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Preparations and bookings for fiancée visa applicants

For anyone applying for their fiancée visa, I wanted to outline a lot of the points (and pitfalls) we encountered so you're fully prepared - especially as many people ask the same questions we too asked. I hope it's of as much use to you as the information was to us - and a big thanks to everyone who helped us along the way too!


Choosing your dates

The fiancée visa allows you to enter the UK and marry/become civil partners and you're granted a full six months for this. If the visa states "MULT" on it, you are free to leave and re-enter the UK at will BEFORE you marry (but not after - more on that later).
The process is identical for both marriage and civil-partnership (same-sex partners). There is no need to worry about how quickly you arrange your dates after arrival into the UK - and it is safe (and a good idea) to leave plenty of time between arrival in the UK and your ceremony. Remember that the UKBA realises there is a lot to arrange, and there is no penalty for delaying the date to towards the end of your visa if you need to. Just ensure you do marry within that first 6 months because extensions are granted in only the very rarest circumstances.

You can book all dates in advance of arriving in the UK and it's probably a good idea to do so as bookings fill up quickly (you can also use your advance bookings as evidence that you've made some attempt at planning your wedding ceremony when applying for your fiancée visa). Do however leave yourself enough time for each date to make the necessary preparations and keep within the law as described below...

You will need to book:

  • An initial "intention to marry" appointment at a Registry Office (note: legally, your overseas partner must have resided in the UK a full 7 days and 7 nights prior to attending this appointment, and they will also need to have "proof of UK address" too, so allow time to obtain this when booking this first appointment). For marriages and civil partnerships with an overseas national, this appointment can only be booked at one of 76 Designated Registry Offices (ROs with special powers to vet and approve overseas documentation). Not all non-designated Register Offices seem aware of this relatively new requirement and might inadvertently accept your booking, so it is your responsibility to ensure you've booked correctly!
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  • A date and venue for your ceremony. By law, this date must be a minimum 15 days after your initial Register Office appointment.

Note: it's not recommended that you pay out a large sum of money for advance event bookings unless you feel safe that you can be refunded should your visa application not be successful, so DO check refund policies before making any large financial commitments.



The "intention to marry" Register Office appointment.

Be aware that, before attending your first date at the Designated Register Office, the overseas partner will need some form of proof of address in the UK. Therefore, you might want to allow around a month after they are due to arrive in the UK for setting this first date so that they have time to arrange this proof beforehand.

If you need it, the quickest "proof of address" documentation will likely be changing your bank accounts to reflect both names (both of you will need to be in the bank in person - however, you can arrange to do this during a prior visit to the UK if you need to), and also registering the overseas partner at your local doctor's surgery (they will be sent their National Health Insurance number addressed by letter to them, and with bank accounts will form secondary proof of address). Both of these take just over a week to come through. Utility bills can take longer. If possible, it is best you both take different proof documents (ie don't use the same utility bill for BOTH of you). When first booking this appointment, the clerk should have detailed these requirements for you.

Initially, you will be interviewed separately at this first Register Office appointment. It sounds silly, but do be aware of your partner's FULL name and date of birth because the registrar will ask you! You will be asked about your own parentage (parents profession etc), your place of birth etc. You will be asked to present your documentary proof of identity and address (photo identity such as passport or driving license is required, together with proof of address). You will be asked where in the UK you intend to hold your ceremony.



Booking your ceremony

To book the actual ceremony venue and date, you will likely need to pay a deposit to reserve your booking (even if booking a ceremony in a Register Office). Be warned that the deposit might be non-refundable, so try to book a date you think you can keep, or choose a venue with a good cancellation policy. Booking in advance is strongly recommended, but bear in mind that you'll need to allow enough time for any overseas guests to make their travel preparations. As already mentioned, it doesn't matter if you set a date towards the end of your fiancée visa period - provided you are married/civil-partnered before the visa expires.

If using a Register Office for your ceremony too, this does not have to be at the same Register Office nor in the same area of the UK as the one where you took your documents for checking (the Designated Registry office). The initial appointment makes a computer record which will be checked by the Registrar conducting your ceremony beforehand.

Ensure you take photos of yourselves and (preferably) other people with you both. These can be supplied as evidence along with your marriage/cp certificate when it arrives ready for when you apply for your next visa. You might not need them, but it's better to have them ready in case you do!



