Getting a UK Visa: One woman’s saga

Posted on August 28, 2009 by yankeebean

yankeebeanThis post can’t come with a big enough disclaimer, my lovely peeps – A reader asked us to write about our ‘getting a visa’ experience so I thought I’d amble over to She’s Not From Yorkshire and get started.  But this only reflects my experience, pleasepleaseplease don’t take this as advice.  Visa laws and requirements change about every fifteen minutes so make sure to check with the Big Dudes (  I (unfortunately) know how stressful and heinous it is to have an application rejected for not doing everything right, so don’t take anything I write as gospel…

*deep breath* Ok… brace yourself, this is going to be a long one…

After I met Mr. Nice Guy, I went back to the US for University – we did the long distance thing for 4 seemingly endless years and then it was time to move.  So it begins…

Visa #1: BUNAC work-abroad programme = Accepted

Cost: 300.00 USD (ish…)
My location when I applied: USA
Valid for: 6 months
Received: September 2004
My age: 22

Bunac were the people that allowed me to first set-foot and work in England for 6 months as part of a work-abroad programme.  The exact programme I came across for doesn’t exist anymore (I imagine I wasn’t the only one that used it as a blatant weasel-in-to-England scheme).  Basically, they got me in the country and guaranteed me an English bank account – then they left me to it to find a job and a place to stay (which was the easy part).

I had two choices for my next visa.  One, find a job that would hire me and go through the visa application process on my behalf.  Two, marry my guy (I know, it doesn’t sound very romantic.  But I already knew I wanted to marry him, so I thought why not now?).

Visa #2: Work Permit = Rejected

Cost: Blissfully unaware
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: However long I was employed by a specific employer
Received Notification: Early 2005
My age: still 22

I found a job in a standard beige office with the hopes that they would go through the second round of visa applications that needed to begin almost immediately.  They agreed (I still can’t believe they agreed) AND they said they’d pay for it (best news ever).  I was put in charge of all the research, paperwork and evidence required to get the Queen to let me stay.

Applications completed – One.  Evidence supplied – substantial.  Time spent researching – infinity.

Application status – rejected.  Ugh…

My application was rejected because it would only have been valid if it was for a job that no other person in the European Union was capable of doing.  I must’ve known deep down that there was no way it could work…

Visa #3: Fianceé Visa = Accepted

Cost: 350.00 GBP
My location when I applied: USA
Valid for: 6 months during which I was not allowed to work
Received Notification: April 2005
My age: 23

SO, me and Mr Nice Guy hadn’t decided to get hitched yet because we needed to make sure we were doing it for the right reasons.  To buy time I went back to the States and applied for a Fianceé Visa.  I had to bring evidence of our relationship for the past 2 years including stuff like letters, pictures, plane ticket stubbs – you get the idea – in addition to filling out yet another giant form of doom.  I went back home for 5 weeks during which I paid a little extra to apply in person, went to the UK Embassy in the big-bad-city, thumped my paperwork on the desk of some lady, left it there and went and had a coffee/panicked/waited, and then received a call from the UK Embassay informing me that I was successfully engaged to Mr Nice Guy.  :)

Not exactly a romantic proposal, but I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of refief that washed over me when I heard those lovely words of acceptance.

Visa #4: Temporary Marriage Visa (take 1) = Rejected

Cost: 750.00 GBP
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: 2 years
Received Notification: October 2005
My age: 23

Fastforward past all the wedding excitement (Best Day Ever! :) ) and we arrive at the next visa.  Technically I was applying for Temporary Leave to Remain.  The rules for this Visa were that I had to 1) be married to a UK-type and 2) stay married for 2 years.

When I began this application process, I did everything I was supposed to (or so I thought).  All the evidence was in place, I’d even called the UK Visa Office to make sure I was using the right form for what I was trying to do.  But (I kid you not) between the time that I received what WAS the correct form, and completed and posted said-form…

They changed the form… so I sent in the wrong form.

Sure enough, 6 weeks later almost to the day I received my letter of rejection because I’d sent in the wrong form.  Enter drama from stage left – I criiiiiiied when I got that one.  Blah…

Visa #5: Temporary Marriage Visa (take 2) = Accepted

Cost: They rolled-over my first payment of 750.00 GBP (thank God)
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: 2 years
Received Notification: Late 2005
My age: 23

I re-confirmed which form I was supposed to use, re-filled out every last detail, re-posted it to the appropriate red-tape-central address, and received my acceptance letter with a complimentary truck-load of relief…

Visa #6: Permanent Marriage Visa = Accepted

Cost: 750.00 GBP
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: Ever (yay!!)
Received Notification: Late 2007
My age: 25

Technically what I was applying for is called Indefinite Leave to Remain – this was the one I had been waiting for.  This was the Visa that meant I could stay and never have to apply for another Visa unless I wanted to.  I had to supply evidence the me and Mr Nice Guy had been living in the same place for the past 2 years in terms of bank statments and things.  They had some rule that, if your bills were in a joint name, you need evidence spanning 2 years from 5 different sources.  However, if you didn’t have your bills and stuff in joint names, then you needed evidence spanning 2 years from 5 different sources EACH.  We (of course) didn’t have our bills in our joint name, so we scraped together about a foot of paper between the two of us.

