I’ve talked about the difference between the UK Fiancé and Spouse visas before. I was fortunate enough to have been able to apply for a Spouse Visa right before the lockdown restrictions were imposed, and I received the Grant about 5 weeks after the whole biometrics process. I heard Sopra Steria (the company the processes applications from within the UK) closed their services soon after so I suspect the Home Office was able to get to reviewing my application unusually quickly.
Here’s how I got my UK Spouse Visa:
1. I hired a Consultant
As with the process I went through to get the Fiancé Visa, I spoke to Nikki de Prey again and got on a 30-minute phone call with her to discuss the process and the documents I needed to get the Spouse Visa. I think this was money still well spent because I didn’t know (and the internet wasn’t very clear about it) that the process was entirely different now since I’m applying for a visa from inside the U.K. I talk about how helpful Nikki is and how her services are worth the price here.
2. I prepared my application and uploaded my supporting documents
The first and most important thing I did was to fill in the online application form (Form FLR [M]), which probably means something like Further Leave to Remain because of Marriage). Filling it out took quite a long while and some questions were a bit weird and difficult to figure out. I had to ask Nikki about them, and she very helpfully and quickly cleared up the confusion. Some tricky ones include –
- What type of visa I currently had. The options were: Settlement, Family, or Other visa. I checked my passport and it says I have a D – Marriage/CP Visa. I was about to choose Other but apparently the D – Marriage/CP Visa is classified as a Family Visa.
- How long I’ve lived here. This was referring to how long I’ve been here since I arrived on my Spouse Visa. Any other time I’ve lived here (i.e. under a student visa) isn’t counted.
Make sure you complete your application form before your fiance visa expires!
After I filled in the application form, I had the option to upload documents or to have them scanned when I get my biometrics done. I chose to scan and upload my documents myself. Nikki very helpfully provided me with a list of documents I needed to put together. While I was filling in my application form, though, there seemed to be more documents in addition to what was on Nikki’s list. Nikki explained that the form is used for other types of circumstances too and that I didn’t need to pay attention to the additional stuff. Being my paranoid and OC self though, I submitted all the documents from both lists. I’ll write about exactly what documents I submitted another day.
The process of uploading the documents was quite easy, and figuring out which heading to upload each document in was pretty intuitive. I don’t think it really matters if you upload a document under the wrong heading. My understanding from my conversations with Nikki is that the headings just make it easier for the person reviewing the application to find things. So as long as your documents are complete, your scans are clear, and you upload the documents successfully, you’ll be fine.
Towards the end of this online process, you’ll have to pay for the visa and the health surcharge. I’ve written about the fees here.
3. I got my biometrics done
After uploading my documents, I needed to set an appointment with Sopra Steria to get my biometrics taken. Sopra Steria, similar to VFS, is like a logistics company that receives applications for visas but they don’t make the decisions. They offer services such as checking if your documents are complete, scanning documents for you, etc.
You can set you appointment up to 9 weeks after you submit your application form, and this can be even after your fiance visa has expired.
I set my appointment a few days after I uploaded my documents, which was just a few days after they imposed the lockdown restrictions in the U.K. Luckily, the office was still open. I suppose they were kind of an essential service, but they closed the week after my appointment. I brought my passport, the appointment document (this is e-mailed to you when you set your appointment), and the originals of my documents (just in case).
Sopra Steria in Glasgow is in BizSpace (Washington St.), which is a building full of shared office spaces. This is where I took the first part of QLTS (the exam to qualify as a solicitor in England/Wales), where people take their driving test, and where I met the florist for our wedding.
Because of the semi-lockdown restrictions at the time, no one was at the reception so I had to wait for someone to go out of the building so I could go in. The office is on the first or second floor, right in front of the elevator. There was no queue and they followed the 2-meter rule. I just showed my passport, and they took my biometrics (photo, signature, fingerprints). They returned my passport, and I didn’t leave any originals with them. In the end, they looked at my signed forms to check if they were correctly and clearly signed. Since they were, that was it. I was in and out in 10 minutes.
I didn’t have to pay anything extra but I think in Edinburgh you will be charged a fee of £69.99 to use the fingerprinting centre.
About 5 weeks later, I received an email from the Home Office granting my “application for limited leave to remain” for 30 months (2 and a half years). They sent my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) about a week later. The BRP is an ID card that acts like your visa so make sure you have this when you travel in and out of the county!
That’s it for now. Let me know if you have any questions about this process, I’m happy to answer what I can 👌🏽