My Husband’s UK Visa Journey


What I love about travel is that you do not have to go far to see the world.  You can visit the local sites in your area as a traveler with a new set of eyes.  However, if you are going to be traveling to another country you will need to have your passport and possibly a visa.  The matter furthers if you are planning on staying in another country for longer than the intended vacation stay.  Every country is different and the rules are always changing.  I recommend making sure you not only cross check the information you read in one location with another source, but double check to keep safe.  I have been asked many times how it is that I my family is able to live in England, where we relocated to in 2011.  Having been born in the UK before the rules of British status changed in 1983, I became a dual national (UK/USA).  It was the upside of being born six weeks premature, and not close to my due date. My sons are also dual nationals because I am a UK citizen.  However, if they want their children to have citizenship, they will have to be born in the UK as it will not grandfather or be passed down. I am very grateful for my parents choosing overseas assignments as a military family, it is the fact that I got dual nationality out of it that I feel most blessed.

My husband. We have been together twelve years this month. We have been married for 10 years this past August.  We also have have two sons who are now nine and almost seven years old. Does any of that guarantee my husband a spousal visa?  Sadly, no. You have to apply for it and the process has only become longer and more expensive in the UK in the last couple of years.  However, I am getting a head of myself in telling you my husband’s visa saga properly.

My Husband’s Visa Saga

Visitor’s Visa | In 2011 my husband and I relocated from Hawaii, USA to England, UK.  If you are coming to the UK for a short visit, which is under six months, you ‘generally do not need a visa’.  There are other circumstances that would require one.  My husband did not apply for a visitor’s visa.  Although he did not have a return ticket my husband was enrolled to begin a masters at Sussex University and would be having a student visa.  It took me maybe five minutes to walk through my line at immigration, show my UK passport, and then locate my our luggage.  It took my husband much longer as we did not have the address to the hostel we were staying at initially.  Luckily they finally let him through and were were finally in the UK together.  No visa required for Ryan.  Next plan is to get his student visa, find a more permanent place to live, and locate jobs before the school term begins. 

Student Visa | This will sound very poorly planned and perhaps that is quite true. However what happened is also the truth.  Which is why I stressed above about making sure you double check your sources when it comes to visas. In one location on the UK visa website a few years ago it appeared to say you could apply within the UK.  I do not know if that was ever the case but I don’t believe it is the case now. You also cannot hop to another country as a tourist to apply. You must apply from within your home country.  In the end Ryan did not apply for a student visa, but did end up having to get a return ticket to the US to apply for another visa.

Spouse Visa | While I found a room to rent and a job to keep me busy, Ryan was back stateside applying for his spouse visa. Luckily he was able to expedite the process and return to me in England before his classes begun that autumn.  Back in 2011 his spouse visa would last two years and then he would be allowed to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain status (ILR).

As of July 2012, the regulations for the spouse visa and for applying for settlement has changed.  Some of the biggest changes are as follows:

  • A spouse visa will last for two and a half years
  • You must have a certain amount of money in your bank account. This varies if children are involved. For example if it is just you it might be £18, 600 in your bank account.  If you are coming with two children it would go up to £24,800 which is roughly $41,237 in US currency. Again make sure to research to check what numbers will apply to your situation.
  • Before applying for settlement you must live in England for five years. This would mean applying and receiving two back to back spouse visas.
  • Time spent outside the UK will be taken in account if not directly correlated to your job. You must have spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of the last three years of the five.

Needless to say I am glad we did not wait any later to move to England because we would not be living here today had we tried to come after the immigration rule change of 2012.  Unfortunately not everyone is that lucky and there are many families who have either had to leave the UK, or have been ripped apart.

