New TB testing requirement for UK marriage visa applicants in the Philippines

Published: 05/03/2013

Effective 28 February 2013, all Filipino residents over 11 years old who wish to apply for a UK settlement visa must be screened for active tuberculosis (TB). This applies to fiancees, partners and spouses of British citizens and UK legal permanent residents as well as their dependent children. All applicants are required to undergo a mandatory medical examination prior to submitting a UK marriage visa application to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) team at the British High Commission in Manila. Anyone who applied for a UK settlement fiancee, partner or spousal visa online and paid the UKBA processing fee before 28 February 2013 will not need to undergo the required pre-entry TB test.
All children over 11 years old must be screened as an adult, whereas children under 11 must visit the doctor to be examined based on the information provided in a health questionnaire completed by the accompanying parent. If the examining medical practitioner determines that there is no need for a screen then a certificate stating this will be issued to the applicant. The certificate must be included in the child’s UK visa application in lieu of the certificate confirming that there is no current TB infection which is required for an adult. It is a requirement that every child under 16 must be accompanied by an adult when attending the designated medical facility for screening or examination.
Only certain clinics have been approved by the UK Border Agency for carrying out the tuberculosis testing in the Philippines. All applicants must be tested at the medical facilities run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Health Centre in Manila. Only certificates issued by the IOM will be accepted by the British High Commission in Manila; a certificate from anywhere else will be rejected. There should only be a small delay in arranging the screening, but at busy times there may be a couple of weeks’ wait.
The test itself is painless and simple and begins with a chest x-ray. The initial fee, which is payable on the day of the exam, only covers the x-ray. If it is inconclusive, the applicant will be asked to provide a sputum sample (this is a sample of coughed up phlegm) and this will incur extra charges. Along with the payment, it is also necessary to provide photo identification such as a passport and if the applicant has any relevant medical history which will help the doctor, that should also be provided. The screening process usually takes less than an hour and the results are ready within 24 hours. If the applicant is required to have a sputum test as well, the final results can take up to two months to obtain, and no certificate will be issued until the results are released.
If the results show that the applicant has an active tuberculosis infection they will be unable to apply for a UK settlement visa. They will be offered treatment, which typically takes around six months to complete, and at the end of that time, additional tests will be performed to confirm whether the treatment has been successful. Some strains of tuberculosis are resistant to some drugs and so more than one treatment may be necessary. No certificate will be issued until the applicant is free from tuberculosis.
Pregnant women are also required to be tested and there are two options available which are having the x-ray with additional lead screening to protect the baby, or going straight to the sputum test. Bearing in mind that the results from this may take up to two months to arrive, some women choose to wait until the baby is born before being screened. If you have a medical history of TB you will need to be screened as a previous resolution of the disease may not be permanent. When you consent to the screening, you also agree that the doctor’s decision is final. There is no appeal if you disagree with the findings of the test and if you do disagree the only recourse is to have the test repeated. This will be at your own expense.
There are certain limitations on the issuing of the actual TB certificate, which visa holders should have in their hand luggage or easily accessible on entry to the UK. The certificate is only valid for six months, so the timing of the test is crucial. If you are living or working in close proximity with someone who has tested positively for TB, you will be given a certificate which is valid for three months only. Other countries require TB testing prior to applying for a visa, but the UKBA cannot accept these as documentation when you apply for a UK fiancee or marriage visa. A separate screening must be done for each application, as different countries have slightly different requirements when it comes to the type of screening carried out. The fee for the screening, along with the UKBA visa application fee, is non-refundable.

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