Sunday, 17 March 2013

VISA ADVICE- Tips For Conquering Long Distance!

Visa Advice!


As we are survivors of long distance, and we have had our visa troubles along the way, we are asked A LOT for visa advice. As this is such a crucial part of doing a long distance relationship when you’re countries apart, we want to be able to help as many of you as we possibly can.

Doing long distance is hard enough; you normally have the end result in mind which is living together in the same country. Then comes the time when you have to figure out how you can actually legally move to the others country. We hope that our advice will help all those applying for a visa to be with their loved one, whether you’re straight or gay and which ever country you live in. However, please note that our visa advice does specifically apply to being a gay British / American couple joining lives in the UK.

DISCLAIMER: We do not claim to know all there is about visas and do not quote us as being experts. Please do research for yourself as well.

Types of visa and the laws:


USA:

As the law stands, there are no legal immigration rights for your same-sex partner to immigrate to America. If you were to get married in America this would not grant the non-American partner any rights to actually move and live in America. The other option is to find a company who is willing to sponsor you for work. This is not easy, we have known many British people who have travelled to the States as a visitor hoping to secure employment, and they always return back to the UK unsuccessful. In order for an employer to hire and sponsor you to move to USA they have to prove that there is no one else in the whole of America that they can hire. Quite often they will have to pay for the visa, and it also means you cannot visit America while this is getting processed for about half a year! Nonetheless if you’re lucky enough to secure a work visa to America- go you!! Obama has announced that he wants to improve equality for same-sex couples in America, to find out more visit Immigration Equality.

UK:

As with trying to get a work visa to the USA, it is also hard to get one to UK. You must have a skill that can fill a gap in the UK that cannot be filled! To find out more, visit the Home Office Border Agency website.

If you’re applying for a visa to the UK based on your relationship then you have the following two options:

  1. Settlement Visa: this is a visa for those who are not engaged or married but wish to move to one another’s country to live together. We first applied for this and we were denied.
  1. Proposed civil partnership visa: a visa for those engaged and you intend to marry (civil partnership) in the UK. When granted this visa, you must get your marriage/ civil partnership within half a year of the other moving to the UK. In this time, the American (immigrant/ alien) half cannot work or even volunteer in the UK. Once you are granted this visa make sure you give notice of your civil partnership as soon as you know the date.

    After you have had your civil partnership, you then need to apply for the next step of the visa as a married couple (yes more money). Once this has been progressed successfully, you are free to live together for two or five years (depending when you applied for the visa) until the American must take the British citizenship test and you have to provide more evidence that you’re still together and they’re living/ working in the UK.

Please note that you must apply for and obtain the visa before moving to the UK! You cannot apply for a settlement or proposed civil partnership visa if you are in the UK as a visitor. See the useful links at the bottom to find out all the details you need from the UK Border Agency. Also, the immigrant will need to go for an appointment for biometric data (fingerprints and photo taken). For most countries you apply online for a visa to the UK via the UK Border Agency's website. In all of our visa process we were not interviewed (we expected we would be 'tested' separately about our relationship), however this is not to say you won't experience an interview at any stage. We only had to deliver our visa in person at the very last stage. 

Applying for a visa is not an easy process and we have outlined our three top tips below.

Our Visa Advice:


  1. Get a solicitor/ lawyer!!

We cannot stress this enough. The first time round we applied for a Settlement Visa and we thought we knew what we were doing. We gathered a ridiculous amount of evidence, paid the big fee and we had the devastating result of being denied. This not only meant that Whitney was not moving to the UK like we had planned in June 2011, it also meant that she could not easily even visit the UK!!


Between the UK and USA visitors do not need to apply for a visa.  British nationals can spend 3 months in USA and Americans 6 months in UK without needing a visa. However, as a result of being rejected, if Whitey tried to just visit me like normal she would have very likely been put back on a plane to America once landing on UK soil. This would then left a bad note on her record that she was trying to get around the visa rejection. Evidently you do not want this to happen! We ended up applying for a visitor visa ($125) so that Whitney could visit for a few weeks early last year. There was a risk they could refuse this, and it would also taint her good record to the UK.