Another giant form was filled in.

Another wad was posted off.

Acceptance arrived around Elevenses one morning while I was in the middle of a First Aid training course.  Mr Nice Guy called me on my cell to tell me the stellar news.  It was a good good good good day…

Visa #7: British Citizenship = Pending

I haven’t actually applied for this yet, but I will one day.  I was worried that becoming British would mean I wasn’t allowed to be American anymore, but for now I don’t believe that’s true.  I’ve been to many an Expat forum where people have said that America will not force you to solely be an American citizen.

However, I’ve also heard people say that America doesn’t really want to know if you’re a citizen somewhere else.  It would be a ‘use your American passport to get into the States’ and ‘use your UK passport to get into the UK’ situation.  The one warning I have heard is that you should never let your US passport expire if you’re also a British citizen because the US are unlikely to renew your passport if this happens.  Again, this all just stuff I’ve read on forums, but it’s good enough for me for now…

Bloody hell, I need a cuppa tea… I apologise if I bored the bejeezus out of you, but don’t worry, it’s over now :)

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Nina Rozenberg February 22, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Hi all.
    My daughter have been expelled from London, just 5 hours after she arrived there. She is a student and US citizen. She went to London for 3 month to go to Art College and the friend of mine, who has her own company, offer to teach her some work skill. She was not offering her any job and was not going to pay her. But unfortunately, my daughter told at passport control at London airport that she is going for internship. Because, she didn’t have a work permit, they force her to airplane back to US. She was requiring a layer and I was not able to speak with immigration officer, was a bad connection and it happened so quickly. It was happened just 3hours ago. What can I do now?
    Why they didn’t let her stay as a tourist? Any advice? Nina

  2. Pingback: Oh no, I’m that bitchy American: Fresh off the boat syndrome | She's Not From Yorkshire

  3. Paul April 22, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Found your blog, and looks like you are ahead of my girlfriend! I am a Brit, currently dating a Japanese, and I have been looking into visa`s for her should we decide to relocate to the UK.

    One thing I did find, the UK allows dual nationality. They will give you a UK passport even though you hold a US one. The one thing they do say, is that should your “other” government place some kind of legal requirement on you, British assistance will be limited.

    The US (and Japanese, should I choose to do so) governments do not allow dual nationality. You officially have to give up your previous nationality, when you apply for American nationality. However, they dont check too hard on that one…

  4. yankeebean December 18, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Dreamer – I blogged a reply to your comment here:

    Thanks for stopping by, and please keep in touch!

  5. Pingback: How do you bring up ‘the fiance visa’ thing? | She's Not From Yorkshire

  6. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? December 14, 2009 at 9:07 am

    hello there yankeebean. guess what…i just got through my 4th ultimate meltdown (tears galore) via skype with the boy after spending about 2 months reading all information possible about every visa possible. the past 2 months have gone like this: there was a slither of hope down one road…then i found a barricade. then there was another little hope..then another barricade. and so forth. which led me to right now, being crawled up in bed, miserable, emotionally exhausted, going back to re-read this post i read back in august. *sigh* i dont know what to do now.

    BUNAC has most certainly changed…def NOT only $300 anymore!) . and finding a sponsor in this economy is slightly more laughable then just trying to find a job. weve been doing the long distance for over 1 year now. (i cant imagine 4 and why?! college?). i just finished grad school so now im just trying to decide what to do next. he obviously is one of the top priorities on the agenda. anyways…blah blah…sorry…..on to my question: how did you bring up the fiance visa bit? me and him have a very open and wonderful relationship and i know he would tell me what he felt about it. but still im so nervous to bring it up/suggest it. i mean, naturally, i would have to think he’s thought it too but i dont know… anyways, can you indulge me with your story? tips? advice? *just a claimer..i most certainly want to be with him for the rest of my life so to do it would be fine. a little earlier than i thought id be doing it..but fine. i guess we’ve just been taught: a girl says ‘marriage’…and a guy starts running…ya know? anyways – thanks for listening me ramble. awaiting the story….

  7. Lindsay September 9, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Maybe I’ll make the UK Visa website my homepage ;) Thanks for straightening me out, I feel a little better, as I only really want to do my masters in a year. But I will keep watching for changes anyways…sigh…

  8. pacificyorkshirebird September 8, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Hi All – Visas to go and live in the UK can be so confusing. I think Dyana is correct that the only constant about the visa issue is CHANGE. I stayed an extra year on the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme after completing a MSc in 2007. That programme no longer exists and was replaced with something else – but I have no idea what the situation with that is now. Then I received an unmarried partners visa based on having lived with Mr. Charismatic for 2 years (in the UK).

