So you want to be an expat.

If you one day find yourself engaged to a British national and you intend to live in the UK, you will be applying for a spousal visa to settle. I was very grateful that Sean knew an American woman that had already gone through the process and was willing to help me and give me advice (thank you, Carlie!) and so I just figure I should pass that knowledge on. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a long read.

-The first thing you need to do is get married!
-Once you’re married, change your name on all legal documents and your bank account. (Passport, drivers license, social security card)
-After your new passport arrives, then you can begin your application process. Go to https://www.gov.uk/apply-uk-visa, register for an account and begin filling out your application. The online application is pretty simple and not too long, but do not forget to print and fill out Appendix 2 (the financial requirement form) and the Sponsorship Undertaking form (SU07). Before you finish your online application you will set up an appointment to have your Biometrics taken (fingerprints and a photo), it will walk you through the process. Once you have completed your online application you will submit it and then print out a copy to be included in your package.

**You will be required to submit supporting documents into your package so I would suggest collecting all of your supporting documents before submitting your online application as you have two weeks to ship it to Sheffield, England after you have your Biometrics taken.**
My visa application and supporting documents turned out to be a 7lb, 3 ring binder. I used sheet protectors for each document placed inside and dividers to separate each section. The visa processing center is looking for a reason to not accept your application, so I wanted to make sure I gave them every bit of information they needed and had no trouble finding it in my binder.

Visa application photoThis is my table of contents for my visa package:

SECTION 1:

  • Biometric appointment confirmation
  • IHS Reference number
  • VFS Global priority visa service and return service transaction
  • Return shipping label

SECTION 2:

  • Sponsor letter of introduction (typed)
  • Sponsor letter of intention (handwritten)
  • Sponsorship Undertaking SU07 form
  • Notarized color copies of sponsor’s passport
  • Notarized color copy of sponsor’s driving license
  • Sponsor’s birth certificate (original)

SECTION 3:

  • Notarized color copy of sponsor’s Royal Navy ID card
  • Sponsor’s Royal Navy assignment order
  • Sponsor’s personal and service detail summary
  • Sponsor’s employee personal information

SECTION 4:

  • Accommodation details, letter from sponsor’s mother
  • Proof of address for accommodation (sponsor’s mother)
  • Rejection letter for Armed Forces family accommodation (application: e1132)

SECTION 5:

  • Applicant letter of introduction
  • Application for UK entry clearance- Settlement Visa
  • Applicant’s birth certificate (original)
  • Applicant’s U.S. passport/ 2 UK passport photos
  • Previous passport
  • Notarized color copies of applicant’s drivers license and social security card
  • Final decree of divorce from applicant’s first marriage
  • Applicant’s job resume
  • Letter verifying employment (Massage Envy)
  • Letter verifying employment (Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church)

SECTION 6:

  • Appendix 2: Financial Requirement Form

SECTION 7:

  • Marriage License for Sean and Janice Murphy (certified)
  • Receipt for marriage license
  • Certificate of marriage for Sean and Janice Murphy
  • Wedding photos

SECTION 8:

  • Flight itineraries for Sean and Janice Murphy for visits made in 2015
  • iMessage screen shots
  • Facetime screen shots
  • Photos
  • Wedding cards received from family and friends
  • Letters from family members and friends

INSERTS:

  • Sponsor Financial Information (Tax information from 2014 and 6 months of bank statements)
  • Applicant Financial Information (Tax information from 2014 and 6 months of bank statements)

The application process is not cheap and if it is rejected you could be denied entry into the UK for 10 years, so you want to be thorough and double check everything. You are basically having to prove that you are a legitimate couple and you intend to live together and that your spouse can support you if you cannot find work. We had a dozen handwritten letters from family and friends validating our relationship and it’s very touching to read some of them and I ended up keeping all of them because they put a smile on my face.

Costs:

  • Visa Application- $1530 USD
  • Expedite Service- $562 USD
  • Return Service Airway Bill-$134 USD (This is so they can return your package and notification of whether or not your visa has been approved)
  • Immigration Health Surcharge Payment-  $960 USD
  • TOTAL-$3186 USD

**The expedite service is optional. We chose to do it because it may take anywhere from 2 business days to 6 months to process your application and during summertime, which was when we were applying, they have a high influx of applications due to students studying abroad.

**If you are marrying someone in the Armed Forces you will be refunded the Immigration Surcharge fee because you are a dependent. I was not aware of this when we applied and had a major panic attack when I checked my bank account one day and saw the money had been refunded. If your application is denied, the Immigration Surcharge fee will be the only money refunded back to you, everything else you can say goodbye to.

