The UK Visa application process can be a bit of a minefield. Misinformation, lack of Visa office contacts, no real clear outline of necessary paperwork - especially for partners. It's all cause for stress. Though really, it needn't be.
Why Are We Applying for a New Visa?
We were both on the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) Visa which was due to expire in a few months. There is no possibility to extend this and we were facing deportation (slight exaggeration). Since they had recently got rid of the Tier 1 (Skilled Migrants) Visa the only real option was that one of us had to be sponsored which would make us eligible for the Tier 2 (General) Visa which is for 3 years and entitles us to live and work in the UK.
Now, if I thought the Tier 5 application process was a bit stressful, then I was literally about to have a panic attack about putting through Tier 2 for both myself plus prove that my (non married) partner and I were in a legitimate relationship so he can piggy back off mine as a dependent. But in hindsight the whole process was very straightforward and relatively speedy. So despite all the scary stories of one inch thick application forms and separate trips back to Australia to have them done here's what we did and it worked!
What is a Tier 2 Visa?
This is a 3 year visa which allows you to live and work in the UK. You can also apply to bring your dependents over on it as well as long as you can prove that your relationship is legitimate. Contrary to popular belief you can apply for both yourself and your partner at the same time though no where on the website or policy guidance does it specifically mention this. Also, I heard that this is the only Tier 2 Visa that will 'count' towards dual citizenship. An interesting idea, so if we stay for the necessary 5-6 years then we can apply for a UK/EU passport which would means we can be rid of this Visa kafuffling. The catch, the primary person has to stay with them company or find a new company to sponsor them if they want to leave.
What Documents Do I Need?
1. Your company needs to provide you with a certificate of sponsorship which has your certificate number on it and outlines your role, pay and that they they have met the resident labour market test (ie cant find anyone locally to do the job) and they they will maintain you (ie they are an A rated sponsor) and if so you will NOT need to prove you have enough funds in your bank.
2. Submit an online application. through the Visa4UK website. This is just basic contact information, you will need all your old passports and the birth date and place of your parents. Most painstaking part was having to input all our travel history. Eventually I just filled out the whole section before I was even done.
Note: I couldn't apply for this whilst in the UK because one of the sections asks for when I departed the UK last so just wait til your back in Australia.
3. If you're in Australia, great! Just book in your biometrics appointment, pay the $977 fee and print out your application plus bring in your supporting documents. I however was already in the UK so flew back to Australia to sort it out.
4. At the appointment they will ask you for your:
- Passport (plus all previous passports)
- Printed and signed visa application form
- Payment of $190 in cash or card if you wanted priority service. This means a 5 business day process time versus 21 business days. As I had return flight back to the UK to make, I went with priority.
- Freshly taken passport photo
- Certificate of sponsorship + Letter of maintenance from my employer
- I brought my appointment confirmation form too but no one asked for this and it's a bit defunct.
They also took my photo and scanned my fingerprints.
And true to their word that Friday (my appointment was on Monday) I got my passport with freshly printed Visa in the mail.
How To Apply For Tier 2 General - Partner
This is the exact process with one tricky exception. We had to prove that we were in a legititae relationship which generally means you've been living together for 2 years. This is the policy guidance for what you need but it's really confusing. Contrary to popular belief you an apply for both Visa's at the same time and it's the exact same process but with slightly more documentation as we were trying to prove our de facto relationship. Here's a list of the documentation for 'proof of relationship'.
- Joint bank account statement (with bank stamp)
- Tenant ledgers from real estates
- Letter from bank confirming when the joint account was opened
- Bills with our name and address on it (not all were in both names but it proved we were at the same address)
- Photos printed on paper from previous holidays together
- Electoral registration forms to again, prove we lived at the same address
- Letter of maintenance for dependents as well as the primary person AND recent bank statment (we only need one or the other but it's good to be safe).
We looked into registering a civil relationship as we are just not the marrying type but this would have taken 5 weeks to come through and as it turns out, isn't really necessary.
This came back on the sixth business day. So now we're both ready to go back to the UK in full force. Though it's an expensive process and a little arduous, it's worth it at the end of the day and feel like we're taking a positive step in developing both our professional careers as well as living that somewhat carefree life balancing travel with London socialising. But until then I'm going to soak up all this glorious sunshine and head to the beach (this hot turn in the weather has been a lovely surprise considering it's still only Spring).