Marriage Visitor Visa – What is it and when should you get one?

Thomas Chase Immigration - UK Spouse Visa

I received a call from an applicant who wished to travel to the UK to marry her partner currently based in this country and was considering applying for a marriage visitor visa.

Mary had searched (and searched) the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) website and thought she had everything pretty much sussed. Her partner, Jonathan, also searched the internet and they were both agreed on what they both needed to do and began completing the online application form.

Until, that is, Mary called the Consulate in her home country with a query about processing times and received differing information about the application type and process, leaving her and Jonathan somewhat confused, frustrated and a understandably, a little fed up.

In defence of staff at the Consulate, it can be difficult to guide applicants through the correct process without having a clearer understanding of the needs of the person.

So back to Mary who sought information about Marriage Visitor visas.

Marriage Visitor visas are just that. They allow the overseas applicant from outside of the European Union (EU) to travel to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK.

Criteria

To qualify for a Marriage Visitor visa, the applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Free to give notice of marriage, to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of their arrival
  • Be in a genuine relationship
  • Intend to visit the UK for less than 6 months
  • Intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit
  • Be in a position to support themselves without working in the UK or requiring public funds to do so, and that they can be supported and housed by relatives or friends
  • Must be able to meet the cost of the return or onward journey to their home country or country or residence
  • Not be in transit to a country outside the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands

Documents

Such applications require numerous original documents to be submitted. They include:

  • An original current passport or other valid travel identification
  • Proof that the applicant can support themselves during the entirety of their trip. Such evidence include:
    • Bank statements; or
    • Pay slips for the last 6 months
  • Proof of the applicant’s future plans for the relationship. This may include documents to show where they intend to live
  • Details of where the applicant intends to stay and their travel plans
  • Evidence that arrangements have been or are being made to marry or form a civil partnership or give notice of the intention to do so this during the visit. This may be a letter from a registry office

Additional documents

Depending on the applicant’s circumstances, it may be necessary to provide further documents to meet the eligibility requirements. For instance, if the applicant had previously been married, submitting the following may be necessary:

  • Decree absolute
  • Death certificate of a previous partner

Cost

The visa costs £95. There may be additional nominal fees for extra services payable to the Visa Application Centre.

Timing

Applicants may apply for a Marriage Visitor visa and submit their application to UKVI 3 months before the intended date of travel to the UK.

Processing times

Applications can take approximately 3 weeks to be concluded. However, processing times will vary depending on the Consulate location and individual circumstances. It is therefore strongly recommended that all required documents be submitted with the application to avoid delay at best.

Length of the visa

Marriage Visitor visas are issued for up to 6 months only. During that time, the applicant will be expected to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK. At the end of the visa, the visa holder must leave the UK and return to their country of origin or country of residence.

Is the Marriage Visitor visa the right visa?

The Marriage Visitor visa does not allow applicants to do the following:

  • Claim public funds
  • Bring in family members or dependants. They will need to apply separately
  • Reside in the UK for extended periods through frequent visits
  • Extend the Marriage Visitor visa or switch to another visa category
  • Take up employment – except for permitted activities related to the applicant’ work or business overseas. This may include activities such as attending meetings
  • Take up studies for more than 30 days.

Mary’s immediate and longer terms plans appeared to suggest that the Marriage Visitor visa was not the most appropriate option for her. Jonathan is a British Citizen living in the UK and Mary had expressed a desire to reside with Jonathan in the UK following their marriage.

Having set out the options to Mary, it became clear to her that the Marriage Visitor visa was too narrow for her needs. Such a visa would not enable her extend her stay in the UK beyond 6 months and make a life for herself with Jonathan, a British Citizen. Instead, we discussed the option of applying for a fiancée visa, which you can read about in my other blog post.

Needless to say, by talking through her immigration concerns with an expert, Mary saved herself further frustration and making a visa application that would not have met her immediate and longer term needs.

Updated post originally published on 19 July 2016.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

We can assist you with your application.

If you still have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application to enter the UK and marry, then feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected] visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Why we charge for an immigration consultation

immigration consultation

It’s funny the things that stand out the most during your day. A client’s elderly mother had secured an EEA family permit to travel to the UK from Venezuela, which was even more pleasing given their situation.  Yet, it was a subsequent speculative email about an immigration consultation from, let’s call him Roberto, that lead me to write blog post about why we may offer an immigration consultation and charge a fee.

Roberto sent us a lengthy email, which I was asked to respond to. As a non- European Economic Area (EEA) national, he had, it appears, applied for a fiancé visa to marry his British partner. He contacted Thomas Chase Immigration after reading one of our blog posts, to seek personal advice about his and his partner’s next steps, the application process, timings and overall Home Office application fees.

Roberto said had contacted various firms in the past and that it was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that advised him of the process to follow.  Only now that he was in the UK, he had received contradictory information leaving him a little confused.

Roberto had been told that if he applied to switch immigration categories, the application fee would be reduced from the fiancé visa fee. Only now, he had been told that the fee was going to be much higher than expected.

It was difficult to provide some general information in light of the full personal nature of the questions. I responded by saying that I could not offer Roberto specific information without knowing more information and that if he wished to receive advice tailored to his circumstances, that could be done by way of a telephone consultation, with the advice given provided in writing, for a fixed fee.

For some individuals who find the fee to be unsuitable, we refer them to the website of the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC) so that they may locate another independent regulated immigration adviser whom may be in a position to offer free detailed advice

In Roberto’s case, his response was filled with anger and frustration that we had the temerity to charge for an immigration consultation. He acknowledged that the blog posts were well written and helpful, yet accused us of writing those blog posts with the sole intent of luring readers into paying for a consultation fee.

Roberto accused us of ‘gaming the system’ and said that he had since had a free consultation with another immigration company who quickly answered his questions and offered to take forward his application, an offer that he would likely take up.

So here’s the response that I sent to Roberto:

“I am pleased that you found the blog to be nicely written as our intention is to give our audience as much free general information as possible to help them take forward their own application, or at least be better informed.

Nevertheless, you seem angry and frustrated overall, so let me respond in more detail.

As stated in the earlier email, and on our Contact Us page and in responding to written comments on our blog posts, we can only answer general questions without charge.

We provide specific immigration advice to questions via a telephone consultation and that service carries a fee of £129 for our time, expertise and for preparing a written record of the advice given. And I’m afraid, your questions are personal ones about what is right for you based on your circumstances.

We could offer ‘free’ consultations, with the intent of ‘selling’ our application services at the higher rate; but often our consultations are detailed enough to answer the questions and help clients take forward matters on their own, if they wish.

What I am personally keen to do, having worked in the Home Office and seen the impact of poor immigration advice, is avoid giving general information to you over the phone, that would differ had I of known the full facts of your particular circumstances. After all, immigration applications are personal and dependent on the individual circumstances.

Our services are obviously not for you, though I am pleased that you have found assistance elsewhere“.

Sadly, Roberto proceeded to mansplain immigration and business, at which point there was nothing left to say. We certainly wish him all the best!

However, the point stands. We can offer general information during a call free and we enjoy engaging with you and helping point you in the right direction wherever possible. So do go ahead and give us a call.

What we cannot do as professionals during a general call, is give specific and personal advice based on unverified information. Had Roberto arranged a consultation, I would have answered his very specific questions, as well as reviewed his current visa to ensure that he was aware of the next step in the process, and was clear of the strict date by which the new application must be submitted.

Based on his circumstances, Roberto would have been given information about the immigration fees and additional costs such as the Immigration Health Surcharge. It would have also been useful to establish if there was anything about his matter, which had led to him receiving contradictory information. For instance, had something changed since his arrival to the UK?