    That being said, a quick look on the visa website tells me that my experience is already totally out of date. Be careful about making your decisions on anything unconfirmed by the UK Border Agency. In my case it was pretty much always worth it to give them a call and ask them my questions before I made any decisions or sent any applications.

    Here is the website too:

    Good luck ladies!! We are behind you 100%

  9. Rachel September 8, 2009 at 3:56 am

    Dyana and Lindsay,

    I think I need to jump in the fray now. I think Dyana was saying (and correct me if I’m wrong — pretty please!) that you can stay for 2 years after your UK graduate program. I don’t think she was saying you had to go to a 2 year program. Also — once you have a Masters-level degree, you are eligible for a Tier 1 VISA. At least — please please correct me if I’m wrong about this because I’m just about to embark on a 1 year graduate program in the UK this next week.

    • peacefulyorkshire September 8, 2009 at 8:57 am

      Hi Rachel,
      You are correct, unless it has all changed, which may be the case.
      No I don’t think it matters how long the course is, but I am assuming most are 1-4 years anyway.
      I managed to get a visa to stay for two years after my UK grad school programme finished and then transferred to a Tier 1 visa after that. The Tier 1 grants me 3 years stay. You just have to earn enough money in those 2 years after grad school to qualify for the tier 1 so be warned!! Take on as much work as possible!!

  10. Lindsay September 7, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Dyana, thanks for the info! I will have to keep that in mind when I go over. I am going for my post-grad but I haven’t been looking at any 2 year courses….yet. This may make me change my mind ;)

  11. Jessica September 1, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Hi – just some info about holding multiple passports – my son has three passports: Swiss, American and British. And the governments of all three countries know that he holds the passports of the other two. So it’s OK to have both British and American passports, and it’s OK to tell. Just be sure to travel on the right one!

  12. Dyana September 1, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Lindsey, the law already changed. it’s a 2 year post-graduate visa now. and they’ve even changed it again since it went into effect last autumn. now you need to prove three months of £1600 in your bank account. the rules change very often, the only thing that stays the same is change! :)

  13. Lindsay August 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks for this post! I really do like hearing about the visa process from people that have been through it. I am preparing myself for the drama once I’m over in England again. I plan on going to graduate school in London next year and am hoping to get a work visa for a year after I graduate with my English diploma. (Unless they go and change that law!) Love reading your blog, makes me miss England!

  14. Almost American August 29, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for that detailed post! People have asked me about how difficult it would be for an American to get the equivalent of a green card in the UK and I’ve had to answer that I had no idea! Now I know – just as difficult as getting a green card!

    BTW, here’s the US Dept. of State take on dual nationality. As Dyana said, you have to make sure you enter each country on the appropriate passport. I don’t know what the UK inheritance rules are like for foreigners, but in the US if your US citizen spouse dies and you are not a US citizen then you don’t automatically get to inherit everything from them tax-free!! That was my number two reason for becoming a US citizen! (Number one of course being the desire to avoid having anything to do with the INS ever again!)

  15. teri August 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

    so nice to see this post now after i’ve finally made it here. mine was a bit like this… study abroad visa – or whatever it was (2007): accepted. bunac work visa (2008): accepted. tier 2 visa app #1 (2009): rejected. tier 2 visa app #2: rejected. tier 2 visa app #3 rejected. tier 2 visa app #4: ACCEPTED.

    it’s been two amazing months since i’ve finally gotten back here, after what seemed like an endless hell. but for anyone considering it…i think i’d do it all again. definitely worth it.

  16. Dyana August 28, 2009 at 10:44 am

    regarding dual passports when traveling, it’s actually illegal to enter the us on a visitor visa if you are a us citizen. that’s why you must enter the us on your us passport. and as a uk citizen who lives and works here, you must enter the uk under your uk visa/passport in order to be legal as well.

  17. Dyana August 28, 2009 at 10:23 am

    also take into account the time off the application. things change at the border agency faster than you can imagine. the circumstances matter also. as a tier 1 visa holder my road would be completely different as i already live and work here. i would need to apply for permission from the crown to marry for instance. read through the border agency’s web site. it’s a shlog, but they are trying to be helpful.

  18. I Love This Blog! August 28, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I think my heart just plummeted to my tummy. Getting a UK job from the States is hard enough, but I guess getting that coveted visa is even harder that I first imagined!! :( Thanks for sharing this, though. Your visa saga was incredible!!!!

  19. Rachel August 28, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Yankeebean — thank you soooo much for sharing your VISA sagas. Here I thought I’ve had problems and I can see that I had better shore myself up for the long-haul! Tier 1 Work VISA = rejected. Student VISA = pending. Plan B (or at this point C) = fiancee VISA. But you’ve just made me consider — after these points — the plot will just thicken! The fact that you’ve made it through as much as you have and are still smiling gives me courage to face the red tape!

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