the process :)

        • Thank you, you’re very kind – best of luck at the City Clerks! :)

  • Maiara

    Hi there,
    Hope all is well. Thanks for all the help. I do have two concerns. 1. Must I change my last name (Im in the US) it’s not a problem to change It but its a bit tedious. (I don’t want it to hinder my application if I don’t) Also My husband rented a flat this month but the lease is only for 6 months with the option to extend, but they didn’t have a year lease. Will this be a problem with immigration?, if so what would you advice (FYI he did let the leasing company know I will be living there and my name is on the lease as a secondary occupant) Thanks for all the help.