Additional costs: On top of the application fees, there was the cost of Sean having to send me all of his supporting documents from the UK and the cost of shipping to send the package to Sheffield, England. Which came to about another $200. Also, the cost of printing and getting color copies as well as the binder and sheet inserts. The Sponsorship Undertaking form is 18 pages and because I’m a perfectionist I printed it in color because it was in color on the website. Color copies are not cheap!

About a week and a half after sending my package I received an email telling me that they had made a decision and it would come in the mail. It was a very long 2 1/2 days waiting for my package to come back and I was terrified to open it. You have 30 days from the date on your visa to enter the UK or your visa is void. Once you enter the UK you have 10 days to pick up your Residence card. My visa is good for 5 years, after which I have to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or citizenship/dual citizenship. I plan to apply for dual citizenship.

To anyone applying good luck and if you have any questions, I’d love to try to help answer them.

Advertisements

We won the 5k!!! J/k we came in 72nd & 73rd place.

Sean and I completed our first 5k together this past weekend and we both had a great time! Considering Sean hasn’t run a 5k in about a year he did really great! We kept a steady pace and even though Sean swears the clock read 27:11 when we crossed the finish line, our actual finishing time was 27:16, but I’m still happy with it. Out of 124 women in my age group I came in 14th place and while I know 14th place isn’t necessarily something to brag about I’m very excited about this so let me have my moment. And there was a photographer that loved me for wearing my American flag as a cape and after we crossed the finish line he had me throw my fist in the air victoriously while piggy back on Sean, meanwhile Sean probably felt like he was going to shit himself having to hold me up, lol. Can’t wait to see the pictures!

12105943_10153684613553351_5989568834560614821_n

After the race we wanted to check out this pub bus that we saw pull up before the race started, but much to my dismay it wasn’t open!!! Why was it even there?? Maybe it opened after we left. I took a picture in front of it anyway because I’ve never seen a pub bus.

12189429_10153688545718351_2550997923294830412_o

In my efforts to counteract the amount of running I do every week, Sean and I made our first Sunday roast at home this past weekend. Sunday roasts here are amazing and while I don’t think I need to eat this every Sunday, we should probably make this a ‘once a month Sunday roast’.

12042900_10153688545713351_5854290678204875557_n

Our roast consisted of a stuffed chicken and gammon wrapped in bacon thing, roasted potatoes, roasted parsnips, mashed carrots and swede mix, Brussels sprouts, Yorkshire puddings, and gravy. Let me just say that while I think they’re delicious, roasted potatoes here are strange. It’s basically it’s deep fried and then put in the oven to roast…so technically, isn’t that a french fry? Yes? No? I don’t know.

Foods I miss from America

  • Cookies and cream milkshakes from Chick fil-a
  • 2/3lb monster thick burger from Hardees
  • $5 hot and ready pizzas from Little Caesar’s
  • A1 peppercorn burger from Red Robin
  • All you can order sushi
  • Bacon (British bacon is not real bacon I don’t care what Sean says)
  • Folgers coffee
  • International Delight Hazelnut coffee creamer
  • Salted caramel mocha lattes from Starbucks
  • Chai tea boba tea from Pho 79
  • Pho 79
  • And last, but not least, my beloved Taco Bell

London!

This past weekend we made a day trip to London to meet up with my friend Alison who is here on a fiance visa. This was my first trip to London and I was so glad to be there with really awesome company. We went with no plan and no expectations and we ended up having a pub crawl in between sight seeing. 13 hours in London and the only thing I’m sad about is that we didn’t make it to Camden so I could have my way with some food truck goodness. I just hope every trip I make there is just as fun!

Outside the Underground Station at Oxford Circus.
Outside the Underground Station at Oxford Circus.
Sean and me in front of Buckingham Palace.
Me and Sean in front of Buckingham Palace.
The first of many beers on during our self-imposed pub crawl.
The first of many beers on during our self-imposed pub crawl.

It’s not Fall, it’s Autumn.

So today in the mail Sean and I both received our race bibs for the Morrison’s Great South 5k!

11254700_10153663439413351_2565445330131672555_n

I’m getting really excited to find out how the Brits do races here. I wonder about so many things:

Will they Play England’s national anthem before the race begins?

Is there beer at the end?

Will the medal also be a beer bottle opener like so many of my other medals?

Do I get a cool race shirt?

Is there beer at the end?

Sean has run with me a few times, but his work schedule has been pretty crappy the last few weeks so he’s been pretty tired when he’s home, but I have no doubt that he will do just fine during the run. I set a goal for myself of 80 miles for the month of October so I’ve been sticking to 5 mile runs unless I’m feeling lazy. I’m at 33.41 miles so far this month.

It’s really starting to feel like Fall Autumn. I am corrected by my lovely husband every time I refer to the season as Fall. Either way, the leaves are changing and the weather feels and smells like Autumn or Fall or whatever you prefer. All the stores are already putting Christmas decorations out and have been stocking up on their selections of mince pies. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had one before so Sean bought us a package and I LOVE THEM.