Work Visa | My husband did not get a work visa but as I get questions about this I will address it. There are many people who are living and working in the UK under a work visa.  However, they are not handed out like sweets.  I am under the impression that for a company to give out a work visa for an employee, they have to prove that the job cannot be done by any person currently living in the UK.  It would seem finding a job that could send you the the UK for work is far more practical than searching for a job that would hire you without a visa to work.  Point in case is that very job application I have seen, has a notice on the bottom asking if I have the right to work within the UK.  Much easier is applying for a student visa to come here to study.  However you will need to notice the day that it expires and what regulations they have for students working in the UK while in school.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) | This is the final part of my husband’s visa saga.  In October of 2012, my husband’s spousal visa expired and he went on to apply for his ILR.  Anyone who was following me on twitter at that time will know that I was stressing a bit about the whole process.  One wrong move or unchecked box that should have been checked and you have to start the the process all over again without a refund.  It is not a cheap endeavor by any means. Without mention to child costs, for a spouse to apply you are looking at £1051 if you apply by post and £1426 if you are applying in person to expedite the process. In October Ryan sent off his application and needed documents.  The one thing I had not planned on was having to send my UK passport with his paperwork. As I do not drive in the UK I had to use my US passport as my only form of identification.  There was no ETA on when we could expect the process to be complete.  They did say that they are backed up and it could take up to nine months.  That also means we cannot leave the UK until everything is finalized.

In January my husband got paperwork in the post about going in for his biometrics (involves fingerprinting) for his residency permit for the ILR.  After not hearing anything for the last few months we were hoping this meant we were closer to the end.

A month later and my husband gets some great news.  Last week he was mailed back all his paperwork along with our passports. This weekend he got his residency card in the post. Which now means he can live and work in the UK indefinitely.

Becoming a Citizen | The residency card and ILR status will remain intact as long as we stay in England.  If we move before he becomes a citizen he might have to apply all over again. To be honest we still do not know all the facts very clearly about this and so we are now researching it to understand better.  I do not think the process is any more challenging from the ILR, except that it does cost more money towards the process of having the right to be a UK citizen. What I do know is as far as being outside of the UK, he cannot spend more than 270 days in a three year period nor more than 90 days in the last twelve months of that three year period. For now we will look at saving up for that while we rejoice in the fact that the UK visa experience is behind us.

Q: Have you applied for visas within the UK or have you been through the ILR process
as an expat?Share your experiences here!



Today I would like you to meet my featured sponsor for February here at ACR: Jillian Lorraine.  I am a new follower of Jillian’s blog: Jillian Lorraine but I already feel like I have known her a long time.  It is in the way that she writes where you feel like you are already instant friends, and not just reading posts from afar on a laptop screen.  I recommend starting from the beginning from her very first post New Year, New Word, go from there and see what I mean.

I already feel connected to here as she is getting ready to finish her degree at the university my sister Zoe graduated from in Malibu, Pepperdine University.  Plus I love that she watches as much television as I feel that I do and I love how she connects her life to the characters in shows. She has even inspired me to start watching Dawson’s creek all over again. Before I get too deep into flashbacks from my high school let me continue with a question I asked Jillian on travel:


Connect with Jillian:
Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin’
* Photography by Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2014 All rights reserved |
  • Amanda

    Unfortunately you need more than the amount of money listed under the new rules. It’s someone with an income over £18,600 in England per year (before tax). However if you want to rely on savings in the bank for the financial requirement (post-July 2012) you have to have £34,600 in your bank account if neither of you have jobs in the UK yet. (It’s explained in the financial appendix.) Plus MORE if you have kids.

    Before you can count money towards savings you have to have a base of £16,000. Then you have to divide the amount you have by 2.5. So you don’t even meet the minimum savings requirement until £34,600. (CHECK IT OUT HERE, PAGE 41

    If your sponsor doesn’t meet the £18,600 in income, you can have the difference in savings- but you only get to start counting the difference after £16,000. So say your British husband only made £17,600 per year (£1000 short) in cash savings you’d need £17,000 to come in.