There is a cost. Many of the clients that use this service feel informed and say that the feel so much clearer about the way forward. Many times that’s enough.  

What we do not need to do, is offer free consultations so that we may hard sell the application service. That’s just not our approach, though it works for some. And in any case, it often leads to some advisers having to contradict their earlier ‘advice’ during the free immigration consultation, once they are in possession of all the verifiable data and information. I’ve seen this before when I worked in a law firm and clients can get very annoyed!

As I had said to Roberto, we are not for everyone, and that’s fine. There are more than enough OISC regulated immigration advisers to cater to the needs of the individuals seeking assistance.

If you have a general question, you can call; get in touch via the blogs; or send an email to [email protected] 

Nonetheless, if you would like to arrange an immigration consultation for advice about your specific circumstances, we can help too. But there will be a fee.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EU Settlement Scheme Applications

EU Settlement Scheme Application

The EU Settlement Scheme enables qualifying nationals to continue their residence in the United Kingdom (UK), after the UK leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019 (also known as ‘Brexit’) and the transitional period. Since the Scheme was officially opened, we have received a huge number of questions about EU Settlement Scheme applications. So much so, that we decided to put together the key questions and answers in this post.

If you have any further questions that you would like us to answer, drop me a line at [email protected]. And feel free to add your comments about the EU Settlement Scheme application process below, so that we can help others as they begin this part of their journey.

Who can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

Nationals from within the EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who are currently living, working or studying in the UK will need to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application in order to protect their rights so that may continue to live in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

If you have family members, living in the UK, who are nationals from outside of the EU, EEA and Switzerland, they will also need to apply to the Scheme.

More specifically, you may submit an EU Settlement Scheme application if:

  • You are a family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen;
  • You are the family member of a British citizen and you lived in an EEA Member State together, where the British citizens had exercised their Treaty rights;
  • You are the family member of a British citizen who also has EU, EEA or Swiss citizenship and who lived in the UK as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen before getting British citizenship;
  • You used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK;
  • You are the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen; or
  • You are the child of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who used to live and work in the UK, or the child’s primary carer;

If the EU Settlement Scheme application is successful, you will be given either pre-settled or settled status.

The Mayor of London has helpfully provided an eligibility checker that may assist you.

What is settled status?

To successfully submit an application for settled status, you must demonstrate to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that you:

  • Had started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal); and
  • Have 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK.

What does the no-deal scenario refer to?

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October 2019, extended from 29 March 2019 and 12 April 2019.

Once the UK leaves the EU, and is no longer a Member State, the UK and EU’s relationship will be governed by the Withdrawal Agreement.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement was published on 14 November 2018 and was endorsed on 25 November 2018 by leaders of the European Council. It has yet to be finally agreed.

If, the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified on 31 October 2019, the UK will continue to recognise the rights of EU, EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members until the end of the transitional period at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

However, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will be permitted to submit their EU Settlement Scheme application until 30 June 2021. To clarify, applications must be made on the basis that you were in the UK prior to 31 December 2020.

In light on the ongoing discussions within the UK Parliament and with the EU, it is possible that the UK’s exit from the EU may be extended further. It is also possible that the UK may not leave the EU at all. The situation remains fluid and we will keep you updated of key events.

Should the Withdrawal Agreement fail to reach formal agreement or adhere to certain EU conditions, the UK will leave the EU in what has been called a ‘no-deal’ scenario. A no-deal Brexit will bring forward the UK’s departure from the EU and the transitional period to 31 December 2020 will no longer apply.

Nevertheless, the deadline for applications for pre-settled and settled status will be 31 December 2020, unless otherwise advised by UK Visas and Immigration.

If there is a no-deal exit from the EU, the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 will come into force.

After the UK’s exit, the rights and entitlements of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals living and travelling to the UK will be limited. The EU Settlement Scheme aims to protect the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members, who are already in the UK prior to the UK’s departure from the EU.

What is pre-settled status?

Pre-settled status will be given to EU, EEA or Swiss nationals, and their family members, who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years.

To qualify for pre-settled status, you must have started living in the UK prior to the UK’s departure from the EU in a no-deal scenario (which at the time of writing, is still possible) and meet the ‘suitability’ criteria. This refers to UKVI’s criminality checks.

Alternatively, should the UK leave the EU after having ratified the Withdrawal Agreement, then you must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

Who are EU nationals?

The EU countries are: 

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden 
  • UK (for the purposes of this post, we will refer to UK nationals exercising their Treaty rights in another Member State).

Who are EEA nationals?

Nationals from the EEA includes the above EU nationals as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

What does ‘continuous residence’ mean?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will look at the period of continuous residence to assess the length of time that a person has lived in the UK.

For instance, a person may wish to submit an application for pre-settled status on the basis of 3 years’ continuous residence, with the expectation that they secure settlement status within the next 2 years. Or they may wish to submit an application for settlement status based on 5 years’ continuous residence.

Continuous residence means you must have resided in the UK continually and can include residence in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

This does not mean that a person is not permitted to have left the UK for holiday or business purposes. However, if the person had resided in the UK and relocated to their home country for over 6 months in any 12 months’ period, before deciding to travel and take up employment in the UK, then the chain of continuous residence is likely to have been broken by the relocation abroad.

UKVI have listed certain circumstances where a lengthy absence may be permitted in EU Settlement Scheme applications. They are:

  • One period of up to 12 months for an important reason (for example, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting);
  • Compulsory military service of any length;
  • Time you spent abroad as a Crown servant, or as the family member of a Crown servant; and/ or:
  • Time spent abroad in the armed forces, or as the family member of someone in the armed forces.

However, you should bear in mind that meeting the absences requirements for settled status does not guarantee that you will meet the absence requirements to naturalize as a British citizen.

In addition, UKVI state that you and your family may apply for settled status if you have less than 5 years’ continuous residence. This will apply in certain situations only, such as if you and your family need to relocate to the EU for work purposes. Nevertheless, we wait to see how this will be consistently applied.

Do I have to apply for pre-settled status before applying for settled status?

No. If you are likely to have lived in the UK continuously for 5 years before the deadline of 31 December 2020, then you may apply for settled status at date. In this scenario, you do not need to apply for pre-settled status first.

Over time, we may find that employers, and various institutions (rightly or wrongly) request sight of pre-settled and settled status documents well before 31 December 2020, as they too come to grips with their immigration compliance requirements.

As such, applying for pre-settled status, rather than waiting to accumulate 5 years continues residence prior to the end of December 2020, may become a necessity.

Does settled status expire?

Settled status allows the holder to remain in the UK indefinitely. But, their settled status will lapse if the holder is absent from the UK for more than 5 consecutive years.

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.

If, the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the deadline for EU Settlement Scheme applications will be 31 December 2020, unless otherwise advised or published by UKVI.

The primary carer of a British citizen may apply to the Scheme from 1 May 2019.

How do I know if I am eligible to apply to the Scheme as a family member of an EEA national?

You can submit an EU Settlement Scheme application for pre-settled or settled status, if you are related to an EU, EEA or Swiss nationals because you are a:

  • Their spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner or in a relationship within them;
  • Their child, grandchild or great-grandchild under 21 years old;
  • Their dependent child over the age of 21;
  • Their dependent parent, grandparent or great-grandparent; or
  • Their dependent relative

You must provide evidence of your relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national as part of the application. This may include:

  • A birth certificate;
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate; or
  • A residence card.

As a family member, you may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme prior to the EU, EEA or Swiss national, though you will need to provide documentary evidence of their identity and residence.

