“I’m an American citizen marrying a British gentleman… Will I be able to get a British passport?” – Immigration Partner, Julia Jackson, responds

15 / 05 / 2018

Q: Dear Julia,

I’m an American citizen marrying an English gentleman. As he has a British passport and has lived in the UK for all of his life we’ve decided to live in London once we are married.

Next Saturday, we are having a traditional wedding in his family’s home town but in all the preparation for the wedding, I’ve not paid much attention to my immigration status.

A friend did tell me to get a fiancée visa before I came to the UK back in November of last year but this was only valid for 6 months and it runs out two weeks after the wedding.

I’m really worried about what I should do next. Will I be able to get a British passport immediately once we are married? Do I have to make another immigration application?

Yours,

M

A: Dear M,

First of all congratulations to both you and your future husband. A wedding is always a day of joy and celebration and I wish you both every happiness for your big event and for your married life together.

I’m delighted to hear that you have obtained a fiancée visa before you came to the UK. I know that at a cost of £1523 for only a period of 6 months (without permission to work during this time) it works out rather expensive but it does mean that you can make an immigration application to change your status to spouse from within the UK after you are married. With a little careful planning this can be done before your current visa expires and in time for your honeymoon.

I’d suggest that you and your fiancé take a day out of the wedding preparations to make sure that you plan the immigration application properly – after all, while the big day is important you will have the rest of your lives together.

First of all I’d recommend that you book a premium appointment at the Home Office. There are centres in Belfast, Croydon, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Solihull. (There is also one In London but it doesn’t deal with this type of application.) It does add an extra £510 to the normal postal processing cost of £1033 but you will get a decision on the same day.

If you use the postal application service then it can take up to 8 weeks to process the application and your passport will be with the Home Office for all of this time, so it would mean that the honeymoon plans are disrupted!

If you really feel like pushing the boat out then you could opt for the Super Premium Service. It is a little pricey at £12,043 but the Home Office will collect all of your application papers by personal courier and then come to visit you in your own home to obtain your signature and to complete the process. You usually get a decision within 24 hours.

In addition to the immigration application fees don’t forget that you’ll also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. Everyone coming to live in the UK to work, study or join a partner needs to pay this but the good news is that you will be able to use the National Health Service in the future. This will add an extra £500 to the cost.

The important thing to do is to make sure that you prepare the immigration application carefully. You’ll need to complete the on-line application form which includes details for yourself and your husband, how you met and the your financial resources.

Normally its necessary to show that you can speak English but the Home Office do accept that all Americans can speak English so thankfully you won’t need to find time to squeeze in an English language test before the application date.

Most important, however, is the need to demonstrate that you and your new husband have enough money on which to live without claiming public funds. The minimum annual income is £19,800 for a couple with no children.

If your husband is in salaried employment in the UK then he will need to provide his original salary slips, original bank statements and contract of employment or letter from his employer.

If he’s not working then you can show that you have sufficient savings in cash in the bank. The minimum amount of savings needed is £62,500.

Once the immigration application is successfully completed you’ll be sent a biometric residence card. It looks a bit like a credit card or the plastic driving licence and it has your photograph and all of your immigration details. You’ll have to make sure that you always carry this with your passport whenever you travel overseas.

The status you will be granted lasts for two and half years and you are permitted to work (on either an employed or self-employed basis) or to study. Alternatively you may find that married life keeps you busy enough and that’s fine too.

Don’t forget that you’ll need to repeat the application process again just before the end of the two and a half years. Once your second application is completed you’ll be given exactly the same permission again, valid for a further two and a half years.

When you have been living in the UK for 5 years you can finally apply for indefinite leave to remain – like the name suggests this is an indefinite permission to live and work in the UK. You will have to take the Life in the UK Test before you apply (cost £35) and pay the application fee of £2389 if you go for the postal service or £2899 for the premium service (or £13,399 if you opt for the super premium service). I’m sure you’ll be delighted to hear that applicants for indefinite leave to remain do not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Finally, once you have indefinite leave to remain you can apply immediately for a naturalisation as a British citizen. (Most people have to wait at least a year after the grant of indefinite leave to remain before applying for naturalisation but you can apply immediately if you are married to a British citizen). On completion of that application – it can take around 3 months – you will finally be given your British passport.

It will be quite a while before you get your British passport but I’m sure that married life will keep you busy and that the time will fly.

Have a happy wedding day.

Julia