The result of our settlement visa application without a lawyer meant she had not visited the UK for a year! Not only this, you do not get a refund for your visa application. If you’re not aware yet- visas cost a lot of money!

We therefore decided second time round it was worth getting a solicitor. We ended up working with them for about a year and they answered all our questions and fears. They obtain all your information and evidence and fill out the application for you. Make sure who you go with has good experience in immigration law! We went from recommendation from our friends who had used the same lawyer- they were a straight English/ American couple that got their visa denied first time round! Doesn’t just happen to just us gays. For a small fee in the bigger scheme, solicitors are well worth getting.

  1. Money!

Firstly, visa’s cost a lot, and regardless of the outcome- you get no refund! You’re looking at over $1000 (£826) for an application! Therefore you really don’t want to mess it up the first time round (as we did). Not only does it cost money to apply for the visa but let’s get honest- you both need money to move countries. In both visas a lot does depend on the sponsor (the British half of the couple) having either a good income or savings. To apply for both visas, the sponsor must be earning over £18,600 a year. The British person as the sponsor needs enough money to prove they can support you financially. The American half of you needs to ideally have a couple thousand pounds in savings. In a nutshell- you both need to prove you can live in the UK for a period time without work and without relying on benefits.

Where you’re going to live also plays a big part. If you’re:

  1. Still living with parents, they will need to evidence their ownership/ rental of the house plus detail of how many rooms and that your partner can stay there.
  2. You own/ rent your own place, you need to again evidence the detail of the house and that you can cover the costs of payment.

  1. Evidence


For both visas you really need to evidence every part of your relationship: from cards to one another, envelopes with names at each other’s addresses, emails with dates, pictures together, Facebook messages- ANYTHING you can collect that proves you are a couple!

For visa 1 they need to see that you have lived “akin to marriage”, we got denied because we did not prove this. Despite the fact we travelled to see each other every 3 months and living together for weeks at a time. For example they would like to see bills in both your names- mortgage statements, child birth certificates etc. For young gay couples- this pretty much does not apply to us.

For Visa 2 you also need to provide proof of your plans for your wedding, for example- the venue, the registrar you will use, who you are inviting, the dresses, shoes- ALL PLANS.


Ultimately you need to think about which visa to apply for first- we would not advise getting engaged for the visa! Only do everything truthfully and honestly, it's not worth getting caught out. Megan proposed to Whitney on 17th May 2011 before we even found out that the first visa had been denied, so our marriage plans had already begun. Make sure you know where you stand in relation to money you both have, what you can rely on for family members (third party support) and lastly evidence, evidence, evidence! Visa applications are rather long and quite difficult. We can’t stress this enough- get a lawyer! It will be the best investment of a small amount of money in return for the biggest investment of your life of living together happily ever after!!

We hope we have addressed the main concerns that you will have with applying for a visa, and if you think we can offer any further guidance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Finding out Whitney had officially been granted her visa to the UK!! See- it is all worth it!

Proposed Civil Partnership Granted!


Civil Partnership Visa Granted!


To read all our posts about our visa journey click here.


We wish you all the best!! Let us know if our advice has helped and how your long distance / visa journey is going. If you think we can help you in any further way, don't hesitate to contact us!


Useful inks and information:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/general-info/applying/





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Monday, 11 March 2013

The GIRLFRIEND & SISTER Tag Videos!

Yes, not one but two tag videos! In case you have missed that we have done these, first Megan filmed the Sister Tag with her sisters... not Whitney.. as she's not my sister.


Then we finally filmed the Girlfriend Tag, even though it's technically the wife tag ;)


Also, we had the pleasure of hanging out with these lovely ladies that you may recognise.. Luclyn! Aka Kaelyn & Lucy. We'll be posting some more pictures and videos of their visit to Wegan Manor soon.

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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Welcome To Our Brand New Look!!

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Our blog has been given a brand spanking new look, and quite a snazzy one at that! Finally WWDN has been given a professional overhaul by the very talented designer Ready To Blog. She's had to put up with not only our pickiness for this blog but also Whitney's critiquing blog! She pulled out all the stops and became a mind reader to produce something we both love.

So welcome to our brand new look! What do you think??

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