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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My partner has just been granted her FLR and we're thrilled! We're also really, REALLY surprised at how quick and painless it was, and how little of our supporting evidence they requested. As always, the caveat is going to be that it might be different for each applicant depending on time of day, circumstances of applicant, centre being used etc.

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We arrived 8.25 outside Solihull PEO (the appointment took 3-4 weeks so was relatively quick compared to some PEOs). We stayed at a local Holiday Inn within 10 mins walking distance. En route, we were confused by a very large and obvious office block emblazoned with “UKBA” on a neighbouring road (and a lot of people waiting outside). However, the Public Enquiry Office looks more akin to a local dentist surgery in a different and very under-stated building and is at the location as shown on the UKBA site. A small gold plaque reads a simple “Home Office Public Enquiry Office” by the door - with no big UKBA signs unlike the nearby office block. However, it was the correct place. There were four other people waiting outside. We had a 9am appointment but the letter advised that we arrive 30 minutes early.

The doors were opened at 8:30am prompt, and we were the first in. The security officer only allowed one applicant (and person accompanying) at a time, leaving everyone else waiting outside behind closed doors. Usual security checks of emptying pockets, having bags searched and then walking through an airport-style scanner for us both. After that, we were instructed to walk back to the reception officer who checked that we’d completed the correct form, and to confirm how we intended to pay. Word of warning! Personal cheques are not accepted (we’d taken our cheque book as back-up in case our debit card triggered a fraud warning). We were then given a numbered and bar-coded ticket that we were told we must keep for the duration of the process and told to wait.

We sat, but were disheartened to see the next couple we’d been chatting to outside being turned away. The girl burst into tears and the security officer tried to reassure her that she could reapply. It appears that she’d completed the incorrect form. THANK YOU EXPAT FORUM! It’s times like this when you realise how fortunate it is to have received all the help and guidance from here.

We’d only been sat for 5 minutes when we were called forward to one of the interview booths in a large room where there are 6 open kiosks (so we didn't have to wait until 9am for our appointment). Communication is through a glass screen via one of those speaker systems which we both found a little difficult to hear at times (but neither of us has 100% good hearing, so that’s probably our problem). The interviewing officer asked to see the application form (and to leave the passport-photos-in-envelope attached to it as the form instructs), but not pass through any other papers. We’d been “ever-so-clever” and had attached our supporting evidence (plus copies) to each related question. The officer didn’t want it like this and so let us unclip all those papers (assuring us we didn’t need to hurry) whilst taking both sponsor and applicant passports away for checking. No need for cleverness! The interviewer returned and started glancing through the application – a very quick check presumably to ensure we hadn’t missed anything. He then asked us how we’d met, and asked if my partner had visited me in Britain before. He seemed totally satisfied with our answers. He then asked us to hand over our civil partnership certificate and prior divorce papers (plus copies), and then asked for either bank statements OR pay stubs for three months (we had both for SIX months) but he said bank statements only would be fine. And all that other supporting evidence that we’d worried and panicked about? Photos, our wedding album, utility bills, mortgage statements, title deeds, evidence of employability, supporting letters explaining this and that, etc etc.... Not needed and not even looked at!

The interviewing officer put the application to one side and ticked various boxes on a checklist. He then began explaining that we’d be granted FLR which is a 2-year probationary visa, and what we must do now is make sure we gather (over this next two years) plenty of paperwork in either of our names and in joint names to cover the full period of two years, ready for applying for ILR. We knew this already, thanks to this forum(!), but it was nice how he took great care to explain the whole process. He also advised us that changing our surname (not done yet) would present no problems whatsoever for the Biometrics Residency Permit. My passport (as sponsor) was retained, as were the original and copy marriage/divorce documents, but he handed back my partner’s passport and our original bank statements (keeping only the copies). We were then told to go to the cashier to pay. The interview and checking process lasted for about 10 minutes.

At this point we had no idea if we’d been granted our visa. The interviewing officer had been speaking as though we had, but we didn’t dare hope at this point. Our payment went through successfully and we were advised to return to the main waiting area and wait for our biometrics appointment.

