Monday, March 24, 2014

My UK Settlement

Guess what I'm doing today?  Going to the office for my first day at my new full-time job!

I'm very excited and nervous.  It's been almost a year since I've worked.
It was so wonderful to have a year off to work on this little blog of mine.

As wonderful as it's been, it certainly doesn't pay the bills.
Not to mention that I'm one of those unusual people that absolutely loves accounting.
I worked so hard on getting my degree and qualifications.  It's time to put it to good use again.
 So, it's off to work I go!  Wish me luck.

One of the other big things that was in the pipeline was acquiring my
Indefinite Leave to Remain from UK Immigration.

Since starting this whole expat adventure I've read so many incredible Visa stories.
So many people have had to go through separations and long distance relationships.
We've been so lucky that other than the major expense we haven't faced any major challenges.

Here's the logistics of our international love story.

Matt and I met in the US and were married there in January 2011.
We first went through the process of getting Matt a Green Card as we were settling in the US.
Then after a year, we decided to move to the UK and applied for my Spousal Visa.
You can read all of the details in this guest post I did for Betsy Transatlantically.

After 27 months, my Spousal Visa expires next month so it was time to take the next step.
For me that is Settlement with an "Indefinite Leave to Remain."
(Six months after we moved they changed the regulations and for people applying after that date,
they require two Spousal Visa periods of 27 months before Settlement.)

The first step was taking my Life in the UK Test which is a 24 question multiple- choice quiz.
The cost was £50 and I took the test at a local testing centre after several weeks of study.
I used the official testing booklet and read it through probably 3 times as well as the Study Guide.
That was an interesting experience.  I was thrilled to pass! If you are getting ready to take the test
and want more details just send me an email.  I'm happy to share my experience.

Then it was a matter of determining the correct form to complete.
In my case, it was the 37 page SET(M) document for
"the spouse or partner of a person present and settled in the UK."
Additional items that we needed included Life in the UK Pass Letter, passport photos, payment confirmation, letters proving our address for two years and more.  We ended up with a large packet which included the application,
original documents as requested and copies of everything.

There are several options in applying for an ILR.  You can send your application in by mail.
Or you can apply in person at a Premium Service Centre.
The major con of sending it off by mail is that it takes 4-6 months for processing
and during that time you don't have your passport.  The cost for this is currently £1,051 ($1,733).

We opted for the quicker option of applying in person which is currenly £1,426 ($2,352).
Incredibly expensive but worth it to not have to give up my passport for any period of time.
Not to mention that I'm starting a new job and I didn't want any ambiguity in my right to work in the UK.
The peace of mind for both of us to have everything decided and settled is also invaluable.

I had heard that it might be difficult to get an appointment,
but when I registered online there were plenty of appointment times available.
We paid the fee at the same time that we made the appointment.

Matt was not required to join me but I was pretty stressed out about the whole process.
I might have shed a tear and he happily accompanied me.  (Thanks, Baby!)
On Wednesday we headed to Croydon with our packet of documents for our 9:30 appointment.

Many applicants had attorneys or advocates with them and there are services
that will assist you through the process.  We opted to go it alone.
As this was just confirmation that we were still married and settled in the UK,
the paperwork wasn't nearly as involved as the initial Spousal Visa application.

It went like clockwork.
Arrived at 9am and waited for entry.
9:15 we went through security and checked in.
They confirmed payment and the correct application form then gave us a number.
We then waited for our number to be called in the nice little cafe.
Within 15 minutes, my number was called for my application to be entered into the system.
We sat at a desk while a worker entered everything, checked everything.
We were given everything back and told to wait again.
15 minutes later was called in to do my biometrics.  Fingerprints and photo.
We waited again while they checked that I was actually who I was claiming to be.
Then we were sent back to the cafe to wait for a caseworker to review my case.
We went back to the cafe and waited 90 minutes watching the number board anxiously.
They have a little number board where you can watch your application progress through the system.
I was so relieved to see my number pop up on the "Pick up Documents" screen.
We picked up our docs along with a letter of approval. Yay! We were done by noon.

