The UK also makes the fiancee/spouse apply outside of the UK, as I’m in the middle of the process to get a spousal visa (with enough lead time, however, one can apply to marry in the UK and apply for the spousal visa from within the country, but the last time I was over, I wasn’t staying long enough). We’re working with an immigration lawyer because the UKBA website is geared to make you give up or go insane, possibly both. No UK consulate in the United States has a phone number for visa applicants that actually connects you with a human being; you end up being redirected to an outsource called World Bridge – they won’t speak to you unless the first thing out of your mouth is your 16 digit credit card number, seriously. And $3/minute gets you someone just reading the FAQ off the UKBA website.
The lawyer is expensive, but holy cow has she made this process so much easier.
The real stress at the moment is that UK immigration laws change as of 9 July 2012, and she wasn’t expecting this to take effect until much later this summer. This meant a heck of a lot of scrambling and last minute airplane tickets for the new Mr Boods so that he could come to the US and actually become Mr Boods to beat the deadline.
While the application form was long, it mostly had to do with finances: stuff such as that my sponsor he can afford the household; that I have enough money to tide me over until my job starts so that I’m not obviously coming over to glom onto the benefits scheme; my skill sets and proof of future employment, things like that. As far as I know, we don’t have to be interviewed about our personal habits or produce witnesses to guarantee our relationship is genuine; from what I understand there are couples who do have to produce evidence of an actual relationship, but there are triggers in the application process that set off that particular procedure.
My visa application has been sent in, so with luck I’ve beaten the deadline; I still have to follow up with a packet of supporting documents, but they don’t have to be in before the 9th.
It’s not an easy process, but no one as yet in the UK has made me feel like an outsider or an intruder (and I’m including all the people in officialdom I’ve had to talk to about visa paperwork, getting a NIN, my future colleagues at the university, &c.)
What did set off alarms at Heathrow immigration was when I was self-employed, and traveling over several times a year. A former Heathrow bod told me that one group who’s profiled coming into the UK are single women between 21 and about 40 who seem to come over very frequently despite having a low income, as apparently they have a greater tendency to try to overstay their tourist visas/return flight date (the UK doesn’t require a visit for tourists, but you can’t stay past six months).
I was pulled aside and interrogated for four hours on one visit because I made the mistake of answering the question, ‘This friend you’re staying with, how did you meet him?’ with ‘Over the internet’ – that was the correct answer, but I had since met him several times in real life and had lived in a house share with him in England for a few months. But the airport officials heard only ‘over the internet’ and assumed I was a starry-eyed Yankette who had been lured to the land of pixies and dukes and castles by a dastardly blackguard planning to sell me into the sex slavery trade. Sure that’s being silly, but apparently enough women do overstay their visits on whatever romantic or whimsical notion frequently enough to warrant profiling (and that it costs time and resources to get them out of whatever trouble they actually fall into.)
What finally stopped all the questioning and interrogation: putting ‘university lecturer’ on my landing card as my occupation, traveling almost exclusively business or first class, and putting a ‘Mrs’ in front of the name of the person I was staying with.