The waiting room was now very full, but we were called through right away for my partner’s biometrics (I was allowed through too). Again, very friendly staff, and a quick process of fingerprints and photo. What wasn’t clear was how long this part would be. The warning that biometrics will take about 90 minutes exists both on the UKBA web site and on a poster on the waiting room wall. Actually, it takes about 5 minutes of you being there (and the rest of that time passes in your absence). The staff who took the biometrics data advised that we should pop out shopping or go grab coffee, and allow an hour and a half. She also suggested leaving our mobile number at the desk in case they needed to contact us (and also that they’d probably call when we could return for our documents). And that was it. We were back outside by 9:30am. It had all been very quick, and pretty pleasant too. No matter what pressures and bad publicity UKBA might be receiving, their staff were at all times most pleasant and efficient, and very willing to answer any questions we had.

It was barely half an hour later when they rang to say we could collect our documents. My partner was worried because it seemed far too quick! But it was fine. This time, we didn’t have to queue (we just handed over our ticket). The reception officer said the visa had been granted and handed over our papers to check that they were all there and were our papers (and my passport). He explained about the Biometric Residency Permit, what it would look like, how it would be delivered and how it should be used, and that was it! FLR granted within 1 hour!

I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely relaxed the whole process was. We were treated like genuine applicants and people they really wanted to help, and every UKBA officer took great pains to carefully explain just about everything of the current process AND what would be happening next. I was also surprised by how little supporting evidence they needed.
 

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It might also be most advantageous to say that we were dressed in nice clothing (No torn or faded jeans and sneakers), We were polite as well, and as 2farapart says, All cases and circumstances are different.

Had we to do this again, even reading this, we would still have ALL papers we had because there is no such thing as too much evidence. He could have asked us for any one of those papers as such is the UKBA policies and rules.

As she says, We are very very grateful for all the help we have received here.:D
 

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Oh YEA!!!!

Congrats, I know this is a huge load off both of your minds! Right, back to read the step-by-step recounting of the appointment (that I am hoping to attend in a year with my husband!). Again, YEA!!!! This is great news:):):):):)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you both so much. I'm thrilled and relieved, and Dylan-Is-Caths is still shell-shocked and not quite taking in that she really succeeded! :D And we did, all thanks to everyone here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ha ha ha! Yes, our relief will be short-lived if this two years flies as quickly as the first six months. :eek:

First stop is the Life In The UK test where, according to sample tests, we must remember which animal racing event is run each April and how many county councils there are in the UK. Essential stuff! :D
 

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Ha ha ha! Yes, our relief will be short-lived if this two years flies as quickly as the first six months. :eek:

First stop is the Life In The UK test where, according to sample tests, we must remember which animal racing event is run each April and how many county councils there are in the UK. Essential stuff! :D
Can one start to study for the LitUK exam before the FLR(M) is granted and then sit the exam shortly after it is granted?

I mean, there's going to be about 3½ weeks between my arrival in the UK and my wedding date, so I'm sure that I'll have lots of spare time to be able to review the more salient points of the study guide, and given that British/Commonwealth history was part of the social studies curriculum at the high school that I attended (Canada), it should be more of a review of the material that I've forgotten in the intervening twenty odd years, thus making it not too difficult to revise for the exam.

Besides, it would give me something to do between the date that I apply for the FLR(M) and get an approval and actually receive the visa back in my hot little hands and can go on my honeymoon.
 

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Whoops, after reading 2farapart message, I believe my suggestion was wrong so deleting it. I guess I was going on our SET(M) experience which is not same as FLR(M) situation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Can one start to study for the LitUK exam before the FLR(M) is granted and then sit the exam shortly after it is granted?

I mean, there's going to be about 3½ weeks between my arrival in the UK and my wedding date, so I'm sure that I'll have lots of spare time to be able to review the more salient points of the study guide, and given that British/Commonwealth history was part of the social studies curriculum at the high school that I attended (Canada), it should be more of a review of the material that I've forgotten in the intervening twenty odd years, thus making it not too difficult to revise for the exam.

Besides, it would give me something to do between the date that I apply for the FLR(M) and get an approval and actually receive the visa back in my hot little hands and can go on my honeymoon.
I believe you can study for it any time. I'm sure it will be absolutely intriguing and I expect I'll learn all about life in the UK too, because I sure as heck didn't seem to know about it before seeing the sample tests!

