Visa application for partners have changed since I last posted about it in 2016, so I thought it’s time to update you on the New Rules for UK Settlement Visa Application.
If you are looking to apply for a UK fiance or spouse visa, chances are, you’re reading my blog because you have some questions and you need some clarity, guidance, or even reassurance about this process. I really appreciate the comments from everyone but I want to remind everyone, before anything else, that I am not an expert! I am just a person who is going through the same processes that come with being a non-EU national married to a British citizen. THIS IS NOT OFFICIAL ADVICE, THIS IS JUST A MEANS FOR ME TO SHARE MY EXPERIENCES, SO PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND TRUST YOUR OWN INSTINCTS. It can feel really overwhelming and intimidating, but as I have repeated in my posts – it is more straightforward and manageable than people think. It is easy to get stressed out because it is such an important and expensive process, but if you take a deep breath and do your research, you should be able to manage fine.
I’ve noticed a few people on the comments section pointing out that many things have changed recently, and so I thought it is time to write an update post on UK partner visas. I’m going to try to write this in the simplest and easiest way I know how – I’ll be dissecting the main concerns and write this in a Q&A format like I have with my old posts. If you have any other questions, please feel free to post it below so other people can respond to it if I don’t have the answers.
Q: So are your older posts about UK partner visas irrelevant now?
A: There may be new rules to the process, but I think the core message of my posts about getting a UK Fiance Visa or UK Spouse Visa are still quite relevant. The grounds for eligibility and document requirements remain the same, but the process and cost have changed a little. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you have a read:
- My UK Fiance Visa: Mix-ups, Hiccups, and Lessons Learned
- Eligibility and Document Checklist When Applying for a UK Fiance Visa
- Switching to a UK Spouse Visa from a UK Fiance Visa
- Moving to The Next Level: A Guide on UK Partner Visas
Q: What are the main things that have changed in the process?
A: From what I am seeing there are 4 things that have changed to the process:
- Fees have been raised for settlement applications
- There have been specific changes to the way you need to organise and present your documents
- You now can choose to send SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS directly to Sheffield
- You can also opt to scan your documents for a fee
Q: How much are fees now?
A: From 6 April 2017, fees for Settlement Applications (ie. Fiance/Spouse visa made outside of the UK) have gone up to £1,464 from £1,195. That is an increase of £269. The fees for Further Leave to Remain (Spouse Visa lodged from inside the UK after the Fiance Visa) has gone up to £993 from £811. You could find the most updated list of fees here: UK Visa and Immigration Updated Fee Table
I’ve heard that the reason for this is because the government has vowed to increase the cost of settlement fees gradually over the course of the next few years in order to lessen the burden on public funds. In my opinion, this is completely understandable but this means that fees will continue to rise, unfortunately. If you intend to live your family life in the UK, you need to be aware of this and start saving for future applications. The Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is the final phase of the partner visa process (after the 7-year Further Leave to Remain) is now £2,300. Andrew and I are saving for this now, cause it would most likely come up to more than £3,500 by then!
This is definitely a VERY IMPORTANT consideration between you and your partner. Really be honest with yourselves and look at how you would be able to afford the entire process and the cost of living in the UK. Some people do not understand this and get separated due to the foreign partner getting deported even after years after living in the UK. Cold as it sounds – rules are rules. As with anything else, if you love one another, you will be able to make a decision that is best for the two of you and your future family.
Q: How should I print and organise my supporting documents?
A: Okay, this is what is on the official memo from the UKVI –
- Where required, original documents should be provided. If photocopies are also submitted, they must be clear and legible. We also recommend you provide photocopies of all the original documents you submit to help us process your application quickly.
- Where possible all documents should be A4 size. Any documents which are smaller or larger than A4 size should, where possible, be photocopied onto A4 sized paper. This includes the pages of any previous passports. All documents should be free from paper clips, pins or staples before they are submitted.
- Please attach any Premium or Priority Service receipts to the front of the bundle, to alert the team it is a priority application.
- Please also include a photocopy of the biometric page of the applicant’s passport at the front of the bundle.
- Ensure that the GWF reference number (generated when the application is completed online), and the location of the centre where the application was lodged, are both marked clearly on the outside of the envelope and at the top right-hand corner of the first page of the enclosed documents.
