One of the things I was most worried about was getting my visa, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t find many blogs that talked much about the process people went through, or how long it took. Most of what I did find was about student visas or temporary tourist visas. So, in the interest of maybe being helpful to someone else out there, and also because I just feel like telling you, here’s how I got my Tier 2 Unmarried Partner visa to the UK.
1. Have an unmarried partner who gets a job in the UK.
Because he went with a job, his employer sponsored his visa (called a Tier 2 visa.) He had to include my name and passport number on his application first. Then when I applied, I had to include his name, permanent address, passport information, visa information and his address in the UK. This was actually the biggest delay in my completing the application – he got to Scotland and found an apartment in about a week, but they made him wait several days before approving his application for the apartment (or “flat” as it’s called there) and then another 10 days before he could complete the lease paperwork and actually move in. They also asked about my parents, all kinds of stuff about me, including where I’ve traveled, and make sure I knew I wouldn’t be eligible for public funds (aka welfare.)
2. Fill out all the forms, gather all the documents.
Once I submitted my application online and paid the fee ($879, WHAT?) I gathered all my documents. The first requirement is that you have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK, which they say is 600 GBP. I had to send in three consecutive months of bank statements showing that I had the funds available. Then I had to prove that I’d been in a “relationship akin to marriage” for the last two years. This is where I got nervous, because we’d lived together for 23 months before he had to move cross-country for his job. However, I had a letter from our landlord here, his next lease listing me as his emergency contact, several official documents (taxes, bank statements, etc) from throughout the time we lived together, and travel records of trips visiting each other after he moved. Further complicating this is that he isn’t American, and he applied for his visa from his home country, and me from mine. Finally, I needed a passport-style photo cut to UK size specifications (thanks, Walgreens.)
3. Get fingerprinted and photographed (aka biometrics,) and send it all in
Then I had to go to a US immigration office for fingerprinting and photographing… this is where it got rough. The UK visa office sends you an email confirming your appointment, and says to take your appointment confirmation and your documents and passport to the appointment with you. I printed the email, gathered my docs and went on my way. Well, the appointment confirmation, I found out when I got there, has to have a bar code on it – you have to print it from within the application system. The immigration office sent me to a library in the south valley that was closed; I ended up having to go back to my office, print it out, and go all the way back to try again. The second attempt was successful and I was done in about 10 minutes. Then they hand you back the bar code email with their stamp on it, and I asked why I was supposed to bring all my documents – well, I wasn’t. Thankfully they had an instruction sheet and it told me what to send and where. Then it was off to the post office to mail all the documents and my passport (!!!) along with a self-addressed and stamped return envelope to the UK Visa office in New York. I sent everything in a USPS priority mail envelope with another one inside for the return postage.
I got confirmation from USPS that my envelope arrived in New York on a Wednesday morning; later that afternoon, I received an email from the UK Visa office that they’d opened the envelope and were processing my file. It said the average processing time was 10 working days.
4. Wait. Wait some more.
On the seventh working day, I missed a call from a New York number; I Googled it and was the UK Visa office. They didn’t leave a message or send any email to tell me what they needed. However, if you call them, it costs $3/minute and is apparently to a call center that is pretty useless. I decided to wait it out… the missed call was on a Monday, and I heard nothing else for the rest of the week. Finally the following Monday I got an email that my visa had been issued! I never did find out why they called. I received the visa back on Wednesday, so it was exactly three weeks from arrival in NY to arrival back in NM.
By the end of the next day, I had a plane ticket, I’d put in notice at my job, and I’d received an email requesting that I interview for a job I’d applied for in Scotland. After six weeks of waiting for something to happen, everything happened all at once!
Have any of you applied for a visa to live, work or study in another country? How did it go? Did you spend three weeks panicking like I did?