Regardless, it can be beneficial and time efficient to apply to submit the EU Settlement Status application at the same time as the EU, EEA or Swiss national. If applying online, it is possible to refer to the UKVI reference for your family member within your own application. This will allow UKVI to link or connect the applications to each other.

Can British citizens apply for pre-settled and settled status?

British citizens are not eligible or required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Do Irish nationals need to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application?

No. Irish citizens do not need to apply for pre-settled or settled status.

Nevertheless, family members of an Irish citizen may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, if they wish.

Further, if you are an Irish national and you have a child who is neither an Irish national nor a British citizen, they may apply for pre-settled or settled status in their own right.

I have Indefinite Leave to Remain. Do I need to apply to the Scheme?

Nationals with indefinite leave to enter or indefinite leave to remain under the Immigration Rules are not required to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application.

Nevertheless, UKVI’s guidance states that if you hold indefinite leave and you submit an EU Settlement Scheme application, then providing you meet all of the requirements, UKVI will give you settled status.

What are the benefits of doing so? Well, currently, holders of indefinite leave can travel outside of the UK for up to 2 years at any one time. Any longer and you will lose your indefinite leave status.

If you hold settled status, it may allow you to stay outside of the UK for up to 5 years in one go, without losing your status.

That said, we strongly suggest that you seek immigration advice before taking any significant action that may change your status.

What if I have certified permanent residence status?

If you hold certified permanent residence status, you will still need to protect your rights by applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. This will allow you to continue to exercise your rights of residence in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

However, the process for applying for settled status will be different from those who do not hold certified status, in that you will not have to evidence continuous residence for a period of 5 years. This is a sensible approach, given that you had already done so when applying to UKVI to have your permanent residence status certified.

Instead, you must submit one of the following:

  • A certificate inside your blue ‘residence documentation’ booklet (or pink for Swiss nationals);
  • A certificate inside of your passport confirming your status;
  • A biometric residence card confirming permanent for non-EU/EEA nationals; or
  • A document which states ‘Document Certifying Permanent Residence’.

The EU Settlement Status application must be submitted before 30 June 2021. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the application must be submitted by 31 December 2020.

It is also possible to instead apply for British citizenship by 30 June 2021 (or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal), if you hold certified permanent residence status.

Can my child apply for pre-settled or settled status?

Your child may apply for pre-settled or settled status. You may also submit an EU Settlement Scheme application on behalf of your child if:

  • Your child is under 21 years of age; and
  • The child is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen; or
  • You or your spouse or civil partner is an EU, EEA or Swiss national, but the child is not.

As part of the application, your child will need to provide evidence of their status or proof of their relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national.

Your child will not be required to provide evidence of their continuous residence in the UK, though UKVI may request such proof when considering the application.

In addition, if you are an Irish national and you have a child who is neither an Irish national nor a British citizen, they may apply for pre-settled or settled status in their own right.

What happens if I cannot join my EEA family member in the UK after the UK after Brexit?

If your EU, EEA or Swiss family member is already resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, but you are not, you may still apply to join them in the UK, if:

  • Your family member has either settled or pre-settled status; and
  • Your relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national began before 31 December 2020; and
  • You continue to be a close family member, such as a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, a dependent child or grandchild, or a dependent parent or grandparent.

However, if the UK leave the EU without a deal, the deadline for you to join your EU, EEA or Swiss family member in the UK will be 29 March 2022. Nevertheless, the situation remains fluid and therefore subject to change.

Can I take up employment in Europe and still live in the UK?

You may apply for settled status if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and had lived in the UK, but has now started working in another EU Member State.

In this situation, you will need to evidence that you:

  • Have lived and worked or been self-employed in the UK for a continuous period of 3 years prior to your departure; and
  • Usually return to your UK once a week.

This applies to employment and self-employment and applications must be submitted from within the UK.

If you are the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen at the time that the EU, EEA or Swiss citizen starts work or self-employment in another EU Member State, you may also be eligible for settled status.

Is there a fee to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

EU Settlement Scheme applications are free. There was an intention, at the announcement of the Scheme, to charge £65 per applicant. And indeed, the fee had been paid by some applicants during the pilot phase.

Thankfully, the fee has since been waived and refunded to applicants, where appropriate.

What happens after I apply to UKVI?

If, after consideration of the EU Settlement Scheme application, UKVI decide to grant you pre-settled or settled stats, UKVI will send you a link to an online service where you may confirm and prove your status.

The link may be given to employers or other institutions to prove your status in the UK.

UKVI will not provide you with a physical Biometric Residence Card (BRP) or document, so it is important that you keep a copy or screenshot of your status for your records.

Conversely, if you are a national from outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland and do not already have a BRP to evidence your status, you will be given a document to confirm your pre-settled or settled status.

What happens if my application is unsuccessful?

The decision to refuse pre-settled or settled status applications does not carry a right of appeal, though it is possible to request an administrative review.

UKVI will normally contact you if there is incorrect or missing information prior to making a decision, so it is crucial to provide an email address or phone number where you can be reached.

If the application is refused, you may apply again to the EU Settlement Scheme at any time until 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020, in a no-deal scenario.

Conclusion

Submitting an EU Settlement Scheme application will protect the rights of EU, EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members living in the UK. We have received a number of questions about the Scheme, which we have addressed in this in-depth Q&A post.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you still have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application to the EU Settlement Scheme or for an EEA family permit, then feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected]igration.com or visit https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation.

Or learn more about from our blogs

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https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/eu-settlement-scheme-guide

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/brexit-deal-or-no-deal

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/eea-family-permit/

British Passport Interview

British passport interview

Congratulations! You and your family have naturalised as British citizens. You have submitted your applications for your first British passports. Only now, you have been invited to an interview. Why? What’s the purpose of the British passport interview and what can you expect? We answer those questions below.

Our clients, Seb and Ute, and their 3 children had naturalised as British citizens with our assistance.

Once completed, we gave Seb and Ute guidance on how to proceed with their British passport applications.

We hadn’t heard from them for quite some time, and took the view that everything was probably progressing smoothly. That is, until Seb called in a huge panic.

Seb’s application for a British passport, and Ute’s, had been approved by the Passport Office. Their two youngest children, both under 10 years of age, also received their passports. But Seb’s and Ute’s 17-year-old daughter did not receive her passport. Instead, she was invited for a British passport interview by the Passport Office.

Disappointed and fearing the worst, Seb called to understand the meaning behind the British passport interview. After all the hurdles that he, Ute and their children had jumped through to reach this stage, would their daughter end up being denied her first British passport?

The reason for a British passport interview

British passport interviews are nothing to fear.

Normally, HM Passport Office (Passport Office) will issue a British passport based on the document submitted with the application.

If not completely satisfied about the applicant’s identity, rather than reject the British passport application, the Passport Office may invite the applicant, of 16 years of above, to their offices for an interview in order to assure themselves that the applicant is who they say they are.

This applies to the very first passport application. It does not apply to passport renewal applications.

The validity of the interviewing process to achieve this objective was questioned as far back as 2010, when data at the time showed that the interviews lead to great inconvenience for genuine applicants and added to the application fees, yet did not lead to significant sanctions for those caught abusing the system.

Still, is important to highlight that the Passport Office is not seeking to test the applicant’s entitlement or eligibility for a passport, merely their identity.

It isn’t as daunting as it sounds and there is no need to request the presence of a lawyer or adviser.

Where can I find a passport office?

Passport offices can be found via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/passport-interview-office

What to expect at the interview?