10933839_10153663439528351_7531479529874826230_n

Yesterday was my second attempt at driving and it went much better than my first time. You would think that with 17 years experience of driving a manual transmission that I could just hop into the driver’s seat and be fine, but spatial awareness is really lacking on my part. There’s so much car to my left and that’s just weird. The first time I drove Sean thought I was going to drive us right into a coffee shop. Oops. I also have a hard time adjusting to the gear shift being to my left and automatically go searching for it with my right hand, but I think with a few more practice runs in an empty parking lot I might have the confidence to drive us home from the grocery one night. Maybe.

That’s all I have for now except to say, go see The Martian. It’s awesome.

30 days!

Today is my 30th day living in the UK!!!

In 30 days, I have eaten more chips (french fries) with gravy than I have ever eaten in my life.

12049285_10153639158208351_3494893006438529997_n

(btdubs, mushy peas are AMAZING!)

In 30 days I have learned to make a cup of tea that Sean approves of.

In 30 days I have accepted that having two faucets on one sink means I will never, ever have warm water to wash my face or rinse my mouth when I brush my teeth again.

12079456_10153639122963351_7691655073451140345_n

(seriously, WHY separate FAUCETS?????)

In 30 days I have visited three castles and discovered that I am actually pretty afraid of walking around in a thousand year old structure. Did everyone have tiny feet back then? How did they manage the tower stairs?!

12032129_10153635785208351_3054060469230645084_n

(Portchester Castle, built between 285-290AD)

In 30 days I have run 56.2 miles! With two days left in the month I figure I will get in another 8-9 miles. To celebrate my first 30 days down, this morning I registered both Sean and myself to run the Morrison’s Great South 5k. There is a Great South 10 miler that I would have loved to run, but I wanted Sean and I to run a race together and since he is just starting to get back into running again (he ran with me twice over the weekend for a total of 3.3 miles!) I think the 5k would be a good way to ease him into it. I’m so excited for us to run this together! Not only is it the first race we have registered together for, but it is a first for both of us to run a race in the UK. I’m already hoping that next year we can both sign up to run the 5k on Saturday followed by the 10 miler on Sunday!

First post!

It’s been just over 3 weeks since I moved to the UK and I’m starting to settle in nicely. The first few days I was here we spent running around trying to buy things for our flat, which is really fun and exhausting at the same time. It’s coming together slowly and we can’t wait for the couch we ordered to be delivered so we don’t have to sit on the crappy rental couches we have now. We had to drive to Wales to pick up my residence card and visit Sean’s family and on the way there we made a stop at Stonehenge!

12002903_10153591592773351_3648633351145400480_n

My husband kept saying that Stonehenge was something you just drive past and I thought he was crazy for demeaning an ancient site with so little regard, but now I’ve driven past it twice and really, after you’ve stopped to see it once, it’s just a thing you drive past.

While we were in Wales I was lucky enough see a couple of castles, one of them being Caernarfon Castle. It’s so cool to walk in a city and see the giant stone walls of a castle! It’s even cooler to walk around inside a castle, although I’m still not understanding how people lived in it. There are few rooms and most of them are tiny, where did they sleep??

11222019_10153596533688351_3601698077426333335_n

This past weekend we were lucky enough to get tickets to a Rugby World Cup game through Tickets for Troops to see Wales v. Uruguay! This was my husband’s first World Cup game and since he’s Welsh, he was through the roof excited and I have to admit, even though I’m not a fan of watching sports, I’m thinking I’m going to be a fan of rugby. American football players don’t have shit on rugby players (oh, stone me for saying it, but I’m right). Despite me accidentally knocking over a full beer, I had a great time and I even yelled and cheered for Wales while they kicked Uruguay’s butt!

12038019_10153627948078351_7118244433543219680_n

Since I’ve been in the UK I’ve been running around my neighborhood to try to get to know it better. My husband even jokes that I know my way around better than he does now (not true, I just know how to run in large circles). I knew before moving that the month of September was going to be a low mileage month with the travel back and forth to Wales, but I have been getting out and running when we’re home. I haven’t been running as regularly as I would prefer, but I have accomplished 39.9 miles so far this month. The weather lately has been perfect for running! Back home in Virginia Beach I was running in 90 degree heat with crazy humidity, but where we are in England it’s in the low 60’s and is either raining or looks like it’s going to rain. My longest run so far has been a 6 mile run towards Lee on Solent Beach. I love that there’s a beach close by. It may not be as warm and it has rocks instead of sand, but it makes me feel like I’m home. There’s 8 days left in the month so I’m looking forward to seeing how many more miles I can log for September!

11224462_10153628010618351_5050799874108008789_n