Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Our Visa Story

Dear readers, I'm so excited for my trip to England on Saturday!  It's seemed so far away for so long that I can't really quite believe that it's almost here.  While I'm gone next week, I've asked a few lovely expats - two Americans in England and a Scot in the States - to guest post about how they tackled the nuts and bolts of marrying husbands from across the pond.  I can't tell you how many emails I get from girls telling me that they want to live happily ever after with a boy who has an accent, so I'm delighted to share these stories with you and I sincerely hope they help.  We don't want to scare you off, but you need to be prepared if you're hoping to tie the knot with a British boy (or American, if you're British) because there's quite a bit involved!  I thought that actually we might kick off next week's series with my own story, since I've dropped a few hints on Twitter and here on this blog about running into some bureaucratic problems, so here goes.


As I reiterate every time I write about my visa experiences, let me remind you that I am not an immigration lawyer or authority in any sense other than the personal.  Please do speak with an expert if you're considering embarking on this process and you have visa questions.  But this is what I found: if you're not already a legal resident of the UK, you need two things to get married there, a visa and a license.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, in theory...

Let's start with the visa because you can't get the license without the visa.  In order to get married in the UK without intending to remain in the country after your wedding, you need to apply for a visa as a Visitor for Marriage or Civil Partnership.  You may apply for this visa up to a year in advance of your wedding date and, assuming you're not entering into a sham or forced marriage and you fill out all the paperwork and send in all the required documentation exactly as you're supposed to, there's no reason you wouldn't be granted the visa.

Once you have the visa, you can get your license; this is when you give notice at the register office in the UK.  In order to give notice, you have to have been resident of the county in which you are getting your license for eight consecutive days, and you cannot get your license less than fifteen days before your wedding date.  Got that?  Okay, good.  Now here's where it gets a bit dicey...

There are two types of visas that can be granted: multiple-entry and single-entry. They are exactly as they sound.  On a multiple-entry visa, you can leave and reenter the country as many times as you want while the visa is valid.  (Both my student visa and my work visa were multiple-entry visas, which is how I was able to travel extensively while living in London.)  A single-entry visa, however, means that you basically use up the freedoms and/or rights that the visa gives you the first time you enter the country, and, once you leave, the visa becomes invalid.

So if the visa I'm granted - the visa that will allow me to travel to the UK, get our license, and get married - is a muti-entry visa, Jon and I can give notice when I'm over on one trip and then have our wedding on a separate trip.  If I'm granted a single-entry visa, we have to do both at the same time.  Go back up two paragraphs and do the math, will you?  That's right, I'd have to arrive in England in late July in order to fulfill the requirements for our license before getting married on August 24, and I wouldn't be able to leave the country at all during those four weeks.  Now, my employers are very understanding of my destination wedding and the time and energy it's taking, but they'd do more than hesitate before giving me permission to leave for a solid month!  It's simply not an option.

That means we're crossing our fingers that I'm issued a multi-entry visa.  Actually, we're doing more than that - we spent good money on a wonderful immigration lawyer, who advised us the best way to ensure (in as much as we can) that my visa will be multi-entry.  At the end of the day, it's up to the discretion of the immigration officer who processes my application, so we just have to make the best case possible.

Our plan, assuming all goes well, is that I'll apply for my visa from DC as soon as I've returned from England at the end of April and, after being issued my multi-entry visa, I'll head back to London in late June for a 12 day trip during which we'll get our license.  Then I'll come back to the US, and finally will fly over again in mid-August for our wedding, returning to DC two days after the wedding (without Jon, for the time being).

Cross your fingers for us, dear readers, and send us all the dotted "i"s and crossed "t"s you have lying around!  We need to do this the right way, or else - well, I don't know what else.  Let's just think happy thoughts about this!  And, if these sorts of things interest you, come back next week to see how a few other girls wed their transatlantic loves.  You'll see that these boys really have to be worth the effort we make for them... at least, that's what I remind Jon whenever he gives me a hard time about something!


21 comments:

  1. So after you are married do you then apply for your marriage visa in the UK? My husband has his marriage visa right now and it will expire this fall after the two years. He then has to apply for the ILR visa. Nervous about that one right now. I kinda lucked out with having dual citizenship as do my kids. Keeping my fingers crossed everything works out smoothly for you guys. :)


    Bonnie Rose | a Compass Rose

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  2. So excited for you for next week! I hope you have lots of fun activities planned, but lots of space for unexciting PJ time too (always my favorite part about our distance stint).

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  3. Here's hoping so hard that you get the multiple-entry visa!! (fingers crossed)

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  4. oh man - we're in Suffolk with Jon's parents for most of the trip, so I'm afraid there won't be much PJ time! next visit :)

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  5. Georgia ChristakisApril 17, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    fingers crossed! I am hoping to marry a tall, handsome beer-loving bloke myself so all and any visa advice you have will be much appreciated! On a more practical note, is it possible to get a single entry visa for a shorter term, like 2 weeks?

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  6. It is all totally worth it - and I can tell you that 6 years down the road all those crazy visa issues seem like a lifetime ago! Have a great trip!

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  7. to my knowledge you don't need one just for a visit! it's the getting married thing that makes it tricky... I'll keep my eyes open for tall handsome beer-loving blokes for you :)

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  8. Yikes. You will most certainly be accumulating a lot of miles in the coming months - I hope you have a good rewards program ;)
    Visas are nerve-racking. They can be life altering yet we hardly have any control over them. Good luck. My fingers are crossed for you!

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  9. Georgia ChristakisApril 17, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    haha thanks, I've got one! He recently got his own temporary visa- in Delaware, of all places. Hey, I'll take it!

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  10. I didn't realise how much notice was needed to marry in the UK! I did it the opposite way - no marriage visa needed for visitors to the US. Watched a documentary on the UK Border Agency on Monday night, scary how much power visas have over our lives and this doc showed the agency in shambles!

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  11. You guys are truly awesome for getting through all this! I don't know if I could do that.

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  12. Nick would be worth it if he had to be :)

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  13. oh man you have no idea how many times already I've begged Jon to hop a plane and sign the damn papers here! but alas... it is scary! you just have to trust, I guess.

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  14. haha yes! and you know how well I handle not having control... thank you, friend :)

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  15. six years! check back with me in six months :) thanks, Andrea!

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  16. oh I don't think I realized! congrats to you both :)

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  17. I wish your trip could last longer! it doesn't seem like you're going to have very much time with your charming fiancé at all. :( keeping my fingers crossed for you on this visa issue!

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  18. Good luck, Betsy! This process is certainly complicated, and we're all rooting for you and Jon. :)

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  19. Betsy! I can't tell you how much I feel your pain! I am waiting for my visa and passport to come back to me after applying for my resident card. In the meantime I'm going NUTS! Good luck! Fingers crossed! Once I get it back I think it is time I start looking at our marriage lic. for next June here in London. It will all work out! Good luck. Love seeing your DC life {miss it!} and can not wait to read about your UK wedding! xoxo

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