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How do you bring up ‘the fiance visa’ thing?

Posted on December 15, 2009 by yankeebean



We recently had a comment on the post ‘Getting a Visa: One Woman’s Saga‘ that got me thinking.  Dreamer asked how I brought up the ‘fiance visa’ issue with my English guy after I completely ran out of  ’how to stay in the UK’ options  (her original comment can be read here)

I’ve got to start by saying that my heart goes out to you, Dreamer – it’s not a easy situation to be in, but I know you’ll make it through, no matter what happens.  I think it takes a certain type of person to make a long-distance relationship work for over a year – and you’re clearly that type of person.

The Facts

There are several facts that both parties in an expat-dating-situation almost certainly know:

  1. Staying together is going to take a lot of paperwork, red tape, patience, perseverance and (cha-ching!) WONGA.
  2. There are about a thousand ways to get into the UK – and a thousand way to get to STAY in the UK, none of which are guaranteed to ACTUALLY work when it comes down to crunch time.
  3. The ONLY way to stay together, might be to get married – which is obviously not a decision to be made lightly…

The Elephant in the Room

So, I’m assuming both of you – both you and your partner – KNOW all of these things.  Of course you do… you’re smart people, you read all the forums and the blogs and the articles and the advice.

It’s also possible that, even though you know these things, you don’t really talk about it with each other much.  It’s just a giant, stupid elephant in the room that keeps getting in the way while you’re trying to do regular relationship stuff together.  Because who wants to have that conversation??  The one that essentially boils down to, “So, if we don’t get married right now – are we going to break up?”

I mean, what the hell kind of option is THAT??  When it’s the person you love most in the world??  I’ll tell you what kind of option it is – the kind that makes your throat tight and your eyes water whenever you try to bring it up.  It’s the kind that makes the atmosphere in the room thick and tense – until you could cut it with a knife – and if you DID, it would actually bleed…

Man, the memories of those days come flooding right back.  And I mean flooding – fast…

How Did You Bring It Up?

Tearfully is the answer – tearfully and mucus-y and breathlessly – and hopefully… hoping that all I had to do was mention it and he would produce a ring like a rabbit out of a hat.  Hoping I would just have to whisper the words fiancé visa and he would get down on one knee… just like that.

Did it happen that way?

No… I’m afraid it did not…

The first thing we did was go out to lunch… When my ‘last-chance-at-non-marriage-related-visa’ rejection letter came through (and I was no longer hysterical and bright red) we went out to lunch.

We talked about normal stuff, every day stuff, for most of it – a lovely table for three – me, Mr Nice Guy, and that bloody elephant.  Only near the end did we discuss that, now, the only option left was marriage.  We did it in an almost observational kind of way – I think it was more about acknowledging it’s existence than anything.  Just admitting that we both knew what it was going to take if we were going to make it.  We both knew we wanted to be together forever, so at least that was unanimous. :)

Part of me thought he might propose then and there, but he didn’t, and looking back I understand why.

The next couple of months involved a lot of emotion and pressure.  I knew that I wanted to marry him, I was ready.  He knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, but he hated the pressure of having to decide because of a stupid piece of paper that would be glued in to my passport…  I was waiting for him to propose every second of every day… he was waiting for the moment that ‘felt right’ – which would never come while I was so riled up about it.

It was like a big relationship game of chicken… ugh…

How Did You Decide?

In the end, it all boiled down to a very simple, very emotional conversation – good Lord, I remember it like it was 5 minutes ago.

I knew I had to book my plane ticket home.  My current work visa was coming to an end and I had to book my plane ticket – and the choice I had to make was would it be one-way, or return?  So it boiled down to two simple questions that I asked all those years ago.

I asked/cried, “Do you want me to come back?”

He said, “Of course I do”

I said, “Then I’ll come back”

I asked, “Should I apply for a fiancé visa while I’m home”

He said, “Yes.”

And that was it – decision made.  We were engaged…

What Happened Next?

I went back to the States and paid the extra cash to apply for my fiancé visa in person rather that in the mail (because I had to have it when I re-entered the UK).  I went back to England and had to sponge off of Mr. Nice Guy for 4 months until we were married and I could legally apply for work.

At the time I remember being disappointed that everything wasn’t more romantic.  I didn’t have a big romantic proposal, I didn’t have much time to plan the big day, I didn’t have an engagement ring…

But when we got married it was just the best day.  Any doubts that I had about us being rushed in to a decision vanished when I met him at the end of the aisle – I knew he meant his vows and I did, too.  What more can you ask for?

And on our one year wedding anniversary, he proposed – because he said he wanted to do it right… :)

So even though I might have missed out on a little but of romance at the time, what I got in the end was far better…

So, Dreamer, I guess the same advice applies as always – you’ll know what’s right.  All you can do is make the best decisions possible with the information you have right now.  Knowing you want to spend the rest of your life with someone is the hard part, and if you’ve done that you’re a lucky lucky person.  I’m not saying the rest will be easy, but also know that you’re not alone!