The British passport interview lasts approximately 30 minutes. Some of the questions that the applicant can expect to answer are:

  • Their full name and the spelling of their name
  • Their date of arrival to the UK
  • Their residential address, including their full postcode
  • The length of time that they have lived in the UK
  • The length of time that they have lived at their present address
  • The names and roles of the persons that countersigned their application for a British passport
  • Their employment status
  • Their employment or self-employment role
  • The location of their Citizenship ceremony

For younger applicants such as Seb and Ute’s daughter, the applicant may also be asked:

  • Their school name and address
  • The full names of their family members
  • The number of siblings in their household
  • Their parents’ names and date of births

The answers to the questions should already be familiar to the applicant, and so there is nothing to revise or prepare for, except say, making sure that you are clear about the information that your chosen referee has provided to you for the purposes of the application.

When applying for a British passport on behalf of minors, it may seem inconsequential to inform them of the persons supporting their applications. However, it may be beneficial to update them if there are invited to an interview.

Regardless, we are aware of one person who was unable to recite the date of their parents’ marriage or their parents’ wedding location. That person had answered all of the remaining questions correctly and still received their passport.  

Conclusion

British passport interviews may strike fear but really are an opportunity for the Passport Office to test your identity. The Passport Office will ask questions that should be readily known to you, as the sample questions above demonstrate.

Once the Passport Office are satisfied with the information provided at the interview, you can expect your first British passport to be issued quite quickly.

As to Seb and Ute’s daughter, she attended the interview and we are pleased to report that she was issued with a British passport a few days after her interview.  

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application.

Contact us at [email protected] or visit https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation.

Or learn more about from our blogs

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Avoiding EEA Family Permit Refusals

EEA family permit refusals

In Part 1, of our series on EEA applications we looked at the application process, and documents required to apply for an EEA family permitHere, in the second part of our series, we look at EEA family permit refusals, focusing on the top 3 reasons for refusals and how to avoid them.

If you would like support with your EEA family permit application or a review of your draft application before submitting it, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Background

EEA family permits are issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 but has seen little change from Regulations 2006. The issue of the permits does not fall under UK Immigration Rules.

The purpose of the family permit is to allow overseas nationals, from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), (or non-EEA nationals) to enter the United Kingdom (UK) and join their family member, as long as they are the:

  • Family member of an EEA national, or
  • Extended family member of an EEA national

There is no application fee and the process is not as onerous as compared to, say, applying for a UK spouse visa under the Immigration Rules. So what could possibly go wrong? Let’s explore…

Context

According to the Home Office’s National Immigration Statistics as of the end of 2018,  the number of EEA family permits that were granted from 2015 to 2018 was as follows:

  • 2015 – 30,302
  • 2016 – 33,118
  • 2017 – 27,106
  • 2018 – 36,555

So, 30,302 EEA family permits were issued overseas in 2015. The number of EEA family permits issued rose by almost 10% in 2016 to 33,118. While there was a dip in the number of approvals in 2017, the numbers rose to their highest levels in 2018, a likely reflection of the high number of applications there were received in the run up to the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Extracting details of the number of successful applications and the rate of refusals is difficult and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the body responsible for processing applications, is often unwilling to provide such specific data. Much of the data tends to include other types of applications and categories.

Yet, from direct experience, UKVI was well known for inappropriately refusing EEA family permits and using an inconsistent approach when considering applications.

When presenting cases in the immigration Tribunal on behalf of the Secretary of State, it was, unfortunately, not usual for applicants to successfully lodge an appeal against an adverse decision of an Entry Clearance Officer or in a few instances, to withdraw a UKVI decision because it was poorly argued.

Nowadays, the decision making has improved but the European Commission noted that non-EEA family members are still being denied family permits by UKVI on invalid grounds, or without a justified reason.

In fact, the European Commission stated:

Only in the UK is it possible to state that the number of refusals of entry or residence, as well as expulsions of EU citizens, is steadily on the rise

It went on to say:

National authorities indicate that this is the result of concerted efforts to refuse entry or to expel EU citizens convicted of a criminal offence, as well as EU citizens who do not meet the conditions attached to extended residence rights under Article 7 of the Directive. This indicates the UK’s willingness to publicly demonstrate that it is addressing popular concerns such as criminality and immigration, including the immigration of EU citizens

It’s hard to disagree with this. There are times when, the way in which non-EEA family members visa applications are handled appear to support the Commission’s assertions that barriers are deliberately being placed.

For instance, it is not uncommon for non-EEA family members to be asked to produce excessive levels of documentation  so as to secure their permit and still experience delays of sometimes 12 weeks and beyond.

Similarly, it is difficult to assess the main reasons invoked by UKVI for refusing to grant non-EEA family members entry to the UK. Yet from past UKVI experience, research and information from clients looking for assistance after a refusal, the top 5 reasons for EEA family permits can be seen as follows…

Tops reasons for EEA family permit refusals

3. The applicant does not provide any (or adequate) evidence to support their claim to be the direct family member of an EEA national

Direct family members of EEA nationals are set out in Part 7 of the EEA Regulations as:

  • Spouses or civil partners
  • Direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner under 21
  • Dependent direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner 21 and over
  • Dependent direct relatives in the ascending line, for example parents and grandparents of the EEA national or their spouse / civil partner

The above members are viewed as the core of the EEA national’s family.

When assessing the application, it is important for documentary evidence is provided to UKVI to show the relationship between the non-EEA family member and the EEA national.

The type of documentary evidence needed will depend on the nature of the relationship. As a guide, such documents can include:

  • An original marriage certificate supported by a certified translation, if appropriate
  • An original civil partnership certificate supported by a certified translation, if appropriate
  • A divorce certificate or a death certificate where there the EEA national or non-EEA national was previously married
  • Original birth certificates naming the EEA national as one of the parents of the non-EEA child
  • Original birth certificates naming the EEA national as the child of the non-EEA parent

2. The EEA national is not a qualified person because there is no evidence of Treaty rights being exercised

The purpose of the EEA family permit is to join or travel with the EEA national to the UK. To clarify, the EEA national must either:

  • Be in the UK already
  • Plan on travelling with you to the UK within 6 months of the date of your application

If the EEA national has been in the UK for more than 3 months they must either:

  • Be a ‘qualified person’ who is exercising their ‘Treaty’ right by working, looking for work, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient); or
  • Have a permanent right of residence in the UK

Where UKVI is not satisfied of the above, you can expect to receive an EEA family permit refusal with the following wording:

You have failed to provide evidence that your EEA national family member is a qualified person in accordance with Regulation 6 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006. I am, therefore, not satisfied that your EEA national family member is residing in the UK in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006.

To avoid this, it is important to evidence the EEA national’s permanent residence status, by way of an EEA permanent residence status, or show they are exercising their ‘Treaty rights’ by submitting original, stamped or certified documents appropriate to their circumstances – see our previous article for more details.

If the EEA national does not have a permanent residence status, some examples of recommended documents of exercising Treaty rights may include:

  • Employment – an employment contract, payslips or a letter from an employer
  • Self-employed – Service contracts, customer invoices or audited accounts with bank statements
  • Studying – A letter from the UK school, college or university
  • Financially self-sufficient – bank statements

EEA nationals that are financially self-sufficient or studying in the UK must have comprehensive medical insurance to be a ‘qualified person’ and it is recommended that evidence of insurance be submitted to UKVI.

1. The applicant is a party to a marriage of convenience

UKVI defines a marriage of convenience as an ‘abuse of the right to reside’. Unsurprisingly, where UKVI suspect that the marriage or civil partnership between the EEA national and non-EEA national was entered into to circumvent the UK immigration rules, the UKVI will issue a refusal with the following wording:

The definition of ‘spouse’ in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 does not include a party to a marriage of convenience. I am satisfied that you are party to a marriage of convenience and are therefore not the family member of an EEA national in accordance with Regulation 7 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006.