After the ceremony

Beware of booking an overseas honeymoon! The moment you are married, you are no longer "fiancées" - and that "MULT" (permission to enter the UK multiple times) endorsement on the visa no longer applies. Athough you are free to stay in the UK for the remainder of the fiancée visa, you will have problems should you leave the UK and then try to re-enter, and there is a chance you might not be re-admitted, and sent home to reapply from overseas! Therefore, it's better to book a UK-based honeymoon and save any overseas trip for later when you have your probationary settlement visa (FLR).

You can apply for your FLR (Further Leave To Remain) visa immediately after your ceremony (you don't need to wait until your 6-month fiancée visa has elapsed). You can book online from within the UK using form FLR(M), though it is best to wait for your official certificate to arrive before sending off any paperwork. Be aware that appointments take a minimum 4 weeks (usually longer) to come through if using the same-day premium service. If using the basic postal service, the process can take 12 weeks or more, but as long as you apply within the dates of your fiancée visa, you're permitted to stay in the UK for the duration of the application process even if it exceeds your fiancée visa's expiry date.
 

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A great primer for those planning to wed their foreign partners in the UK, and noting the relevant caveats - well done!

Just a few points to add though, for the benefit of those intending to marry in Scotland (for those who are unaware, Scots law and English law differ in certain key areas):

- unlike in England and Wales, ALL register offices in Scotland are 'designated', so you may choose any office you like
- there is no residential requirement prior to marriage/CP in Scotland for either partner and hence no proof of UK address is required
- the official marriage/CP certificate is available almost immediately after the ceremony (we swung by the register office a couple of hours after our ceremony to pick ours up)

teuchter
 

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A great primer for those planning to wed their foreign partners in the UK, and noting the relevant caveats - well done!

Just a few points to add though, for the benefit of those intending to marry in Scotland (for those who are unaware, Scots law and English law differ in certain key areas):

- unlike in England and Wales, ALL register offices in Scotland are 'designated', so you may choose any office you like
- there is no residential requirement prior to marriage/CP in Scotland for either partner and hence no proof of UK address is required
- the official marriage/CP certificate is available almost immediately after the ceremony (we swung by the register office a couple of hours after our ceremony to pick ours up)
Re marriage certificates. If you marry at a register office, you can get your certificate there and then (your fee covers one copy) and as many as you like (you pay extra £4 each). If you are getting married at an approved venue (e.g. a hotel), it's best to tell the registrar in advance if you want extra copies, so that they will bring along blank forms. You can get them later on, but will be charged £7.

Procedure can be different if you opt for a church wedding. If it's in the Church of England or Church in Wales, you don't involve (civil) register office at all. Everything can be arranged through the church, as their clergy act as marriage registrars in their parishes. So just make an appointment with the clergy and arrange a date for your ceremony, and go through any church procedure, such as calling of banns (not recommended for a marriage involving a foreigner) or getting a common licence. It normally takes a minimum of 15 days (including three Sundays) for banns to be called, but if you get a licence (it takes as little as one day; much longer for the divorced with former spouse still living, and subject to Bishop's approval), ceremony can take place immediately. The clergy themselves issue marriage certificates, which are legally valid. Costs are the same as civil marriage.

If you get married in any other church (denomination) or religion, you go through the usual civil formality (giving notice etc) as well as any church/faith requirements.
 

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Many thanks for the addition, teuchter - I was blissfully unaware of differences in Scotland (a real 'doh' moment on my part). Thanks for adding!
No worries! (And no offence intended, but most English people aren't aware of the fact that Scotland has its own distinct legal system; never mind that many laws are different in Scotland.)

teuchter
 

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No worries! (And no offence intended, but most English people aren't aware of the fact that Scotland has its own distinct legal system; never mind that many laws are different in Scotland.)
In Scotland you can be married from age 16 without parental consent (England requires consent till age 18). But under UK immigration law, you can't marry till 18. So a 16-year old foreigner applying for fiancé(e) visa will be refused.

There are different rules in Scotland regarding Wills, property purchase and transaction, many aspects of the court sysytem, uni tuition fees, prescription charges (none) etc. Lawyers wanting to practise in Scotland have to pass separate exams on Scottish laws.
 

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Thank you so much 2far!!! That's such a great breakdown of what we need to do and will save many hours of confusion.
My fiancé and I have just booked our venue and date :0) so it's lovely to have a clear idea of what's next with RO booking and document checking. I didn't know if you had to have the ceremony with a registrar from the designated RO and you've answered that for me :0)
We're not applying until oct/nov so will be under the new rules *nervous smile* hopefully it'll all be fine, staying positive is the key (but definitely won't be booking anything else until we know for sure lol)
 
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