My Biometrics Card arrived in the post two days later.
I now have "Indefinite Leave to Remain" which means I can live and work in the UK indefinitely.
I'm still subject to immigration control but considered settled in the UK.

As I said in the guest post, it gets pretty complicated and changes every day.  If you are going through this,
I highly recommend that you do as much research as possible and consult an expert.
It’s important to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”  It takes time, money, patience and great attention to detail.

Plus, it can be pretty stressful.  We've been pretty lucky through it all.
My heart goes out to those who are separated with their partners through the immigration process.
I can't even imagine how difficult that must be.
Should I choose, my next step would be to get UK citizenship.
As the spouse of a UK citizen, current regulation allows me to do that after being here for three years.
 But, that's a decision for another day.

 How was your settlement process?



  1. Congratulations on both your residency and new job! Sounds like lots of exciting things are happening!

  2. Congrats to the both of you! My anxiety was rising and rising as I read, but im happy to read it all went well. I can't even imagine what you must have been like thru the process :( What a relief though!

  3. Congrats!!! My husband and I have been through something very similar (I'm American, he's Argentinean).

  4. Yay! Huge congrats on the job and the settlement! I hate Croydon with a passion, I am so glad it went easily for you. I went in at 7 months pregnant and they denied my marriage visa (at the time it was called FLR and I was switching from a student visa). I had to go back a month later, 8 months pregnant, and they were iffy about it then too and I was like seriously? I AM PREGNANT. It was awful! Anyway, get the citizenship, we left like 8 months before I could have and I wish I would have waited and gotten mine! xx

  5. Congrats! That sounds highly stressful, I can't imagine what a relief it was when you got the card!

  6. Congratulations! It is so interesting to read about these issues, we are coming up on applying for my Swedish citizenship and I get so nervous just thinking about it!

  7. Congrats on the visa and the new job! :)

  8. Congratulations! That does sound very stressful!! I hope your first day in your job went well! x

  9. Wow, how exciting, Selena! Congrats! x

  10. It's such a pain but such a great feeling when it all comes together! Our process was pretty smooth sailing like yours, just a lot of costs and waiting. At the time I applied for mine last november, there weren't in person appointments available for quite a while so I mailed off out stuff. It took about four months, and was horrible not knowing! I agree the extra cost is invaluable.

  11. Congratulations on both!! Sounds like things are settling in fabulously :)

  12. Don't you love when a plan comes together?!? :D Thanks so much!

  13. I wonder if they've maybe revamped the appointment system. I heard that it was near impossible to get in. Was so relieved when everything worked out. It must have seemed forever before it all came back.

  14. Thanks! I kind of loved today. It went really well and I got to jump right in. Feels really good to be back at work in my field. :D

  15. Thank you :D My husband thought I got way to worked up about it. But, it's just stressful because they have control of your future, in a way. Good luck with everything!!

  16. Thank you. It was so much easier that I expected and I'm so relieved that it's all done :D

  17. I will eventually have to go through this. Even just reading it is stressing me out and taking me back to the spouse visa days (not even a year ago!) I'm glad everything went smoothly for you Selena. Also, I just told my husband how much it costs-- he said "WHAT!" :)

  18. Thank you, Andrea :D Glad that both things worked out, I was getting a bit crazy with the stress. But, I'm a bit of a worrier. You must have been going absolutely crazy!!! I can't even imagine what you went through. I'm really leaning towards getting my passport. But, don't think I'll give up my US citizenship. It would be really great to have it! Are you getting excited about your trip? :D

  19. Thanks, Andi. It can get crazy complicated. Does he now have a Green Card?

  20. Thank you, Debbie. I was pretty antsy about it all. Matt was like "chill!" Just glad it all turned out.

  21. Thanks so much! Yikes, Mary! You are dealing with a truckload, aren't you? So much money and time. Good luck with everything! Fingers crossed for a quick & easy response.