The interviewing officer explained that we can buy the study books through various book stores and online (he mentioned that there were links from the UKBA web pages and I've also seen the books sold on Amazon). You can actually apply to take the test as soon as you receive your FLR biometric residency permit, but you can buy the study guide at any time. Let me know if there's a crib sheet we can borrow! :D
 

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...
The interviewing officer explained that we can buy the study books through various book stores and online (he mentioned that there were links from the UKBA web pages and I've also seen the books sold on Amazon). ...
I got my set (there's three, the main and then two study guides and practice tests) from the TSO, but the same bundle is available on Amazon at a very nice savings. Just be sure to get the latest edition.

I plan to take the test as soon as I can get through five of the practice tests @100%. Erm, I'm not there yet:eek:
 

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I believe you can study for it any time. I'm sure it will be absolutely intriguing and I expect I'll learn all about life in the UK too, because I sure as heck didn't seem to know about it before seeing the sample tests!

The interviewing officer explained that we can buy the study books through various book stores and online (he mentioned that there were links from the UKBA web pages and I've also seen the books sold on Amazon). You can actually apply to take the test as soon as you receive your FLR biometric residency permit, but you can buy the study guide at any time. Let me know if there's a crib sheet we can borrow! :D
Ed (my fiancé) had trouble with some of the questions as well (I found a site that had some sample questions), so it'll be good to do random pop quizzes with him.

One of his friends (a Canadian) wrote the test and passed, so I am not worried that I won't pass. I sure as heck won't be going "all Asian" and trying to get 100% on this thing... since the UKBA just wants a minimum passing grade, all that I am aiming for is a pass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
But 100% would mean you'd know FAR more about "Life In The UK" than any of us native Brits (except maybe the person who thought up the questions. :D :D :D

I wonder if there will ever be a UKBA edition of Trivial Pursuit too? I expect I'll be stuck on the "Entertainment"questions as usual if so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Just adding a rather late observation....

I have a new stamp on my passport bio pages reading *** NO OFFICIAL OBSERVATIONS ***. We thought it odd that Dylan-Is-Cath's passport (as applicant) was returned almost immediately, but mine, as UK partner, was kept by them for the duration of the process.
 

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Just adding a rather late observation....

I have a new stamp on my passport bio pages reading *** NO OFFICIAL OBSERVATIONS ***. We thought it odd that Dylan-Is-Cath's passport (as applicant) was returned almost immediately, but mine, as UK partner, was kept by them for the duration of the process.
What on earth does *** NO OFFICIAL OBSERVATIONS *** mean?! :confused2:

When I read your account of your morning, I wondered about that-why did they keep your passport but not her's? It would seem they would hang onto her's as the applicant, and your's as the sponsor, but to keep your's does seem a bit odd. Hopefully someone will post in because they've had the same experience and asked or found out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
What on earth does *** NO OFFICIAL OBSERVATIONS *** mean?! :confused2:

When I read your account of your morning, I wondered about that-why did they keep your passport but not her's? It would seem they would hang onto her's as the applicant, and your's as the sponsor, but to keep your's does seem a bit odd. Hopefully someone will post in because they've had the same experience and asked or found out.
I'm wondering if it's because my passport is empty and unused? Or perhaps they're now just carrying out routine checks whenever a passport crosses their hands. I don't know, but I was rather amused when they handed Cath's passport back and kept mine! :D

EDIT: It seems to be a new thing. Basic passport checks are now carried out, and according to the Home Office:
"Where the passport holder does not require any additional data to be inserted into the passport, the passport
observations page (page 3) will read “THERE ARE NO OFFICIAL OBSERVATIONS"
This is detailed in a Home Office PDF guide: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/public...ion-guidance/basic-passport-check?view=Binary about UK passports issued 2010 onwards (mine is 2011).
 

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I'm wondering if it's because my passport is empty and unused? Or perhaps they're now just carrying out routine checks whenever a passport crosses their hands. I don't know, but I was rather amused when they handed Cath's passport back and kept mine! :D
During the process I'm sure my husband and I will be so nervous and ultra careful that we won't ask any questions. And once the determination was made and our docs handed back, I don't think we'll be in the mood to ask, frankly. I suspect we'll grab our documents and run like mad back to the car before the UKBA changes their minds!
 

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I got my renewed British pasport last September (new design with bio pages at the front) and yes, on facing page is printed 'There are no official observations.' I think they add it when there is no endorsement or any remark to be entered, such as restricted validity (e.g. for an emeregency passport).
 
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