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My fiancee and I would like to settle in the UK. I am a British citizen and she is an American citizen.

She was refused entry November 2018 due to the IO not believing she was a genuine visitor. She received a visit visa May 2019 and visited for 3 weeks August 2019 before leaving.

I do not meet the financial requirements (18,600 GBP) and so I'm seeking to change jobs to meet this. In the meantime before I earn this, we're visiting each other back and forth for 2-3 weeks.

The plan was for me to travel to the USA under the VWP, get married, then return home and apply for a spousal visa some time later. However, we've explored the option of simply waiting until I meet the financial requirement, obtaining a Family Visa as a fiancee and just marrying in the UK and then extending her stay.

Can this be done? How long is the extension for?

The reason for this is because I don't want to marry her then within the space of a couple of months sponsor her for a spousal visa as it could look like a marriage of convenience. We've lots of pictures from our time living together for less than a year in China and we've kept our plane tickets both to and from each other's countries.

I really don't know if I should marry her in the States or just wait until I earn enough for us to marry in the UK, and then apply for a Family Visa. I doubt we can get married before March 2020 as I have just 4 days of annual leave left my job and it doesn't reset until then.

So, does anybody have any advice on the following:

  1. UK citizen using VWP to travel to the USA to marry an American before returning to the UK.

  2. Extending stay under Family Visa when entering as a fiancee.

  3. Would getting married then quickly applying for a spousal visa raise suspicions? I mean, why would we choose to wait if I'm eligible to sponsor her?

  • By ‘fiancée visa’ do you mean a Marriage Visitor visa? gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/usa/marriage UK Immigration Rules don’t allow switching from this visa type gov.uk/marriage-visa Or do you mean a Family visa gov.uk/uk-family-visa (coming to the UK as a fiancée to settle)? – Traveller Sep 16 at 22:40
  • Oh sorry. I meant a family visa. I want to bring my fiancee to the UK, marry her here then continue to live in the UK. My understanding is if she applied for a family visa as a fiancee, she would get 6 months to start with and then we'd apply for an extension. Is this correct and if so, how long is the extension? I have edited the main body and title of my question since I was unclear. – Liam Sep 16 at 23:05
  • From what I can tell, this link gov.uk/uk-family-visa states that she can extend her stay in the UK "If you’re extending to stay with the same family member, you’ll only get up to 28 days left on your current stay added to your new visa.". So now my understanding is after we're married, would we have to apply for a new spousal visa as she would be my wife? If this is true, wouldn't it just be cheaper (visa application cost-wise) to just marry outside of the UK and save ourselves the cost of a family visa for a fiancee? – Liam Sep 16 at 23:15
  • @Liam it does indeed look like it. You should consider moving to the US. It looks to me like £1523 for the first visa (six months), £1033 for the next two (five years), plus £2000 in healthcare surcharges for those five years, and £2389 for the ILR application, which is nearly £8000 over five and a half years. The US, by contrast, will issue you a spouse immigrant visa for under $1200 and you'll be a permanent resident the moment you are admitted. Alternatively, you can arrive on a K-1 fiancé visa and adjust status after you marry, the cost still being under $2000. – phoog Sep 16 at 23:46
  • Before Brexit, you could also settle together in another EU country (Ireland, for example) for basically nothing. But it may be too late for that. – phoog Sep 16 at 23:48
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I can't comment on your first question.

Extending stay under Family Visa when entering as a fiancee.

You will need to pay significantly more if you take this route. You need to pay the initial out of country application fee, and then pay to extend the visa twice, before your partner becomes eligible for ILR. So you have to pay for an additional extension beyond what would be required if she came to the UK married.

In answer to the question about how long the extension is, in country extensions give an additional 2.5 years. So the length of her successive visas would be 6 months, 2.5 years, 2.5 years. In contrast, if the initial application is made after you are married, she would get a 2.75 year visa, and then get a 2.5 year extension.

Would getting married then quickly applying for a spousal visa raise suspicions? I mean, why would we choose to wait if I'm eligible to sponsor her?

No, this is not inherently suspicious. I would guess that it's extremely common. My partner's visa application was made a month after we were married abroad, and was successful. You need to provide evidence of your relationship, but if you are in a genuine relationship and have photos and communications with each other then this will not be hard to prove.

In my opinion, getting married outside the UK by far the better choice. It's cheaper, the documentation required is less burdensome, and you won't need to worry about a visa refusal upending your marriage plans.

In case you are concerned, her previous entry refusal will not have a negative effect on her application. Prior immigration problems, other than deliberate deception, are ignored for family visa applications.

As phoog says in the comments, you might want to consider living in the US. The UK is extremely hostile to international couples.

  • And the financial requirement penalises UK citizens wanting to bring their spouse to the UK, compared with the lack of such an explicit financial hurdle for an EU citizen moving to the UK with their spouse. – Traveller Sep 17 at 8:34
  • I completely agree, Traveller. I'm open to moving to the US but not anytime soon. My fiancee wants to leave her country and my job will see me staying in the UK for some time whereas her job allows her to be somewhat flexible. – Liam Sep 17 at 9:15

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