One of my previous clients, a US national, was absolutely devastated to receive a letter from UKVI informing her that her recent marriage to a French national was a sham.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Mr Polyakov, a Russian national, married to his German wife, Anna who had sought an EEA family permit to visit his daughter and newly arrived grandson in the UK. Mr Polyakov was surprised to find that the genuineness of his marriage was doubted by UKVI because he had submitted his marriage certificate, but has not provided photographs of his wedding. Mr Polyakov and Mrs Polyakov have been married since 1975!

In the case of our client, she had followed the online guidance and submitted her original marriage certificate.  UKVI’s guidance makes it clear that a valid marriage certificate is sufficient to prove a family relationship. In fact, where UKVI suspects that the marriage is one of inconvenience, the burden of proof falls on UKVI to support their assertion by testing their suspicions.  This is supported by case law.

Yet despite this guidance, UKVI did not ask the client to provide additional information about the relationship. Nor had the client or her spouse been invited to an interview. Unfortunately, the client’s time frame for lodging an appeal had lapsed and so the decision to refuse the application for this reason could not be challenged.

She contacted Thomas Chase Immigration for the first time to assist her with a new application for an EEA family permit.  By now, she had been married for 6 months.

To help the client increase her chances of success in securing an EEA family permit, she was advised to gather as many documents that she had that related to her relationship with her spouse. The purpose of this exercise was to show UKVI that despite the couple’s marriage of 6 months, the couple had been in a genuine relationship for over 2 years.

The following documents were submitted:

  • Records of past communications between the couple such as Skype and WhatsApp messages
  • Travel tickets of holidays taken together
  • Photographs

We provided a covering letter, setting out the client’s circumstances, how she met the requirements, and touched on her previous refusal and how this application differed. We helped the client to make a strong application. Needless to say, the client’s application was approved.

Conclusion

EEA family permits can be refused for a number of reasons, many of which come as a total surprise to the applicant. By being aware of the pitfalls and preparing a strong application, the application process for an EEA family permit will likely go as smoothly as possible.

Have you or someone you know received a recent refusal? What were the reasons given and what advice would you give to others?

Share this blog with someone who might benefit from it.

This post was first published on 31 May 2017 and updated on 1 March 2019.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and HR professionals.

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Lost Life in the UK Test Letter

Lost Life in the UK Test Letter

Applying to naturalise as a British citizen? Or in the process of applying for indefinite leave to remain? Lost your Life in the UK test letter? Here’s a guide on what to do next.

When applying for indefinite leave to remain or to naturalise as a British citizenship, the applicant must demonstrate that they have knowledge of the English language and knowledge of life in the UK (also known as the KOLL requirement). The is demonstrated by sitting and passing the Life in the UK test.

The Life in the UK test is test taken over 45 minutes, containing 24 questions based on British traditions and customs. The test is meant to test the applicant’s understanding of British civic-political duties, such as voting requirements. The test carries a fee, which is payable each time the applicant sits the test.

On the successful completion of the test, the applicant will receive a Life in the UK Test Pass Notification Letter. This letter must be kept sake. Why? Because a duplicate will not be issued.

There are quite a few instances of clients reporting of their lost Life in the UK test letter. After all, the letter appears quite flimsy and plain and can easily be confused with other household documents.

So what can an applicant do, when they are about to apply for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship, and realises that they have either misplaced or lost their Life in the UK test letter?

If the Life in the UK letter is lost or misplaced, it will not be possible to obtain another copy, as stated above. Instead, the Home Office advise [https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test/what-happens-test] the applicant to write a letter addressed to them, explaining that the Life in the UK Pass Notification Letter has been lost.

The letter should provide details of:

  • The applicant’s full name, nationality and date of birth;
  • Date that they sat the Life in the UK test and location; and
  • The test pass number.

It is important to state the Life in the UK test pass number, if this is known.

Once the letter has been drafted, the applicant should include it with their application for citizenship or indefinite leave.

Once the letter and application has been received by the Home Office, the Home Office will use the information to confirm whether the applicant has indeed passed the Life in the UK test.

This process has proven successful for a recent client. That client was extremely organised. And yet, she was baffled as to how her Life in the UK test letter came to be misplaced. Things happen to the best of us.

Still, the overall advice is to keep the Life in the UK Pass Notification Letter extra safe, or at the very least, take a copy of the letter.

And don’t let a lost Life in the UK test letter prevent you from applying for indefinite leave or British citizenship within your planned timescales. There is normally a solution!


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EU Settlement Scheme Guide

EU settlement scheme guide

The UK Government has provided a EU Settlement Scheme guide for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members. Below, is the Government’s latest position about the Scheme, and a guide on the testing phase and process.

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The Home Office has been testing the EU Settlement Scheme application process through a series of pilots before it launches fully by 30 March 2019. Feedback from applicants on the application process has been positive and the exercise has helpfully identified areas for improvement and clarification. By 14 January 2019, 27,211 decisions had been made and issued as part of the second test phase, with no applications refused. You can read more about how the testing has gone so far on GOV.UK.

A new phase of testing began on 21 January, so we can continue to improve the scheme ahead of the full go-live in March.

The latest testing applies to EU citizens living in the UK who have a valid passport and to their non-EU citizen family members who have a valid biometric residence card. Making an application at this time is entirely voluntary so there is no need to do anything yet.

There are some differences with the current test phase compared to when the scheme is fully launched. In this phase, we are testing the app which checks an individual’s identity document. However, when the scheme is fully live at the end of March, use of the app will be optional and people will be able to send their identity document in the post or get their passport checked in over 50 locations.

The scheme will be fully live by 30 March 2019, and under the draft Withdrawal Agreement applicants will have until 30 June 2021 to apply. You will be able to use any laptop or mobile device to make an application.

On 21 January 2019 the Prime Minister announced that there will be no fee when the scheme opens fully on 30 March 2019. Anyone who has applied already, or who applies and pays a fee during the test phases, will have their fee refunded. Applicants should make payment using the card they want to be refunded on. Further details of the refunds process will be published shortly.
 

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and businesses.

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Immigration Health Surcharge FAQ

Immigration Health Surcharge FAQ

The UK Government is increasing the immigration Health Surcharge to be paid by overseas nationals looking to enter and stay in the United Kingdom (UK). In our Immigration Health Surcharge FAQ blog, we outline the nature of the changes and the reasons given for the increase and answer other frequently asked questions,

What are the Immigration Health Surcharge changes?

On 8 January 2019, the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase by £200 to £400 per year for non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals seeking to enter the UK for over 6 months.

The surcharge will also double for non-EEA students and Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa applicants from £150 to £300 per year.

How is the Immigration Heath Surcharge calculated?

If the applicant applies for a Tier 2 work for visa for a term of 3 years, the applicant will incur a surcharge of £1,200. Students on the other hand can expect to pay £300 per year.

When was the Immigration Health Surcharge introduced?

On 6 April 2015, the UK Coalition Government introduced the IHS for EEA nationals seeking to live, work and study in the UK for over 6 months. The purpose of the surcharge was to raise funds for the National Health Service (NHS) from overseas nationals in the UK,

In addition to visa application fees, non-EEA nationals were required to pay a surcharge of £200 per year, before the increase, for each year of the length of their visa, payable at the time of the submission of the application.

Students on the other hand were expected to pay £150 per year, prior to the increase.

Why was the Immigration Health Surcharge introduced?

