The UK eased its restrictions on American travellers in July, and both sides of the pond are once again open for business. As such, it is timely to restate the procedure for applying for a UK spouse or partner visa from the USA.
Step 1 – online visa application
Applicants begin their application with the UK Government’s online form. This contains questions on:
the family’s personal information; the relationship between the applicant and their partner; immigration history; criminal record; and finances.
The form should always be checked several times before submitting as there is no opportunity to change answers once the application fee of $2,169 (around £1600 currently) and immigration health surcharge of $2,540 (just under £1875) has been paid.
Step 2 – priority service and payment
Applicants are given the option to pay an additional £573 for a priority decision service. UK Visas and Immigration aims, but does not guarantee, to process priority applications in 30 working days. A standard non-priority application is normally processed within 12 weeks.
Step 3 – document upload and biometric enrolment
The biometric enrolment process involves the provision of the applicant’s fingerprints, photograph and signature. The Home Office outsources the administration of its biometric enrolment for applicants from the United States to VFS Global.
Applicants will be taken to the VFS Global website to book a biometric enrolment appointment at their local visa application centre (VAC).
Once the appointment has been booked, the applicant will be asked to choose how to provide the supporting documents for their application. There are two ways of doing this: self-uploading digital copies of supporting documents to the VFS Global website (free); or paying VFS Global $100 to scan and upload the documents. This option requires the applicant to bring physical copies of their documents to their biometric appointment.
Step 4 – courier package to New York
Once the applicant has enrolled their biometrics at the VAC, they have five days to courier a copy of their application form, original passport, and biometric enrolment receipt to the VFS Global Scanning Hub in New York. VFS Global in New York will retain the passport until a decision on the application is made.
Step 5 – decision
The applicant will receive an email from VFS Global when a decision has been made. The decision itself is not conveyed by email so the applicant will not know if their application has been successful until they receive their passport back. If the application has been granted, the passport will contain an entry clearance vignette for entry to the UK.
The vignette will usually be valid for 30 days, though it is currently 90 days to account for the pandemic. The applicant must enter the UK within this period. After entering the UK, the applicant must collect a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card from their nominated Post Office.
The BRP is an ID card for migrants that contains full details of the holder’s visa type, duration and restrictions. The BRP is evidence of permission to live and work in the UK for the following 30 months.
Jack Freeland is a solicitor in the immigration team at Shepherd and Wedderburn.