    It’s an abysmal new system as we found out when Sam’s income fell just a tiny bit short last year. x

    • Bonnie Rose

      Thank you Amanda…yeah its really crazy with how everything is changing and becoming more complicated. I took the numbers off the website but like I said it becomes much more on different factors like children. So glad you shared with us how much it can be still with the factor of not having jobs and what to have in your savings. The numbers are sure to give anyone an anxiety attack. :/ Thank you for sharing the link for figuring out the numbers on a case by case scenario. I keep finding people who are unable to live here, had to move, or hearing stories of families separated. Hoping there can be a better system in play in the future.

      • Amanda

        Agreed. It’s such a flawed system that is set up to keep people apart. Statistically over half of English citizens wouldn’t be able to sponsor a foreign spouse which is just unacceptable. I always make sure to sign the petitions that are floating around for the 2012 rules to be amended…..It’s so frustrating, and upsetting that a system can be so debilitating and devastating for no beneficial reason. x

        • Bonnie Rose

          Flawed and so sad. Did you hear about the visa auctions….going to the highest bidder? It just seems like none of the right avenues are being looked at for this issue. Not to get too off topic, but I was looking at domestic adoption in certain other countries (if we were to move there future) as adoption is something we have been wanting to do and it would not be possible for some places we would like to go as England would not recognize any child we would adopt from there as a UK citizen. I dont know if it would be possible to go around a back way with getting their american citizenship first…doubt it. To choose a ‘family’ and not be able to move back to the UK seems really disheartening. To know there are families out there that have been broken up. The sponsor thing is really sad because its not a feasible option for having it in the first place. It seems like another way to just say ‘no’.

  • Kaelene Spence

    I am so glad the visa situation for me in Iceland is no where as difficult as the UK. While my first visa process was a bit of a challenge now that I am doing a cohabitation visa they are s much easier to work with. Having an Icelander on your side helps so much.

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh that is so good to know Kaelene! I’m now fascinated with hearing more about other’s experiences in other countries. Younger and growing up all over the place I never realized how it would be so hard to live anywhere I called ‘home’ again when I now had a family with different citizenships. It can get so complicated and costly. Can you or do you plan to eventually become a citizen there?

      • Kaelene Spence

        I agree it is always interesting to learn about everyone’s visa experience in the different countries. I can become a citizen after 5 years but haven’t looked to much into it just yet.

        • Bonnie Rose

          Oh awesome…something to look forward to. :)

  • Jamie @ Gunters Abroad

    Goodness….all of this makes my head spin!! I can’t imagine trying to figure it all out. Luckily, for me and my husband it was one thing that went smooth in our trip. We both have 1 year visas, applied for in the US. Van’s company basically did everything…..we just had to show up at the immigration office. HOWEVER, my visa was approved 3 weeks after his due to a box not being checked, so I moved to England later. I’m so glad your husband’s ordeal is over with!!

    • Bonnie Rose

      See I would love that…to have a company take care of everything. I love being independent but then at times I feel like the 14 year old version of myself wishing someone else could take away all the stress and handle it. :) I will say what is great is even if you dont know something or have the wrong information there are so many expats or repatriates that have done it before that can help out in that regard. I really love this expat community!

      • Jamie @ Gunters Abroad

        I love it too! I learn so much!

  • Sara Rose

    As of right now I am on a student visa, which expires in January 2015. I want to stay and work here, but I do not get my results back from my dissertation until December 2014, meaning I can’t start looking for jobs (careers) until then. What I’m hoping to do is get some sort of job in September when I turn in my dissertation which will hopefully give me a stepping point into my future career. It’s very stressful and I’m hoping it will all work out but the line of work I want to get in to is very competitive and I’m not exactly sure if I’ll be able to find a job in time.

