So, you have made your mind up and you want to move to the UK. Awesome! Question is, can you?
Before you can really even begin to plan your move to the UK you first have to determine whether or not you qualify for any of the visas that are currently available (Ancestry, Tier 1, 2 and 5 to name a few).
I used the Ancestry Visa route. This visa is entry clearance for Commonwealth citizens with a grandparent born in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. This visa entitles you to live and work in the UK for a period of 5 years, after which you may then apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain). It also entitles your dependents (husband/partner/children) to live and work in the UK with you. There is a restriction on the Ancestry Visa which states that you will have no access to public funds. This means you will need to ensure that you can support yourself and your family at all times as you will have no access to benefits of any kind.
In order to prove your Ancestry you will need to produce birth, marriage and death certificates of the relative that you are claiming ancestry through as well as all of their descendants up to and including you. In my case I claimed through my grandfather, so I needed to produce his birth, marriage and death certificate; my father’s birth, marriage and death certificate and finally my birth and marriage certificate as well as my dependents birth certificates. To help locate my grandfather’s birth certificate, I used a website called Free BMD which allows access to all the records at the General Registry Office in London.
Once you have collected all the necessary certificates (they all need to be long form certificates) you will need to complete an application through a visa application centre. They will walk you through the application process which will include having your biometrics (and your dependents/spouse) done. You will also need to provide bank account statements with your application.
A few things to keep in mind – you can not apply for this visa if you are already in the UK; marrying a UK citizen does not automatically give you the right to live in the UK (unless you are a EU citizen). The Immigration Laws are subject to change so it’s a good idea to make sure you have clear information before you apply.
As of April 2015 the UK government introduced the Immigrant Health Surcharge which you will have to pay as part of your visa application. Bear in mind prices increase every year. You will need to pay this with your application if:
⦁ you’re a national of a country outside the European Economic Area
⦁ you’re applying for a visa to work, study or join your family in the UK for more than 6 months (but you’re not applying to remain in the UK permanently)
My Ancestry Visa expired on the 1st of June 2015 and I had to apply for an extension to cover the period from June 1st to 8th September 2015 when I was eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain. I had to pay the full 5 year IHS charge for myself and my two daughters. You have to pay the fee when you either initially apply or renew you visa. They will not accept your application without you paying. The fee covers the cost of using the NHS but you will still need to pay for certain services such as prescriptions, dental and eye tests and if you are working they will still take NI off your pay cheque.
The surcharge doesn’t affect everyone, for example people on visitor visas or any visa that lasts 6 months or less or anyone from the EU.
My Ancestry Visa expired in June 2015 and I was eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in September 2015. I only needed the visa extension to cover the period from June to September so I thought it better to use a lawyer otherwise. Had I done it myself I would have ended up paying the full fee for the extension and then another fee for the ILR. Even though I only needed the extension for 2 months I still had to pay the Health Surcharge for a full five years which amounted to £3000 for myself and my two daughters – on top of visa fees. Luckily, I used a really good lawyer who was able to get the Surcharge fee refunded to me. I won’t lie though, the whole process wasn’t cheap.
When you are applying for ILR you will have to take and pass the Life in the UK test. You can take the test as many times as necessary (you will have to pay a fee each time) to get a passing mark -they only tell you if you pass or fail, they won’t actually give you your score. If you go on to apply for citizenship you won’t have to retake the test, just provide the certificate along with your application. You will also be required to take your biometrics and photographs for each application (in my case visa extension, ILR and again for citizenship).
I did our own applications for citizenship and then made an appointment with the Nationality Checking Service . They will go over the application and supporting documents with you and submit everything once you pay the fee. The application is long but fairly straight forward and a lot cheaper than paying a lawyer to do it. You can choose to pay for your passport at the same time so when your application is approved and you have attended your citizenship ceremony, you’ll get your passport in the post a few days later. You will have to attend the citizenship ceremony as it’s compulsory; though anyone under 18 doesn’t have to but they of course are welcome too if they wish. I really enjoyed the ceremony, there was about 20 other new citizens there, we took an oath and a pledge of allegiance to the Queen, took a picture with the mayor and received a keepsake coin. It really was one of the proudest moments of my life.