The UK fiancee visa application process begins with the foreign national filing a settlement class prospective marriage visa application from outside the United Kingdom. The settlement application must be submitted to the British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission with jurisdiction over the applicant’s country of normal and legal residence. Applicants physically present in other countries on temporary long-term visas may be able to obtain an appointment to apply for a fiancee visa at one of the British Consulates, but it is generally more difficult for settlement visas to be obtained from outside the applicant’s country of nationality or where they exercise full residency rights.
Most UK visa-issuing posts treat long-term work and student visa holders as temporary residents with no permanent rights to remain in a foreign country and may therefore refuse to accept the settlement visa application. Entry clearance officers may be unable to properly assess the circumstances and evaluate foreign documents presented by the applicant with the fiancee visa application. The British Consulate may therefore return the application to the applicant with the recommendation that a new application is made from the applicant’s country of normal residence.
Visa Application Centres (VACs)
In some countries it is still possible to apply for a settlement visa by making a postal application or submitting all relevant documents in person at the appropriate British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission. However, in most countries UK entry clearance applications can only be submitted through the accredited UK Visa Application Centres (VACs). In general, the Visa Application Centres are responsible for conducting a preliminary review of visa applications to ensure that all immigration forms and supporting documents are in order and comply with the consular standards. All VACs are privately owned companies sub-contracted by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to assist visa applicants in their locale. VAC personnel play no role whatsoever in deciding the outcome of a UK settlement visa application.
If the initial submission is incomplete, the visa application is likely to be rejected to allow the applicant to provide the missing information. This will result in a delay in the processing of the case caused by the need to gather additional documents and book a new appointment. If the initial submission is considered complete, the VAC will forward the documents to the appropriate UK visa-issuing post for further processing and decision making. Please note that all UK visa applicants are required to submit biometrics (fingerprints and a digital photograph) as part of the application process.
It can take the British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission anywhere from a few days to several months to process a fiancee visa application depending on overall complexity of a specific case and average processing time for settlement visas in the country of application. The time it takes to obtain the fiancee visa often depends on the quality of the immigration forms and supporting documentation submitted with the initial application.
The adjudicating entry clearance officer will review the paper application to determine whether the applicant meets the basic eligibility requirements to qualify for a UK prospective marriage visa, or the case requires additional administrative processing. For instance, cases involving prior entry denial history, previous unsuccessful visa applications, deportation or overstay may be subject to additional investigation. It should be noted that the examining immigration officials are trained to consider family class applications based on objective facts and with the use of some “rules of thumb”.
The foreign fiancee may be exempt from the personal interview requirement if the application is deemed “clearly approvable”, meaning it is complete and accurate, and the case does not raise any concerns (“red flags”) over its legitimacy and complies with the immigration rules and guidelines. However, if the examiner has doubts or suspects fraud, the fiancee will be required to participate in a telephone of personal interview, or a decision may be made at any time on the basis of the available documentation and without any further reference to the applicant or sponsor. Please bear in mind that the visa application processing fee is non-refundable, regardless of the outcome of the application.
UK fiancee visa interview
On the day of the interview, the entry clearance officer will adjudicate the application based on the outcome of the interview and any additional documents submitted by the applicant. Whether to issue the settlement visa or refuse the application is solely up to the discretion of the interviewing officer. Statements made during the interview will help the examiner make a final determination of eligibility.
The fiancee visa interview process can be stressful, which often leads to confusion, potentially giving incorrect answers that can delay the application, or even result in denial. For this reason, it is important to prepare thoroughly for the initial fiancee visa interview.