At the time of the introduction, the Government said:

‘Currently non-European nationals coming to work, study or join family members receive free medical treatment under the UK’s NHS in the same way as a permanent resident.’

The Government also quoted Charles Hay, UK Ambassador to South Korea, who said:

‘We, of course, recognise the very valuable contribution that Koreans who come the UK to study and work make to the wider economy and so have deliberately kept the surcharge at a competitive level – lower than most private health insurance policies.’

Unfortunately, the Government neglected to recognise that, not only do non-EEA nationals pay high visa application fees which go towards the State, rather than directly to the Home Office, but that many overseas nationals contribute to the State and NHS by way of income tax.

What are the Immigration Health Surcharge benefits?

In exchange for payment of the IHS, visa nationals will be allowed to access NHS services. The UK Government argues that the surcharge represents good value for money to non-EEA nationals, carrying a lesser fee than some private medical insurance policies.

Why is the Immigration Health Surcharge being increased?

In October 2018, the UK Government asserted that the National Health Service (NHS) received £600 million from the IHS since April 2015. It is projected that IHS increase could rise an extra £220 million for the NHS.

Home Office Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:

‘Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but the NHS is a national, not international health service and we believe it is right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability.’

The Minister added,

‘It is only fair that people who come to the UK make a contribution to the running of the NHS, and even with the increase we still continue to offer a good deal on healthcare for those seeking to live in the UK temporarily.’

Overseas nationals working in the UK will still be expected to make National Insurance contributions from their UK salary and pay income tax.

Yet, perhaps the Government also wishes to minimise any shortfall in tax receipts resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union from April 2019.

How is the Immigration Health Surcharge payment made?

Payment is made online at the time of submission of the visa application, and prior to the visa biometric appointment.

When submitting the visa application, the overseas national will be directed to a separate portal where the IHS will need to be paid. Once completed, the applicant will be issued with an IHS reference.

It will not be possible to submit the application unless the IHS has been paid in full.

Will the Home Office send an Immigration Health Surcharge email?

In some limited circumstances, such as an Ancestry dependant visa applications, payment of the IHS may be requested by the Home Office at a later.

If so, the Home Office will communicate this to the applicant, via email. If so, the applicant must make payment of ant outstanding surcharges within 7 working days if applying from outside of the UK, and 10 working days if applying from within the UK.

Will the Home Office issue an Immigration Health Surcharge refund?

If the visa application is refused, applicants will receive a refund of the IHS. This does not mean that the applicant will receive a refund of the visa application fees in the event of a refusal.

Refunds are also automatically paid if the applicant mistakenly incurred the surcharge twice.

The Home Office states that refunds are normally paid within 6 weeks of the application outcome, though from experience refunds are processed much sooner.

If the refund is not received within the 6 weeks’ timeframe, contact should be made with the Home Office.

What is an Immigration Health Surcharge partial refund?

An overseas national applicant will automatically get a partial refund where the surcharge was paid for a longer period that they were granted leave for.

Are visitors required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge?

The surcharge will not apply to overseas travellers entering the UK for less than 6 months or those seeking indefinite leave to remain.

Conclusion

The UK Government has doubled the Immigration Health Surcharge payable by non-EEA nationals in order to raise additional funds for the National Health Service.

In exchange, overseas nationals travelling to the UK for over 6 months will have access to national health services. Nevertheless, as set out this Immigration Health Surcharge FAQ blog, overseas nationals will need to factor in this cost, in addition to any visa application fees and relocation costs.

Further, there are number of practical considerations, set out in the Immigration Health Surcharge FAQ blog that non-EEA nationals may wish to bear in mind when taking forward their visa applications.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and organisations.

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Ancestry visa refusal

ancestry visa refusal

A UK ancestry visa can be a fantastic tool for a Commonwealth citizen to secure long term entry to the UK. Yet there are some pitfalls that need to be avoided to prevent an ancestry visa refusal.

Advantages

The ancestry visa allows a Commonwealth citizen, with ancestral links to the United Kingdom (UK), to live and work in the UK for 5 years. The visa may be extended for a further 5 years, to a total of 10 years and provides a route to citizenship.

Crucially, family members may travel to the UK also, and unlike a Tier 2 highly skilled work visa for instance, the ancestry visa offers flexible employment. As such, the holder is not attached to a particular sponsoring company or to a particular role.

In order to understand how to avoid an ancestry visa refusal, let’s first look at the requirements to be met by an applicant, what they each mean, and note the pitfalls to be avoided.

Requirements

To secure an ancestry visa under paragraphs 186 -193 of the Immigration Rules, the applicant must demonstrate that they are:

  • A Commonwealth citizen
  • Aged 17 or over
  • In possession of proof that one of their grandparents was born in the UK and islands (Guernsey, Jersey or Isle of Man), Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922, or on a British-registered ship or aircraft
  • Able to work and intends to take or seek employment in the UK
  • Able to maintain and accommodate themselves and any family members while in the UK without the need to claim or seek public funds

Ancestry visa refusal

There is an added need to prepare a strong application at the outset, not only to save time and costs, but also because UK ancestry visa applications no longer carry a right of appeal. Instead an applicant must ask for the Home Office to review their decision to refuse the application, if the applicant believes that the initial decision was incorrect.

To avoid an ancestry visa refusal, it may help to look at each of the visa requirements in detail.

A Commonwealth citizen

The applicant must be a Commonwealth citizen at the date of the application. Therefore, if the applicant held another nationality at the time of their birth and later acquired Commonwealth citizenship, this will not lead to an ancestry visa refusal.

Aged 17 or over

This is self-explanatory. The applicant may apply for an ancestry visa when they reach the age of 17 years.

Proof of ancestral links

The applicant must evidence that they have a grandparent born in one of the following circumstances:

  • In the UK, including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
  • Before 31 March 1922 in what is now the Republic of Ireland
  • On a British-registered ship or aircraft

Our last client to secure an ancestry visa was a New Zealand national, whose paternal grandfather was a British citizen born in the UK. To evidence his grandfather’s circumstances, the client was advised to submit his grandfather’s original birth certificate, his father’s and his own original birth certificates.

Prior to submitting the application, we carefully cross-referenced the documents to ensure that the documents evidenced a clear link between the client, his parent and his paternal grandfather. Failure to make sure that the documents clearly shows an ancestral link will likely lead to an ancestry visa refusal.

It is not strictly necessary for the applicant to submit their parents’ or grandparents’ marriage certificates as the requirement applies whether the applicant or applicant’s parents, were born within or outside of marriage in the UK. That said, a marriage certificate will prove beneficial where a grandparent or parent had changed their name through marriage, or for another reason, to clearly evidence the familial links.

The document does not need to be in pristine condition, but they must be originals, legible and in English or translated into English.

Adoption

Where the applicant or their parent is adopted, the applicant will need to adequately prove:

  • They have been adopted by someone who has a parent born in the UK; or
  • That one of their parents was adopted by someone born in the UK; or
  • Their grandparents by birth (blood grandparents) were born in the UK

As part of the application, the applicant must provide their legal adoption paper to demonstrate that the adoption process was properly completed and valid.

Step-parents

Conversely, we had a client who wished to apply for a UK ancestry visa because their grandfather, on his step-father’s side, was born in the UK. In that case, we advised the client that he would likely receive an ancestry visa refusal. Unfortunately, UK ancestry cannot be claimed through step-parents. Instead, we advised the client about alternative visa options.

Able to work and intends to take or seek employment

Under paragraph 186(iv) of the Immigration Rules, the applicant says an applicant must be able to work and intend to take up or seek employment in the UK. This seems to cause some confusion amongst clients, which is justified given that a number of applications are refused for failure to meet this requirement.