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Anna October 13, 2010 at 4:48 am

    Meant to write financially up there not finically….was watching a baseball game last night when i wrote that…sorry.

    but if anyone has any advice it would be much appreciated. :)

  2. Anna October 12, 2010 at 3:16 am

    I am so thankful to have found yall’s website.

    I am going through the long distance stuff right now and its awful. We decided it’ll be best for me to make the move first. We talked about getting married in the states and then later having a wedding, when we are ready. But my question for everyone is… how did yall get your parents on board for the move?
    Im from a very close family and my parents and sister are having a very hard time with the idea of me moving to England. I dont know what to do to get them on board with me. My British sweetheart just came over to the states and met my family for the first time. He was a big hit with everyone, but when “moving abroad” gets mentioned…my parents get upset and dont want to talk about it. I want their love and support and I still need their help finically because the visas, plane tickets and everything else is very expensive, as yall know.

    If anyone has any advice I would LOVE to hear it.
    Thank you so much!

  3. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? March 1, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    and then after we get a marriage visa, do we apply for a green card or a work visa?

  4. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? March 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    So onto the next question!

    We’ve decided to get married in the US. We’re very relieved to have made a decision!

    Now to the details….He’ll be coming over here on the tourist visa obviously when we do it. But does he need another special visa to get married here? Are there any rules for US citizens and Non-US citizens getting married?

  5. Kristin January 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Dreamer – Hang in there. And be careful – don’t overstay your tourist visa! I ended up being ‘flagged’ once because I didn’t have a permanent job, was staying with my partner and didn’t have a permanent address, etc – the immigration woman had me in tears, and my passport was forever marked with a nasty stamp that means I get stopped every time. Even though I have a legal visa now, I still get pulled aside because I have stamps in my passport from Eastern European countries (as I lived in Prague and Slovenia and travelled a lot).

    Don’t work. I have good friends who work for the Foreign Office and the Home Office and they have all stressed how tough the UK is on foreigners working illegally – even volunteering. Your name can’t be associated with any business, organization, etc., especially as you’ll be applying for a visa – they check this stuff. It’s not worth the risk of being banned from the EU for the rest of your days.

    I never had a spousal visa because we got married instead; I was on the 6-month tourist visa before that and spent that time ‘bettering myself’ (haha) – learning to cook, writing, doing a course. After we got married I came back to Scotland and have had a nightmare of a time trying to get a job – a very long story, but suffice it to say they take care of their own in the Highlands. (I freelance now.) I was lucky to have savings when I was on my tourist visa, but I’d been saving up as I knew this would be difficult financially.

    So much for that ‘special relationship’, eh!!!

  6. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? January 20, 2010 at 7:46 am

    kristen – Thanks so much for your reply. it makes me feel better that i am not alone in this…as it has caused me many sleepless nights and tears. (i guess the saying is true..that misery does in fact love some company?)

    not much has changed in the UK since you checked. the fastest way to do it with me going to the UK and us getting married there is 3 weeks. thats the fastest. so ridiculous. in the US you can do it in a few days. so were going to do that. its just now a matter of him getting days off work and an affordable flight. neither are in the cards right now as he’s used up all his vacation days (to come here) til april 1…and were both broke (mainly from traveling to see one another). so not a good place to be. :( but were just trying to make the most of it.

    kristen – were you able to figure out a way to somehow work while you were on the tourist visa? or did you just find a job after you got your spousal visa?

  7. Kristin January 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I’ve got a similar story – what a nightmare, eh. When my 6-month tourist visa was up, we flew to Chicago for the fiance visa interview and were told (off the record) that if we were applying for a fiance visa, we may as well just get married and save the extra £500 plus flights to America six months later for the spousal visa. So we applied for a marriage license and, the next day, got married. Then a few months later, we got engaged. And last August, we had a wedding in Scotland and a wedding in America, and frankly it took the stress out of things so we could just enjoy ourselves.

    (Dreamer – my spousal visa took about three weeks, and I used Travisa to push things along more quickly. I got my passport back the day before my flight back to Britain.)

    I was told that as an American, I couldn’t get married in the UK if I wanted to live here. (If you’re American and get married here, you must go back the US within 3 months.) This was in 2008, so things may have changed since then.

    Dreamer, I haven’t been shy with our decision to get married on paper – and have since found out that nearly all of the Americans I know who are settled in Europe, Japan, and Australia with native partners got married on paper first. If people ask, I’ll be honest, but it was a marriage ceremony, not a wedding. I think there’s a difference.

    I’m applying for the Indefinite Leave to Remain visa this month. I was told I have to take an English test. I hope this person was, as they say here, ‘taking the piss’.

  8. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? January 8, 2010 at 5:22 am

    thanks doll! i have done my reading. it really does seem so much less complicated to get married in the US (surprise surprise! (not a HUGE fan of the UK system right now as you can imagine…)).

    and as far a fiance vs. marriage visa – ive found in both countries, you cant work on a fiance visa. and i am in dire need of starting work asap…so i guess we have to skip that part…but im ok with that.

    makes me happy you had a wedding months later. did you tell people about the marriage when you got the license? or did you just wait til the wedding? i feel like my family and friends are going to think ive gone mental…

  9. Pingback: Am I supposed to pay taxes? | She's Not From Yorkshire

  10. pacificyorkshirebird January 7, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Hi Dreamer – I am so proud of you for getting up the guts to ask about the fiance visa thing! I can’t answer all of your questions, but I do have a couple of thoughts for you.

