I came to London in February 2020 on a tourist visa which was valid until June. At that time I had already been in a long-distance relationship with a British man for a year, and we decided to take it to the next level: live together, see how it was, and decide what to do next. Lockdown didn’t stop us and only confirmed that we wanted to be together.
I think it was April: everyone who was in Britain on tourist visas was announced that they would be extended until May 31. I didn’t fall into this category, as my visa expired later, on June 6. At first I was not worried – I thought I would just leave. But in mid-May, the situation with flights to Russia remained tense. There were no regular flights, only Aeroflot a couple of times a month. Many people got home via Minsk to avoid the quarantine, but in any case, the journey home was an adventure. And I did not want to leave, so, when the government prolonged the visas again – this time till 31 July – I heaved a sigh of relief.
We’re getting married!
It turned out that the breaks weren’t just for tourists. For other categories of visas, the rules had changed too. At the end of June, I learned about an amendment in the immigration law which made it possible to switch from a tourist visa to another type of visa without leaving England – Appendix FM under Immigration Rules.
I was interested in the wife’s visa. Before the amendment, there were two ways to get one.
The first: to get married in Russia (or in other country, but not in Britain), to apply for visa from there and to wait three months without possibility to leave the country.
Second: get a bridal visa – it gives you the right to marry in Britain, which is a plus. But to get it you need to gather a big package of documents and pay a £1000 tax. The same procedure is needed when applying for a wife visa – so you do double work and pay twice as much.
Thanks to the amendment, it is now possible to get married in England, apply from there, and wait for a decision. We hadn’t planned to formalise the relationship so soon, but it was a good chance! And we decided to take it.
Applying for marriage registration
The first thing I did was to find a lawyer – this happened in the middle of July. At first we wanted to fill in the form ourselves, but after studying it carefully, we came across a bunch of trick questions and realised we needed help. I went to several firms recommended by my acquaintances, and in the end I settled on the one with Russian-speaking specialists. The full legal support cost me £1500.
In the application for a visa was a strict deadline – July 31. And it turned out that a lot of questions had to be closed simultaneously, because in the conditions of the lockdown all services had to be booked in advance. The most important tasks for us, of course, were registering the marriage and obtaining the marriage certificate.
This proved to be quite a quest, as almost all the Registry Offices were closed. The gov.uk website has a list of those where foreigners are allowed to marry – I checked them out and only Kensington and Chelsea registries were accessible.
There are rules there:
Book a date to apply (Give Notice of Intent).
Book a date for the ceremony itself. There must be at least 71 days between these two dates for the Home Office to carry out an identity check and give permission for the marriage.
This is where we ran into problems. Firstly, proof of address was required for the application. I, of course, did not have one and we had to additionally contact the landlord to get a written confirmation that I reside at that address.
Secondly, in order to reserve an application date, we had to make a reservation for the ceremony. But this proved impossible because the website did not give slots for the application date. Anyway, the English system showed itself in all its glory. We had to call to the registrar, and she offered us free days for Intention to marry, and then we were finally able to make a reservation.
The third embarrassment happened at the registrar’s office during the application process. We had recently moved and the proof of address was different. When we showed the old and the new one (where I was already listed in the contract), the employee waved her hands at us – it turned out that we had to have lived in the same place for at least nine days at the time of the application. Eventually she said: “Let’s pretend I didn’t see that.” Thanks for that! I imagine we could have easily been turned away on our way out.
UK spouse visa Cost:
£70 for two – application.
£24 extra for being an immigrant.
£350 for the ceremony venue (cost varies depending on size and day of week)
List of documents for UK spouse visa
At the same time we were gathering documents – we had 30 files in total. Three parameters had to be proved:
English: A1 level is enough, I took Trinity College exam because it is the easiest and cheapest. Price: £150.
Solvency of sponsor (i.e. husband): he must have an income of £18,600 or more, you will have to submit a work contract, bank statements, income statements for the last few years.
Sincerity of relationship: For this we provided a letter outlining the history of our relationship, tickets and reservations from trips we had made together, and a few letters from family and friends confirming that everything was fair.
We also had to fill in a website form and several declarations, as well as provide a general cover letter explaining the case, which the lawyer had drawn up. There she pointed out that at the time of application we were not yet married, so she asked us not to consider the case until 30 September – the day of the ceremony. We hoped that because of the heavy workload we would get lucky and the application would not be accepted sooner. If that had happened, I might have been rejected.
UK spouse visa document Submission
We sent in the application form on 28 July. In addition to the visa fee, we also had to pay the fee for the NHS.
UK spouse visa Cost:
£1000 – NHS
£1052 – visa fee with biometrics
A bit later we uploaded all the supporting documents to the website and waited for the biometric notification to be sent. Due to the heavy workload at the biometric centre, many applicants used the data from their previous visa – myself included. So it was not necessary to go and submit fingerprints, but I had to have my identity confirmed. On August 31, I received an invitation: I had to download an application and take photos of my face from several angles.
Everything was successful, and the last step was to obtain a marriage certificate and download it.
Getting UK spouse visa
The marriage ceremony took place on September 30th, and on the same day we scanned the certificate and sent it to the Home Office. The next morning I received an email that the decision to issue my Leave to Remain was positive. True, they wrote that BRP (biometric residence permit) would be sent within a week, but I waited for almost three. I now have the right to live and work in the UK until April 2023, and then the procedure will have to be repeated. I’m starting to save up again!
Total UK spouse visa came out to £4146