For an applicant to meet this requirement, they must evidence that:

  • They have a job in the UK; or
  • They genuinely intend to look for a job and are realistically able to do this; or
  • They genuinely intend to become self-employed and are realistically able to do this.

Therefore, in order to secure an ancestry, visa the applicant only needs to demonstrate that they are able to work and genuinely intend to seek employment. If the applicant has an offer of employment from a UK company this will likely strengthen the application. The application will also be strengthened by a well-produced and genuine business plan, where the person intends to become self-employed in the UK.

If there are any medical conditions preventing the applicant from working, or there are other factors likely to prevent them from working, then the application will fail. That said, a person cannot be refused an ancestry visa due to their disability alone.

Maintain and accommodate themselves and family members

Under paragraph 186(v) of the Immigration Rules, the applicant must evidence that they can adequately maintain and accommodate themselves, and any dependant family members, in the UK without the need to seek State funds.

The applicant will be expected to submit bank statements and proof of accommodation in the UK. No specified minimum funds have been listed in the guidance.

Each application is looked at on a case-by-cases basis. Funds must be sufficient, certainly until the applicant generates an income, and if there are dependant family members, there must be enough funds to look after the family unit.

What next?

Once the applicant has properly completed the online ancestry visa application form and gathered the requisite documentation, the application may be submitted and any Immigration Health Surcharges paid. The applicant is then ready to book their biometric appointment at the overseas visa application centre.

There are different processes depending on the visa application centre location and the third party in charge of that centre, but in essence, the applicant will need to provide their biometric data and documents at the centre.

The applicant’s documents will be forwarded to the Home Office’s Decision Making Unit for processing and a decision will normally be communicated within approximately 3 weeks.

The Home Office will decide each case on its own merits so it is critical for an applicant to evidence how they meet the requirements as it applies to their circumstances.

Conclusion

UK ancestry visas hold many benefits for Commonwealth citizens with UK ancestral links. However, those links must be properly evidenced and the wider immigration requirements must be met. By understanding the requirements, and possible pitfalls, an applicant can avoid receiving an ancestry visa refusal.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and organisations.

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Avoiding a marriage visitor visa refusal

marriage visitor visa refusal

A marriage visitor visa refusal can be devastating. In this article we can clarify what a marriage visitor visa is, when to apply for one, and how to avoid a marriage visitor visa refusal.

What is a marriage visitor visa?

The marriage visitor visa  is suitable for nationals from outside of the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe Economic Area (EEA) who wish to:

  • Marry or register a civil partnership in the UK; or
  • Give notice of a marriage or civil partnership in UK; and
  • Leave the UK after their marriage or civil partnership and do not plan to stay or settle in the UK

When making an application, the applicant must demonstrate that they (and their partner) are:

  • 18 years of age or over
  • Free to give notice to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of their arrival
  • In a genuine relationship
  • Visiting the UK for less than 6 months
  • Intending to leave the UK at the end of their visit
  • Able to support themselves without working in the UK or State support, or that they will be financially supported and accommodated by relatives or friends
  • Able to meet the cost of their return or onward journey

Our previous clients, John, a British national living in the United States (US), and his partner Celia, a US citizen,sought advice about how best to marry in the UK. It was important to John for his large family and elderly grandparents to be present at his wedding. He did not want his grandparents to suffer the undue stresses of international travel.For Celia, she loved the idea of having the wedding ceremony at a particular historic venue in Cambridgeshire and fortunately for her, her family were more than willing to travel to the UK.

John and Celia were both over 18, free to marry, had substantial savings, and neither had any intentions of remaining in the UK beyond a few weeks after the ceremony.

For John and Celia, a marriage visitor visa was the correct option. They were able to successfully demonstrate how they met each of the requirements under the immigration rules and Celia secured her marriage visitor visa.

When should you apply for a marriage visitor visa?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) states that ‘the earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel’. This means that if an applicant wishes to travel to the UK on 1 August to give notice to marry or enter into a civil partnership, they may submit their onlineapplication on 1 May at the earliest.

Timing is going to be a key consideration when applying for this type of visa. This is because in order to marry or enter into a civil partnership, the couple must have physically lived in the UK, in the registration locality, for at least 7 full days.

On Day 9, the couple must then give the registry office at least 28 days’ notice of their intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership. If 28 days’ notice cannot be given for exceptional reasons, the Registrar General may authorise for the ceremony to take place.

A question that we are often asked, is whether the non-EEA applicant must remain in the UK for the entire 28 days’ notice period. The answer is no. The applicant can enter the UK, give notice to marry, or enter into a civil partnership. Following their departure, they may return to the UK under the same marriage visitor visa (and providing the visa is still valid) to attend the ceremony. The applicant will need to be mindful however,to carry further documentation with them when returning to the UK, just in case it is requested by the Immigration official at the border.

Another frequent question, is whether the person can forgo the marriage visitor visa application process and marry or enter into a civil partnership under a standard visitor visa or visitor status.The simple answer is, no!

How to avoid a marriage visitor visa refusal?

The marriage visitor visa requirements can seem pretty straightforward, so many people are surprised when they receive a marriage visitor visa refusal. Three of the main reasons, from our experience,for marriage visitor visa refusals are:

  1. Not providing evidence of notice to marriage or civil partnership, or of an intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership
  2. Not evidencing an intention to leave the UK at the end of the marriage or civil partnership, or applying with the intention to stay in the UK permanently
  3. Lack of sufficient finances or financial support for the duration of the visit

Reason 1: Not providing evidence of notice to marriage or civil partnership, or intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership

To assess whether the applicant has an intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership, or that they even intend to actually marry or form a civil partnership, the decision maker will consider the documentary evidence provided. Decision makers are wary of ‘sham marriages’ or sham civil partnership’ used for the purposes of thwarting immigration laws.

In one case, Michela, a Botswana national who had previously (albeit briefly) studied in the UK, had received a marriage visitor visa refusal. Michela had submitted proof of contact with theRegister and of her provisional booking of the wedding venue. Yet, Michela had taken it for granted that the decision maker would accept this as proof of her relationship to Edison. Having provided no further evidence of her relationship with Edison, Michela’s application was refused.

Michela arranged a consultation, perhaps, to get her frustrations out in the open more than anything else. Understandably, Michela was tempted to marry elsewhere, but we were able to persuade her that a marriage visitor visa was still achievable. Michela was advised to submit a selection of photographs of her and Edison together, screenshots of communications between them, and proof of their time together and travels during her studies in the UK from 2014 to 2015 and beyond, to demonstrate that their relationship was indeed genuine and subsisting.

Michela was still required to evidence how she met the remaining immigration requirements. We emphasised the fact that Michela had observed the terms of her previous student visa and set out the reasons why she was keen to marry in the UK, rather than in her home country. Needless to say, her application proved successful.

Reason 2: Not evidencing an intention to leave the UK at the end of the marriage or civil partnership or applying with the intention to stay in the UK permanently

The marriage visitor visa is a short term visa. The applicant is largely expected to enter the UK, marry or enter into a civil partnership, and leave. They do not need to immediately return to their home country and can instead leave the UK and travel, say, to a honeymoon destination elsewhere. Yet, it is advisable to evidence this by way of on onward travel ticket.

Even then, the decision maker may still expect to see documentary evidence that the applicant has a reason to return to their home country or country of residence.

In the case of John and Celia above, we were able to clearly show that they both had family and employment roles to return to in the US. We had provided their contracts of employment, recent payslips and return tickets.

