My fiancée is a British citizen and I am a U.S. citizen. We wanted to get married and settle in the UK.
Mainly the 2 websites that you will be visiting a lot are:
Here are the steps that I took to obtain my residence permit in order to stay and work legally in the UK.
1. Apply for entry clearance, form VAF4A:
Apply for “entry clearance”. This is obtained in the form of a visa. The form name is VAF4A and you can apply online.
This application costs $966 US Dollars. You can pay by credit card.
When filling out the form, select “settlement” as the purpose of the application, and “marriage” for type of application. The rest of the questions are straight forward answers.
You can save the application and resume at a later time but no longer than 7 days. The information entered is deleted after that.
Once you complete and submit the application online, you will get an email confirmation.
2. Biometric appointment:
Then you need to schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints taken (biometric information) at an application support center. You will get another confirmation email. Write down this date since you are going to need it at a later time.
You MUST print the booking confirmation page and bring it with you together with your passport the day of the appointment. This page is the APPOINTMENT BOOKING CONFIRMATION NOTICE.
3. Send supporting documents:
After your fingerprints are taken, you have 2 weeks to send to the British consulate your supporting documents. This is a critical step since you need to convince the immigration officer that you can live in the UK without public funding and that you can be financially supported without working.
They request originals, including birth certificates, passports, financial documents, and then they will return those documents back to you. This can be very uncomfortable since you will have to send your passport and they can take up to 50 business days! from the date that you received the email confirmation that they received your application supporting documents. For an extra $300 dollars you can expedite your application. This is only available in the United States.
Make sure that you are organized enough, i.e. send your documents with an index page in the front of the package of all documents included. Don’t make them guess or sort your papers. You can go to Staples and buy a folder divider with numbers and an index page.
4. Obtain your entry clearance visa:
After they review your documents, hopefully everything is ok and you will receive your passport with your visa on it together with your other original documents. This is your “Entry Clearance” and is valid for 6 months.
5. Entering the U.K.:
I traveled to the UK with my fiancée and the airport custom’s officer did not ask me any questions aside from the normal ones. He stamped the entry date on top of the visa.
6. Getting married:
First, you need to give notice at a registrar office in the borough that you live in. Then you can get married at a different borough if you want to. Before you can give notice you need to have lived in the UK at least 7 days. After giving notice you have to wait 15 days before you can get married. In order to give notice you need to have proof of address, and this is difficult since you just have come to the UK. For that reason, try to open a bank account and have your fiancée/fiancé put you in one of his/her utility bills right away.
7. Book your wedding:
Prepare your wedding! You need to contact a council make an appointment.
8. Apply to stay in the U.K. under your new status – form FLR(M):
After you get married, you need to apply to stay in the UK as the husband, wife or civil partner of someone who is permanent resident in this country. This is done through the form FLR(M) (guidance notes). Don’t get confused with the “biometric” part here. In short, you are applying to get a “Biometric Residence Permit” and they will take your fingerprints one more time regardless of applying by mail or in person.
All you are doing in this step is showing to the UK Border Agency that you got married, you both live together and your spouse has been able to support you financially.
If you apply by mail you pay £475, or you can apply in person at a premium fee of £730.
If you apply in person you will get an answer the same day. I applied in person.
When I applied I downloaded the form FLR(M) version 07-2010, filled it in with a pen and brought it with me the day of the appointment. Now they also got an online version here, where you can fill it in and pay online.
9. Book an appointment for FLR(M):
I booked an appointment on this page. This could take some time (in my case I had to wait for 6 weeks) and in order to save you time you can book this appointment at the same time that you book your wedding day, for a given date after your wedding day. To book for the FLR(M) you don’t need to proof anything.
One important thing is that they do not accept copies nor they want online printed bank statements, and if you are enrolled to paperless statements I recommend you to switch back to paper statements. This is explained in the note numbered “10 Documents” of the guidance notes. Again, in this application, you will need to show evidence that your spouse is able to support you financially.
When I applied in person all they asked was our passports, our photos, the application form FLR(M), payment receipt (£730) and 3 month of bank statements, nothing else. But this was my case and you should read carefully all the “evidence of your finances required” section at the time of your application.
10. Go to your appointment:
That day in the same appointment I had my fingerprints and a photograph taken. After they verified my documents, the lady officer handed me a paper to verify my information, and then she said that my application was approved! Voila!!!
11. Receive your Residence Permit:
Two days later, in the morning a guy in a van rang my bell, asked me to confirm my name. He handed me my Biometric Residence Permit in an envelope!. Make sure it says “work permitted” in the back.
This permit is also known to be your “Leave to Remain” status (but not indefinite). It is valid only for 2 years.
12. Apply for a National Insurance number:
After you have this card, you need to apply for a National Insurance number to be able to work. This is done by calling Jobcentre Plus Office and scheduling an appointment. You need to bring proof of address, your passport and your biometric residence permit. After the interview they will send you by mail in 2 to 4 weeks your NI card with your number on it. Even if you don’t have your number yet you are allowed to work. You can show your future employer an application paper that Jobcentre gives you on the day that you applied for your NI number.
From what I understand, after 2 years I would need to apply for “indefinite leave to remain” status using the form SET(M). I haven’t got to this point yet.