UK Settlement Visa – For an American Citizen
American citizens wishing to come to the UK to live with their British spouse are able to do so by applying for a settlement visa.
A settlement visa (also known as a spousal visa) allows a foreign spouse to apply for a visa to live in the UK on the basis that they have a spouse who is either a British citizen or who is presently settled in the UK. The settlement visa will allow the foreign spouse to work in the UK without any restriction.
The settlement visa is valid for 2.5 years and must be extended before the 2.5 years, in which the foreign spouse must meet all the requirements again.
The application can take between 3 to 12 weeks to process depending on whether you use the settlement priority service which is available for those applying in the US.
You will be required to make an account on the Visa4U website in order to complete your application. It is important to go through the application carefully to avoid any mistakes. However, if you do notice any minor mistake(s) once you have completed and printed your application you can correct the mistake(s) manually. It is advisable to then create a cover letter addressing the mistake(s). A fee is required to be paid to submit the application.
It is advisable for you to have your spouse or partner (sponsor) available as you complete your application form because you will be required to answer questions concerning your sponsor.
IHS fee – as part of the application process an immigration healthcare surcharge will need to be paid. This will enable you to use the National Health Service (NHS) when you arrive in the UK.
Priority service – “a settlement priority service has been introduced by the UK Border Agency that can speed your settlement visa”. It is important to bear in mind that this is a separate service which you will be required to pay an additional fee known as the VFS Global priority fee (the current fee for American citizens are USD 771.00 for each settlement priority visa application). Additionally, it is not guaranteed that a positive outcome will be created with the priority service, all applications will have to meet the UK Immigration Rules, but “paying the additional fee will certainly help reduce the inevitable stress and delay that is caused by the settlement visa application process”.
“The priority service will allow your application to be processed ahead of the standard settlement visa applications, with a processing time of 15 days from the date of receipt by the UK Border Agency”. “There are strict rules for how this service is accessed once you have made the payment”. It is essential that your application has ‘Settlement Priority Service’ “written clearly on the outside of the envelope, including the payment reference code that was assigned when the purchase for the priority service was made”. This simply enables the UK Border Agency to identify your application as a priority.
VAF4A Appendix 2 – this is known as the financial requirement form in which you will have to show the UK Visas and Immigration of how you meet the financial requirement which is discussed below. Additionally, you will be required to answer questions on your sponsor’s work history and your relationship. The form is to be printed and completed manually. It is advisable to have all the information of your sponsor’s work history with you due to the depth of the questions.
Biometric assessment – you will be required to provide biometric information (your photograph and fingerprints) as part of the application process. Your appointment to submit your biometric information will be reserved when you pay and submit your online application. When attending your biometric appointment you will need to take your passport, biometric confirmation sheet and the receipt page with you. Your receipt will be stamped and this will need to be sent with your documentation supporting your settlement visa application, which is discussed below.
Your biometric appointment will take place at one of the Application Support Centres run by the US Citizenship Immigration Services. They are not involved in the decision-making process and cannot influence the decision on your application. Once you have given your biometric information at one of the centres you will need to submit your completed application to the UK Visas and Immigration located in Sheffield (Settlement Applications, International Operations and Visas, PO Box 5852, Sheffield, UK, S11 OFX).
Your biometric information will also be electronically sent to the UK Home Office where they will continue your application for a Biometric Residence Permit. If your settlement visa application is successful, once you have arrived in the UK you will need to collect your Biometric Residence Permit within 10 days of arriving in the UK.
The Main Requirements
Apart from you and your sponsor being the age of 18 or over there are certain requirements which must be satisfied.
Financial requirement – The financial requirement is intended to ensure that your sponsor has sufficient resources to support themselves and you without being a burden on the taxpayer.
Your sponsor is required to show that they have a gross annual income of £18,600 and have had this amount of income for six months or more. Alternatively, evidence of your sponsor’s overseas earnings and/or a confirmed job offer in the UK will also meet the financial requirement. Only your sponsor’s income will be taken into account, you cannot combine your income with your spouse’s income to meet the financial requirement. However, if your sponsor has been living in the USA with you and returning to the UK with you, your sponsor must “have a verified job offer or signed a contract of employment to start work within three months of their return (with an annual salary which is sufficient to meet the financial requirement on its own or in conjunction with other permitted sources”, which is discussed below).
Additionally, your sponsor must have been in employment in the USA when you started your application (“with a gross annual salary which meets the financial requirement alone or in combination with other permitted sources”). You sponsor must have been in employment for past six months on a continuous basis or “have received the level of income required over the previous twelve months through gross salaried income and/or other permitted sources”.
If you have children living with you in the US (they do not hold a British citizenship) the financial requirement will be higher. An extra £3,800 will be imposed for one child and then £2,400 for each additional child.
