{Visas} My FLR(M) has been approved!

We’ve had a crazy couple of weeks here in West Yorkshire. The highlight of that being that my visa was approved! Hooray!

We got the good news on Wednesday when a packet arrived from the UKBA. It’s always nerve-wracking to receive post from the UKBA, especially when the cover letter takes four paragraphs to tell you that you have been approved. I was so excited that I burst into tears! The cover letter said I would receive my Biometric Residence Permit (the actual visa, also known as a BRP) within seven business days, but we were happy to just have the approval and to have all of our documents back (including both of our passports). Neither of us had realized how much stress this application process had caused us until the packet arrived and we immediately felt that a huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders.

Passports

It is nice to have our identities back from the UKBA.

The next day, I arrived home to a letter in a nondescript envelope with what felt like a credit card inside. I tore it open and there was my BRP! The letter included in the envelope suggests one should check the BRP for any errors. I looked it over once and didn’t notice anything. On my second review of the information on the BRP, I noticed that my place of birth was spelled as Pennsylvannia. (For those of you who don’t know, there should only be one n on the end of the state’s name.) Of all of the information to be spelled incorrectly, it is the least important, but it still must be corrected.

I sent the UKBA an email and received a reply the next day stating my passport and my BRP must be sent back to them. No biggie. At least this time, I was given a timeline of when I should receive the corrected BRP and my passport. I’ll be sending both to the UKBA on Friday after I attend an appointment for a National Insurance number (so I can finally start applying to full-time jobs!).

We celebrated on Friday night by staying in, watching tv, and drinking prosecco gifted to us by good friends for our wedding (thanks, D!). We both feel like life can move forward for us now, and it feels great!

Bubbles

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{Visas} Staying Here (Legally) as a Wife: Part One

Most of you will know that I’m currently in the UK on a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa as I have spent the past year studying for my Master’s degree. (Oh, by the way, I graduated – forgot to mention that little tidbit!) The weeks leading up to the wedding though, we spent completing a new application for an extension of stay as a spouse [also known as Form FLR(M)] and collecting the necessary supplemental materials. We did this, so as soon as we returned to the UK after the wedding, we could immediately send the completed application to the UKBA. On our first Monday back in the UK, the Brit sent the application off to the UKBA thus starting the waiting game….

This past Monday marked three weeks that my application for an extension of stay in the UK as a spouse will have been postmarked to the UKBA. (I am aware that three weeks is a very short amount of time when it relates to most bureaucratic procedures.) We did receive a letter dated January 10th stating our application had been received, that the application fee had been processed (and our bank account shows this), and that our application was passed onto a caseworker. However, since then, we have not received any further correspondence from the UKBA. I never expected the turn-around time to be as quick as it was for my student visa, which took all of a week and a half, so I’ve been staying sort of calm about the whole idea of being completely in the dark about the status of our application.

Then, the BBC shared this story last week. That story? Well, it’s pretty unsettling for a number of reasons.

First, using the term ‘marriage visa’ is vague as there are various routes and forms that a person can use to apply to remain in the UK as a spouse. These are dependent on the citizenship and/or situation of both the applicant and his/her sponsor. So, is this backlog for a specific type or does it encapsulate all types? I have no idea, and I’m wondering if anyone truly knows.

Second, from what I understand, there has only recently – as in the past few years – been a proper appeal method in a case of a rejected application. This means that many people with rejected applications, prior to the appeal method being put in place, have just attempted to have the problem solved through calls and letters to the UKBA. This appears to have caused more problems for the applicants and for the UKBA in that many of those cases were deemed ‘too difficult’ and shoved aside into boxes. This has, of course, left the system in shambles.

Third, from our point of view, our application is fairly straightforward – we meet the financial requirement, we have a subsisting and true relationship, I meet the English language requirement, and we are legally married. (I realize I could completely jinx myself by writing this.) However, after reading through some of the comments on the BBC article, it seems like other people who also assumed their applications were not troublesome are part of that group having not received an answer yet on their visa status. I do know it is impossible to fully understand each specific case and its intricacies through a short comment, but I would hope these people aren’t lying about their troubles with the UKBA. It has left me wondering what will come of our application.

That is where we are currently with our visa process. I’ll be sure to update it when we receive more information. I’m hopeful that once we are updated that our application process can perhaps help someone else in a similar position.

If anyone with more knowledge on this subject wants to interject, I’d be happy to hear your insight. Also, what I state in this post is merely my understanding of this situation. 

Odds and ends, bits and bobs.

This post isn’t going to be anything exciting, but I did want to stick to my goal of writing every day for the month.