  22. We have biometric cards, now! :D Thanks, Kaelene.

  23. Oh definitely don't give up your US citizenship! I am just bitter I will be the only one of the 4 of us with just one citizenship ;) And I am always excited for our trips!! Hope your first day was fab!

  24. Thanks, Jess! Oh, the money! That's a cruise!!! Just painful. But, it's pretty much done now unless I get my passport. We'll let the bank account recover. When will you start applying for your ILR? Four more years?

  25. It's crazy the hoops they make you jump through to live in a county! I've lived in the UK my entire life, but completely failed a mock citizenship test I did online a few months back. Congratulations on being able to live here indefinitely though :)

  26. UGH that is EXACTLY how I would think about it-- that's a pretty nice holiday that that money could have been spent on! And yes, just about four years. I have time to prepare at least ! :)

  27. Double congratulations!!! I'm thrilled for you! So glad things are falling into place. All of your hardwork has paid off! :)

  28. Congratulation, Selena ! Jumping through the hoops and paying those fees for the right visa or permit is always well worth it and a reason to celebrate at the end day.

  29. Congrats on the new job and visa:) Wow , I can't believe how expensive the process is!

  30. Congrats to both! How must feel like you climbed Mt. Everest :)

  31. Congrats on both!!! Very exciting! Thanks for describing the process - it was an interesting read!
    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle

  32. So many forms to fill out! I'm glad you got your visa all sorted, I'm currently in the middle of getting Gregory sorted in the US and it's such a pain! x

  33. I feel for you. The US process is more crazy than the British process. So excited the three of you will be together soon!!! :D 

  34. lol Thanks, Ashley. I wondered if anyone actually got through it. :D 

  35. I'm not good with waiting so very glad to have both now settled. Thanks, Jamie!

  36. Thank you, Abby. The cost was difficult. We kept thinking of the trip(s) we could take with that money.

  37. You are absolutely right, Sarah Grace. I'm so happy for the privilege to live here. I do love it!

  38. Thanks, Katie! I'm really lovin' the new job. Of course, it's only been two days, but so far so good. I've been thinking about you! Sending prayers your way for the wonderful journey ahead. 

  39. Thank, Catherine. I do love living here! The UK Test was really interesting and now I'll be really good at pub quiz!! Thanks for reading & commenting. 

  40. btw, I checked out your blog. Gorgeous photography!!! I've followed on Bloglovin :D

  41. Elena Drake-KnightMarch 25, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Such a process! My husband and I got married in December of 2012 and had to go through the whole green card process as his is British also. We will probably be living in the UK at some point, not sure how long for, but expect lots of questions then! :)


  42. I hope your new job is going well so far! Visas for the UK are much easier to get if you are an Aussie.. Although I only have 2 years! :(

  43. I will definitely refer to this post a few times for directions! I just arrived in January on a spouse visa, so I am subject to paying for it again, as well as paying for the ILR. Congratulations! Any American expat who has gone through the visa process can relate to the anxiety you felt. No matter how thorough you think you've been on the application, it's still a tremendous worry until they approve it.

  44. Wow Selena, I knew it was a big ordeal but... wow! And very expensive, I wonder what they do with all of that money? I'm curious, if you got UK citizenship, would you have to give up your US citizenship? Or would you be allowed to have dual citizenship? Big decisions! Congratulations on getting your leave to remain, I wish you and Matt many years of happiness together in the UK!:)
    Much love, Tammy xx

  45. I'm happy to help at any time. Such a daunting process, but so worth it. Thanks so much for reading & commenting, Elena.

  46. Two years is just not long enough! The job is going really good so far :D

  47. I'm a bit of a Nervous Nelly so I'm just glad that it's all over with. It was so worth the extra money to get it done asap. But, it's worth it for our Brits!!

  48. I don't think I could ever give up my US Citizenship! My understanding is that I wouldn't have to, I could have dual. But I need to do some more research. Thanks so much, Tammy, for the well wishes!! Looking forward to your next trip to the UK so we can meet up again. xoxo


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