In another case, we had advised a non-EEA partner, Stu, who wished to enter into a civil partnership with his British partner, Graham, to instead consider applying for a fiancé visa. We are in the process of assisting Stu with that visa application. Yet had Stu applied for a marriage visitor visa, that application would have certainly failed because Stu clearly intends to relocate to the UK and reside with Graham, in Bristol, on a permanent basis. As such, Stu has no intention of leaving the UK after his civil partnership.

Reason 3: Lack of sufficient finances or financial support for the duration of the visit

We are aware of instances, where bank statements and payslips have been provided, and yet, the decision maker was not convinced that the applicant had sufficient funds to cover their reasonable costs in the UK, without a need to claim public funds or enter into UK employment,

With this in mind, applicants are advised to demonstrate that they have enough funds to pay for their wedding or civil partnership expenses, and travel and accommodation costs for the duration of their visit. If a family member or friend is covering some or part of the applicant’s costs, this must be documented.

Conclusion

A marriage visitor visa is intended to be a short term visa for a specific purpose, and it may not always be a suitable option for individuals seeking to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK. Once identified as the best option, applicant should demonstrate how they meet each of the immigration requirements to give themselves the best chance of securing a marriage visitor visa. By following the above tips, we hope that you will avoid receiving a marriage visitor visa refusal.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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UK elderly dependent visa

UK elderly dependent visa
A UK elderly dependent visa, adult dependent visa can be a useful tool for helping an elderly family member travel to the United Kingdom (UK) and reside long term. The problem? Such visas are very difficult to obtain.

Muneer contacted us about securing a UK elderly dependant visa for his mother. Muneer, a high-earning British business account manager, had lost his father to illness, in Dubai, almost 18 months ago. As a result, he had grown increasingly concerned about his 67 year olds mother’s well-being as she would sometimes suffer panic attacks and loneliness.

Muneer tried to visit is mother whenever his job allowed or his business travel took him to the Middle East.

Fortunately, Muneer’s mother had a very good immigration history of adhering to UK immigration laws following her visit to the UK last year. Unfortunately, the circumstances outlined by Muneer were unlikely to persuade the Home Office to grant his mother a UK elderly dependent visa.

Eligibility

To be eligible for a UK elderly dependent visa, an applicant must apply from outside of the UK and evidence that they are in need of long-term care from a parent, grandchild, brother, sister, son or daughter, who is permanently living in the UK.

Requirements

In order to sponsor an applicant’s application, the sponsor must be:

  • A British citizen, or be settled, or have ‘settlement’ status in the UK or proof of permanent residence or have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
  • Over 18 years of age

The applicant and sponsor must also prove all of the following:

  • That the applicant is in need of long-term care to do every-day personal and household tasks because of either illness, disability or age
  • The required care is not available or affordable in the country where the applicant lives
  • That the sponsoring relative in the UK is in a position to support, accommodate and care for them without claiming public funds for at least 5 years

Length of the visa

An applicant in receipt of a UK elderly dependent visa may enter the UK and stay for an unlimited period of time. For that reason, the visa holder will not be required to extend their visa or apply for settlement status, unless the sponsoring family member has refugee status or humanitarian protection.

Concerns

Muneer had presented a sympathetic case for a UK elderly dependent visa on behalf of his mother. He found it physically challenging to travel to Dubai with such regularity. Plus, his mother appeared in need of support due to her panic attacks. Although Muneer’s mother had savings of her own, Muneer provided for her financially, and helped manage the maintenance of her home.

Muneer felt that the Home Office would agree with his assessment and grant the visa. In fact, his reason or contacting us was to gather information about documents to be submitted and timescale. Yet, it was important that Muneer had an accurate understanding of how the Home Office would likely view his mother’s application.

We discussed the facts of the recent Court of Appeal case of Ribeli v Entry Clearance Officer, Pretoria [2018] EWCA Civ 611 (27 March 2018).

In that case, the applicant was a 65-year-old South African national. She suffered from a variety of medical conditions, including a degenerative back disease, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. With the help of her British daughter, her sponsor, she had applied for a UK elderly dependent visa to enter the UK and permanently reside with her daughter – an application that was refused.

The Court of Appeal considered the matter but dismissed the appeal against the decision to refuse the UK elderly dependent visa on the basis that the requirements, as set out by the Home Office, had not been met.

The Court of Appeal noted that the Home Office’s requirements were ‘extremely rigorous’ and onerous, but also (helpfully) outlined some of the documentary evidence that would be needed to support an application for a UK elderly dependent visa – such as:

  • Evidence that, as a result of age, illness or disability, the applicant requires long-term personal care in the form of:
    • Independent medical evidence that the applicant’s physical or mental condition means that they cannot perform everyday tasks; and
    • This must be from a doctor or another health professional.
  • Independent evidence that the applicant is unable, even with the practical and financial help of the sponsor in the UK, to obtain the required level of care in the country where they are living, in the form of:
    • a central or local health authority;
    • a local authority; or
    • a doctor or another health professional.
  • If the applicant’s required care has previously been provided through a private arrangement, the applicant must provide details of that arrangement and why it is no longer available.

In light of the findings of the Court of Appeal in the case of Ribeli, Muneer was advised that his mother’s application would likely have a low chance of success, if any. Indeed, there was a strong chance that the application would fail.

Alternatives

Before concluding our discussions, we explored the options open to Muneer’s mother. Though not as advantageous to the permanent nature of the UK elderly dependant visa, Muneer decided to help his mother apply for 10-year standard visit visa, which would allow Muneer’s mother to enter the UK for up to 6 months at a time, for the duration of the visa.

Rather crucially, Muneer’s mother must make sure that she does not enter the UK for than 6 months in any 12 months’ period, or she would fall foul of UK immigration laws.

Should the need arise, Muneer could revisit the UK elderly dependant visa application in future.

Conclusion

The UK elderly dependant visa is an extremely difficult visa to secure because of the high threshold and evidential bar to be reached by applicants and their sponsors. Therefore, it is understandable that in March 2016, 39,560 people signed a petition to request a parliamentary debate about potentially loosening the strict Home Office requirements.  The petition fell short of its target, probably because this area does not gain attention until a person is directly impacted.

Nevertheless, before preparing an application, it may be helpful to seek expert advice to assess the chances of successful and determine how best to strengthen the application.

And if you would like advice, we can arrange a telephone consultation to discuss your immediate and longer term options or assist you with the application process.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

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https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/overseas-visitors-anduk-healthcare/

British passport renewals

UK immigration
British passport holders may renew their passport well before the end date of the passport. The time remaining on the existing passport, of up to 9 months, was merely added to the new passport.

Fair enough – the time left on the existing passport has been paid for after all.

But now, the Home Office and HM Passport Office has now admitted a  change to this policy, so that new passports will be issued without the remaining time being added. Thank you Callum Mason, reporter, and Martin Lewis, founder, of Moneysavingexpert.com for putting this before the mainstream media!

It is no coincidence that the announcement comes at a time of much Home Office Brexit contingency planning and Home Office announcements in the case of a ‘no deal’ departure from the European Union.

Here’s the concern – British passport holders may start holding onto their passports as close to the end date as possible, before submitting an application for a new passport.

Yet, for immigration purposes, many countries will not allow a person to enter or cross the border unless they have 6 months’ validity to run on their passport. Indeed, the United Kingdom, requires non-EEA visitors to present a passport with 6 months’ validity.

Alternatively, British passport holders may wait until the passport has 6 months to run and then submit new passport application, so that in effect, as Martin Lewis put it, ‘passports will now only last nine and a half years’.

Watch this space.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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Lost Life in the UK Test Letter

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-questions-on-the-life-in-the-uk-test

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-qa-on-british-citizenship/

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