- Torn, crumpled or heavily creased documents cannot be scanned and therefore should be photocopied onto A4 sized paper before they are submitted.
- Documents should not be laminated.
- You must sort and separate the documents that you wish to submit in accordance with the categories set out below. A barcode separator for each of these categories must then be downloaded from the VFS Global website and placed on the top of each set of documents. A list of the relevant documents for each category can be found on the barcode separators.
Basically – this is how I understand it:
Prepare two bundles – one with all your original docs (whatever the size of the documents) and another bundle where you have photocopied or scanned& printed your documents in uniform A4 size. (I recommend the scan & print option for legibility) This will need to be sent to straight to Sheffield or brought with you when you get your documents scanned at the VFS. Make sure that you have a copy / scanned print out of the first page of your passport (where your information is) on the very top of your bundles. Take out all the pins and staples. Write down the GWF reference number and centre location on the first pages of your two bundles as well.
Now. Print two copies of the barcodes available here: https://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/philippines/pdf/Intro-Scan-Process.pdf and ORGANISE your bundles based on the checklist. Basically, put the barcode in front each section (proof of finances, accommodation, sponsor docs, etc.) Anything not on the checklist on the barcode page should be added to the additional docs barcode.
No need to panic, it sounds quite easy, actually. This is basically a way to streamline the process. It is still the same supporting documents, it is just more specific and organised.
Q: How do I submit my application and documents?
A: And again, this is what is on the official memo from the UKVI –
From 3 April 2017, all supporting documents should be sent to the UK address below by the sponsor or applicant.
Settlement Applications, International Operations and Visas, PO Box 5852
Sheffield, United Kingdom S11 0FX
The applicant can also choose a new service where their documents will be scanned and submitted by our commercial partner VFS Global for an additional fee.
Again, for clarity. This is how Andrew and I understand the above clause. You have two options:
- You can choose to send your supporting docs to Sheffield. If you are, send your two bundles in one envelope. The address should be on the centre of the envelope, and your GWF reference number and centre location on the upper right-hand side of the envelope. Pro: No processing fee, but you’ll need to pay for the courier. Con: I don’t personally trust couriers. You risk losing your docs, and that’s a scary thought. It is also important to note: YOU ARE NOT SENDING YOUR PASSPORT AND APPLICATION FORM TO SHEFFIELD. You will take your passport and application form to VFS when you get your biometrics taken. They will take both your passport and application form then.
- You also have the option to SCAN your documents through VFS. What this entails is that they will be scanning your A4 bundle into a soft copy and I’m assuming they will be verifying it with your original docs bundle. They will then send these soft copies of your documents to Sheffield through their system. Pro: easier as you need to go to the VFS anyway to give them your passport and get your biometrics done. Also, you get to keep your original documents, which is great if you’re a business owner. Con: It comes with an additional fee of PHP 3780.
I don’t think either one of these options is better than the other. Your application and documents will reach Sheffield using either of the two options.
Q: Do I need my sponsor’s original documents?
A: There has been a debate about this on forums, but what I am seeing is that you don’t actually need them when you go through the Scanning service with VFS. You do, however, need legible and clear printouts of the documents. This was the same thing I did when I applied for mine a couple of years back. There was no scanning service then, but I only had my sponsor’s documents printed out in colour. If you want to read the forum I found, check out: http://www.expatforum.com/expats/britain-expat-forum-expats-living-uk/1226073-presenting-documents-barcode-separators.html
Q: What’s the point of having two bundles if I just get my documents scanned anyway?
A: Uniformity, I guess? It doesn’t hurt to have a copy of your documents anyway. No harm in it so just make sure you have it!
I’m going to end this post by giving you all the links to look into for reference. Check out:
- Changes to process for UK settlement visa applicants in the Philippines – 3 Apr 2017
- Introduction of new scanning process of supporting documents
- Home Office Immigration & Nationality Charges 2017
- User Pay Services VFS Philippines
- UK Visa Barcode Separators
ALRIGHTIE! So there we go. I hope this is clear and that it helped. If you think I’ve made a mistake or have any more questions, post it below! I’ll try my best to answer them when I have the time. Good luck!