The UK Visas and Immigration have made it clear that there is no scope for exemptions of this rule unless your sponsor is “in receipt of Carer’s Allowance and certain disability-related benefits”.
Accommodation – You will have to show that you have adequate accommodation without the need to rely on public funds for when you arrive in the UK. Your sponsor will need to show that they are exclusively occupying the property. Under the Immigration Rules, part 6, this means that “part of the accommodation must be for the exclusive use of the family”. In other words, you must show that the accommodation is fit for a family.
Genuine relationship – This requirement is often the most contentious, if the application does not show that the relationship you share with your sponsor is a genuine and long-term relationship, the visa will be refused. As the UK Visas and Immigration do not know you and your sponsor personally you must submit evidence proving that you both are in a genuine and long-term relationship in which you intend to live together permanently in the UK. This requirement is to ensure that you are not marrying your sponsor to simply gain a visa to enter the UK.
Documents and Evidence
You will need to submit documentation and evidence to support your application for the settlement visa.
Information about finances and employment – the evidence you submit will show how your stay in the UK will be funded. If your sponsor is employed you will have to provide their employment and financial details. Documents and evidence to submit can include:
- Payslips of your sponsor. This should cover the previous 6 months (you will come under financial category A), or 12 months if your sponsor is self-employed. As the payslips in the UK are in a different form to that in the USA it is advisable for your sponsor to ask their employer to print out every payslip and to have the employer sign each print out.
- Bank statements. This should show what has been paid in and out of your sponsor’s bank account for the previous 6 months, or 12 months if your sponsor is self-employed. If your sponsor does not have original copies of the bank statements (copies sent by the bank to the spouse’s accommodation address) but instead has printed out copies from downloads, your sponsor will need to have the bank stamp the bank statements.
- Bank letter or balance certificate. This should show your sponsor’s account balance.• Business bank account statements.
- Evidence of your sponsor’s current employment. A letter from the employer confirming your sponsor’s employment, the salary and how long your sponsor has been working for the employer. Ensure that the letter is on letterhead paper and is signed by the employer and dated. You can also include your sponsor’s employment contract.
- •Evidence of any income from other sources such as friends, family, savings and property. This could include property deeds, mortgage statements tenancy agreements, accountant’s letters and land registration documents.
Accommodation details – you must submit details of the accommodation you and your sponsor will be living in or intend to live in once you arrive in the UK, along with permission for you to stay there and with any evidence of any other occupants. You can submit any of the following documents as evidence of your accommodation:
- Land Registry documents
- Mortgage statements
- Property inspection report
- Utilities bill
- If your sponsor does not own the accommodation you will need a letter from the occupant (such as a landlord or parents if your spouse lives with his/her parents) of the accommodation confirming that you are able to stay there. A copy of the tenancy agreement should be included
Information about relationship – evidence of your relationship with your sponsor and any contact between you both must be submitted. Evidence can include:
- A letter from your sponsor confirming your relationship
- Your marriage certificate
- Photographs of your wedding ceremony or other times spent together
- Evidence of how you and your sponsor maintained communication together. This can include phone records, emails, text messages and Facebook messages. It is important to have the dates of your communication visible.
- Copies of your flight information to the UK. This can include your flight tickets to the UK and your sponsor’s flight tickets to the USA.
- Proof that you have met each other’s families where possible.• Some shared financial responsibilities, such as, a savings account.
Information about children who are traveling with you – if you are bringing your children from the USA with you to the UK, you must be able to show that you and your sponsor both “share responsibility of their everyday care and upbringing”. You can also provide a confirmation from your sponsor stating his consent of the children coming with you to the UK. Photographs of you, your sponsor and the children together will be sufficient evidence.
Additional documents – despite not being a mandatory requirement you can further support your settlement visa application by submitting additional documents. If you are intending to work in the UK after you have settled down with your sponsor, providing evidence of your employment contract, a letter from your employer and your payslips are advisable.
Sending the Application
UK Visas and Immigration have created two ways for you to send your supporting documents. All supporting documents should be sent to the UK within 20 working days for a standard settlement application and 10 working days for the priority settlement service. You will have to arrange to post or courier your supporting documents (UPS and DHL are common examples, FedEx has not been accepted as a courier for USA applications) and the weight of your supporting documents must not exceed 5 pounds.
Alternatively, you can contact VFS Global to digitally scan your supporting documents which will be submitted to UK Visas and Immigration.
What to do after shipping
This is primarily a waiting period and it is important not to book your flight to the UK until you receive your passport because your passport will show you whether your settlement visa application has been successful.
If your settlement visa application has not been successful you can appeal, bearing in mind that the appeal process can be slow (6-12 months). Alternatively, you can reapply but this will be a more expensive option compared to an appeal.