    When you decide which of you is going to make the big move, know that both countries have both visas for people planning on getting married or for people who are already married. There are pros and cons to each (such as differences for when you are allowed to start working etc), but I just want you to know that if you choose fiance visa, you won’t need a marriage license right away. If you want to apply as spouses, that’s a different story.

    While I was living in the UK, I would have had to make an application for permission to get married there and that costs about 300 pounds. At the time, there was an exception if you wanted to get married in a Church of England. That exception may have changed by now. I’m not sure whether you would need that permission if you were just visiting the UK. I ended up getting married in the states, and Mr. Charismatic was using the normal visa waiver program, no special visa or permission necessary. But that is because we went right back to the UK after we got married and started the application for him to come to America while we were both still living in the UK. We had a wedding with friends and family months later, and you’ll be glad to know that it still felt very much like a wedding despite the fact we were already legally married.

    Anyways, the point is to spend some time on the official websites for both fiance and marriage/spouse visas to both countries. It may help you decide the best option for you two.

    Now, TAXES… that is a whole other story. Post coming soon… :)

  11. Dreamer…unrealistic?…do i care? January 5, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Just wanted to give an update: He came over for new years and i decided to take the plunge and bring up the whole marriage license thing and so as i shakily took a sip of my coffee at brunch one day i slowly got the words out. now..i feel like SUCH a crazy person for ever being nervous in the first place, as his response right away was “yes, i wanted to talk about this with you too when i got here and yes, of course i would do it. i have found who i want to be with. lets do it now.” turns out we couldn’t, as the license place was closed on the holidays/weekends while he was here and he was only here for a week so we didnt have enough days. but yay for the good news.

    nowww onto the NEXT question yankeebean (i feel like you’ve taken a step with me every bit of my relationship haha!):

    1. how long does it usually take to go through?
    2. did you (or has anyone) got the marriage license in the UK? I read somewhere that if you do it there and if someone from the UK is marrying on non-UK citizen it takes longer? But he may not be able to get off work again for awhile so i may have to fly over there and do it there..

    Now we must decide who does the move – me or him. it seems like the big decisions never stop coming!!!!! but i guess before we decide that we have to get the marriage license sorted out. i think were going to do a “married on paper” bit for now just so we can continue dating each other. but i told him i would still like a proposal and a wedding down the line. haha :) but anyways, how does it work with paying double taxes? Is it true that if you are an american citizen working in the UK you pay both UK and US taxes? and vice versa?

    help!…once again…

    and more importantly, thank you for all your answers and help and i hope everyone had the best new year.

  12. VictoriainDallas December 19, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    So we started the finance visa in July of this year for my honey to move here. I am flying to England for the hoidays and we just found out that his interview at the London Embassy has been moved up to Dec 29th while I am there. May 1st is our wedding in Illinois. Ecstatic. Everything moved along very well. Hopefully we will start the new year with the finance visa in his hands. Happy Holidays all. :)

  13. Michelloui December 17, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Great story, its like that for a lot of people–there should be a crisis line for people who are nearly visa applicants, a counseling service!! It seems almost unfair (but a reality we must face) that there is this weird, added pressure when there’s two nationalities involved. My first husband and I saw my work permit running out, decided we’d get married eventually anyway, so got married sooner than we might. Well… turns out we probably WOULDN’T have got married eventually, as we eventually got divorced after 10 years! However, I have a beautiful daughter from the marriage and I am now remarried to the love of my life whom I would not have met if I wasn’t a resident in the UK. Fate worked out nicely in the end.

    Good luck with it all! :)

  14. dyana December 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    i think the worst part is when you both know that if you were the same nationality then you’d be engaged or married or civil-partnered already. personally, we’ve talked about it, but like most people, i assume, i never want to be thought of as having a green card marriage. we love each other, we’ve been together long enough to be common law in the uk were i british, we have joint bank accounts, yet there’s always that stigma. one day we may bite the bullet, but i hope and pray it’s never cause the situation forces the choice of marriage or the end of a loving, working, stable, and happy relationsihp. damn borders.

  15. Jenny December 15, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Wow, Yankeebean, that’s quite a story you’ve got there. Even though I knew you made it here (England), I was still on the edge of my seat to find out what happened, lol :) When I met my guy online, we agreed we would not get married just so I could move. But when I came over to visit, he took me on a surprise trip to Paris and proposed on the Eiffel Tower, and it wasn’t about the visa, it was about us, and our love for each other.

    I hope that all goes well with Dreamer. It’s not an easy road, but I firmly believe that it’s well worth it, and it will all work out in the end. You just have to commit the time, and surrender a bit of your sanity, and a lot of your money… but it will work out!

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