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh I hear you. Obviously each situation is unique. My husband found his job right as his fellow classmates on student visas were headed back to their home countries. Do all the networking you can with with linked in and such while you are in school to help prepare for the job market. :) I will send good vibes your way. :)

  • Dannielle @ Chic-a-DeeDee

    I think it’s great you wrote about this, I was going to write a bit more about my experiences at some point as well as there really isn’t enough information out there! I felt like we were going about our paperwork/processes blind and based on less than a handful of sources. It was also near impossible to find numbers to talk to people for help. I’ve had my residency for a year, and can apply for citizenship next year. I think I will probably do it as we plan to stay in the UK for quite a while, and if we ever move back to the US, I’d have to go through the whole process again if we wanted to move back to Europe. It’s definitely a headache and a lot of money,

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh you should. I think the most information I have ever read has been from fellow expats who have ‘been there, done that’. A headache it is for sure. x

  • Danielle

    I’m going through a visa saga myself so I always find it interesting to read about others’ journeys. My husband and I have read a good amount of conflicting advice about how I (as a Canadian) can go about immigrating to the US (he’s American) so I totally agree with double and triple checking your sources before buying that ticket! I had a pretty uncomfortable encounter at the border and now my passport has been red flagged because the Americans thought I was trying to illegally immigrate when visiting family earlier this year. Such a frustrating experience! I’m glad that everything has worked out for you and your family though!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh yes and with all the conflicting advice it can be hard since there is no one to ‘blame’ if you do it wrong. That red flagging situation with your passport sounds like a hassel? Any way to have that go away?

  • Betsy Transatlantically

    Like Ryan, I messed up my student visa! I applied in good time to head over a few weeks before my classes started but wasn’t granted the visa because I forgot to submit some necessary supporting documents. Because I’d be coming home at Christmas and would be in England for less than 6 months, I thought I could sneak in as a tourist – but I admitted I was coming to be a student when questioned at immigration at Heathrow and they detained me for 10 hours and then sent me back to the States. Luckily I, too, was able to expedite that visa and made it back to London the day before classes started! (Technically I wasn’t deported; I was merely “denied leave to enter.” It isn’t on any official record and hasn’t caused me any trouble since.)

    It’s worth mentioning that, unlike when I studied in London 5 years ago, studying in the UK is no longer a guaranteed route to being able to live and work in the UK past your course. It’s not hard to get a student visa but it’s almost impossible to get a work visa (on your own – that is, if you’re not already employed by a company with an office in the UK) even if you have lived legally in the UK previously on anything other than a visa that allows you to work full-time. I think a lot of people are unrealistically optimistic about this, unfortunately.

    • Bonnie Rose

      So glad ou were able to expedite the visa in the end of it though. :) It can be so challenging. I get emails from friends on facebook all the time who want to come and work and live in England. I hate being the bearer of bad news but you are right it is hard to get a visa. When Ryan found the job he has now all his out of UK residents friends had to leave and go back to their countries. I had never felt more blessed to be able to live in the UK then watching Ryan say goodbye to all his friends from Uni.

  • Anna Belle

    Although the rules and jargon for USA visas are different, the stress is the same! There are so many rules about when and where things can be applied for and it’s crazy expensive and complex. The worst part is that in the USA, if you get something wrong that causes the request to be denied it can be denied for life: you get one chance… Maybe these rules worked 40 or 80 years ago, but it is definitely time to update the process!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Denied for life? Yowsers that is worse than the financial aspect. Update the processes, yes I can stand behind that cause. x

  • adventuresofalondonkiwi

    It really can be stressful, can’t it. And such an expensive palava as well!

    • Bonnie Rose

      expensive…oh yes.

  • Sarah Benson

    I can’t believe how stressful it was for him to get Visas! We got our visas stateside in less than two weeks, thank goodness!

    • Bonnie Rose

      Oh yes and now with the visa changes it takes people even longer and more expensive. Maybe the rules will change soon for the spouse visas because right now its not really working for people.

  • Holly Nelson

    Your story is interesting – I understand how stressful it must have been for your husband – I am going through it all right now!

  • Sara Louise

    What fantastic news! It must be a huge weight off of your shoulders to have Ryan’s visa sorted :)

  • Jeffrey Dowling

    How to restore a broken relationship and marriage……

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