I’m actually writing this as I’m laying in bed with a sleeping fiance beside me. He just returned from a long day of working in London, and after our nightly cup of tea, it was definitely time for bed.

It has poured rain all day. I had an appointment in town and I was planning to take the bus, so I layered the clothes and put on my rain coat and got my umbrella ready to venture outside. When I did get on the bus, with a dripping umbrella and a soaked rain coat, I realized that I had sort of ‘arrived’ in England. Last year at this time I was just settling into life here and I would have called a taxi to take me to town in weather like this. Today, I didn’t even consider it. My dilemma today was whether or not to wear my wellies. I did not wear them. I should have. Despite that, I was pleased with myself and how I feel more and more comfortable here each day. One year on and I still know this move was the right decision.

It’s funny to think that even though this place is beginning to feel like home that I still have to think about the application process and the paperwork that will allow me to stay here longer as my student visa expires in a few months. After carefully reading through the visa guidelines for the spouse visa a few weeks back, I had some questions so I rang the UK Border Agency today and got the answers that we needed. We’re both happy to be ticking things off of our list in preparation for our wedding and for the legal tasks related to an international marriage.

Also, related to the wedding, we leave exactly 3 months from today for the Caribbean! It’s getting real now and neither one of us can wait to be married on the beach!

 

 

 

Studying (legally) in the UK, Part II

(Here is Part I, in case you missed it! You know, since it is so hard to find it amidst my whopping three posts!)

After the FedEx box swallowed my application, I told my perfectionist self that it was out of my hands and hoped for the best. At that point I had done everything I could have done. It was hard not knowing if I was really going to start graduate school or not, especially because I had no back-up plan which is not typical for me.

A few days after I mailed my application, I received an e-mail that my application had arrived at the British Consulate in New York and was in line to be reviewed by an Entry Clearance Officer. This same e-mail mentioned that I should receive another e-mail stating when it was reviewed with a follow-up message informing me of the outcome. So, I continued to wait.

That same week, the Brit was coming to the US for a quick visit. (I would be doing all the traveling, but my passport was being held hostage, remember?!) I picked him up at the airport on Thursday night, and on Friday, we were enjoying lunch together at my favorite cafe in my hometown. For some reason, as we were waiting for our food, I decided to check my e-mail. There, staring back at me was an e-mail about my visa.

I opened it and the first line was all I needed to see, “Your UK visa has been issued.” YESSSS! (Apparently, they skipped the middle e-mail and just went straight to the good stuff…fine by me!) We were both ecstatic! I planted some big kisses on the Brit and neither of us stopped smiling the rest of the day. (He even beat me at miniature golf that afternoon, and I still didn’t stop smiling!)

So, the process I was most nervous about went better than expected. In a matter of a week and a half after mailing the application, I had my passport back with a fun sticker inside!

Good thing I didn’t have a back-up plan after all!

A snippet of my visa in my passport!

Studying (legally) in the UK, Part I

I thought I’d give a little background about how all of this came to be….

All of my application materials were into the university, which left me obsessively checking my e-mail for any news from the school I had applied to. I had just woken up one morning in mid-May and was browsing my e-mail on my phone with one eye still closed. (Totally normal morning routine, right?!) When I saw the e-mail from the university, both eyes were wide open in a flash! I clicked on the e-mail and saw what I was hoping for – an acceptance! Just so happened that I was meeting the Brit in New York City that night, so we had much to celebrate!

They really want me!

Step one was complete. However, as an American wanting to study legally on a year-long graduate program, I still needed to apply and be approved for a UK Tier 4 PBS (Points-Based System) General Student Visa. It was now up to the UK Border Agency.

I should mention that I do have prior experience working with UK student visas because in my past ‘life’, I advised college students on study abroad. At the college where I worked, I was the official (yet unofficial as I can’t speak officially for foreign governments) adviser on student visas. Because I was the sounding board for my students as they went through the UK visa process, I was a bit nervous. I knew fairly well what was required of me to submit a complete visa application, but after my acceptance, I began more thoroughly sorting through the details of the visa application guidelines.

In late May, I set off to England for 5 weeks. I worked on my application a bit while in England, but mostly I procrastinated (oops!) and waited until I returned to the U.S. to take care of it. Completing the application included a trip to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Visa Support Center to submit my biometric information (basically digital fingerprint scans and a digital photograph of my face), which was an extremely painless, simple, and much shorter than expected appointment. Most of the other requirements were fairly simple to gather as well, which was a nice surprise. So, I completed the application and read over it one too many times. In late July, I overnighted my passport (eeeek!) and all of my application materials to the British Consulate in New York.

There were a lot of what if’s running through my mind when I dropped that envelope into the FedEx box….