Dear members and admins.
Firstly, my journey has been a total 2 years where I have learned more about the UKVI immigration rules than I have ever done so in my life. This board has been incredibly useful with tips, with stories and the advice given to members. A big thanks to the admins and moderators.
I will try to provide as much detail as possible to help advise people on applications and from what I learned. Warning, this is a long post!!
My husband was an overstayer for 11.3 years, this was his 4th application after 3 rejections spanning 10 years. He had overstayed a visit visa due to circumstances out of his control.
August 2016 Application
I had met him approximately 3 years ago (at present writing) and we just fell head over heels in love. I knew, simply, he was the one. He confessed he did not have a valid visa. After a quick search and a few phonecalls, I needed some legal advice. I was willing to do what I needed to help regularise his stay.
Had a phonecall with a solicitor 2 years and 2 months ago, my first question was "should he just leave the UK and I can sponsor him over if we got married, as that was the inevitable journey in our relationship"
I was told no, he will get banned - That was the first of the really bad advice that we were given that leads us to a 2 year journey. He SHOULD have returned to his home country and simply come back, to avoid this whole mess.
As we were living together for 6 months, we were told we had better chances to submit a FLR FP Partner route, get married legally and vary the application - WRONG advice. We didn't even fulfil the criteria of 2 year co-habitation and the application submitted in Aug 16 was never considered as a partner application whatsoever.
Anyway, we sent what we could, cohabitation documents for 6 months, approximately 300pgs of whatsapp messages, holiday bookings and witness statements and about 300 pictures.
I left a lot of matters with the solicitor and trusted we would simply be refused in 6 months which we could just vary in a new application..
We got married in Feb 2017 (beautiful intimate wedding), submitted our certificate and waited an ENTRIE year later for a refusal. After an 18 month wait (and in between, I had chased the solicitor, no letters responded by the HO. I lobbied my MP, who assured me the HO were doing what they could to make a decision 16 months in. I wrote to the Home Affairs Committee as it just felt wrong).
The Refusal - Feb 2018 18 months later
The Home Office detailed in a 5 page refusal letter as a "further submissions" in Feb 2018 this year.
The refusal was quite clear, he had no basis of stay despite them acknowledging our relationship and what was most upsetting, I had no way to reply to their refusal.
Firstly, they misunderstood whatsapp messages for emails, and said we had met online and could simply continue a relationship aboard. I had mentioned common ground as for our relatives being bought up in the same region in his home country, so was misunderstood to say I could easily integrate, despite not visiting the country for 10 years and travelling the whole world!
His absconding was deemed as a bad character, depsite requesting the then IS96 five times with the solicitor.
I was ready to counter the refusal with a new application as we WERE legally married, living together for 2 years and had more proof, it was a tick box exercise for me and go for a premium appointment or just let him leave and I can sponsor him on a spousal visa.
However, the solicitor was SO sure that we had to combat this refusal via a JR as there was an error of law.. so the time it would take for either spousal visa abroad, he can stay here, win the JR, claim our money back and go via appeal. So we thought, why not. WRONG MOVE.
The Home Office responded, very rightly with a defence with detailed accounts of his previous refusals, absoconding, his relatives in his home country. It was awful to read.
Whilst waiting for a decision on papers, I consulted a local solicitor who had been recommended. I gave no background and provided what we had got and how we applied. She was not happy with the number of holes in the application and advised that if the judge refused on papers we should prepare for an application. Watiing for the baby wasn't the right thing to do as we had exceptional circumstances.
I was armed with the correct information and answers which the solicitor verified. In addition, I had a change of circumstances and was 6 months pregnant.
My previous solicitor was keen to "waste time" for a JR refusal then submit a new application FLR when the baby was born.
Something that hit home which the new solicitor said was the following: What is it that is preventing him from returning to his home country that would either be incredibly exceptional or cause me hardship knowing he COULD just return via entry clearance.
It wasn't just pregnancy, it was also my long-term, incurable chronic health condition that WILL deteriorate over time. This was something that was ignored by my previous solictor as it was felt it was an "excuse" for him to stay. To be very honest, it ISN'T.
Refusal on papers
The JR was refused on papers, we decided to settle the matter and I switched representation.
I chased the litigation debt myself and got this paid off 2 weeks before the appointment.
A1 exam booked (another ordeal and this was just a few minutes long as my husband is a true northern london lad with perfect english, the problem was the results could not be released as NO ONE COULD verify his passport photo as himself!!! Got confirmation and the certificate a week later)
I requested a letter of support from my medical team which took 20 days to turn around.
Aug 2016 - FLR M Application
We had decided to submit an FLR M application as the new solicitor had been successful with overstayers submitting an FLR M and having them granted, 5 year or 10 year route.
I had several meetings to discuss what documents were needed and I had asked if there was a 1% chacne that we could get approval as a Premium Service Application, she said yes. For us, a £600 cost that could either be refused, accepted as a 5 year route, 10 year route or given a "sorry, we cannot decide on this matter, we'll let you know" was worth it.
The cover letter was most important in this application. We used it to address the refusal from this year and backed up with evidence, such as absconding and the previous solicitor not updating the Home Office. Bank Statements and expenses explained.
An explaination on WHY the applicant overstayed. An explaination as to WHY it would breach his human rights if he were to be refused.
We had requested the application was looked at as a 10 year partner route OR a 5 year route. The FLRM was submitted to showcase it would be the same application which would be submitted if he left.
Applicant National ID card.
12 months payslip (I had a payrise 6 months ago so I wanted to ensure that it was given), stamped and certfied within 28 days.
12 months bank statements, stamped by the bank, highlighting salary being deposited and sticky notes on any expenses paid.
A1 SELT certificate
Sponsor Witness statement - Which I used to clear up matters such as my travel history for the past 10 years (never visited his home country), my medical problems, my relationship etc.
Cohabitation - 2 years of council tax, electricity, home insurance. Individual letters such as opticians for applicant.
Exceptional circumstances documents
Maternity notes, urgent care referrals.
Medical history with immune problem history, a letter of support from the consultant explaining the nature of the disease.
Appointments, MRI scans etc.
Copy of previous passport visa, litigation debt paid, IS96 copy and emails proving we had requested a new IS96 Aug - Dec 2016.
Wedding pictures, invitations etc.
FLR M Premium Service Appointment
After an 8 week effort compiling the application, working with the solicitor we had our appointment at 12pm Wednesday 29th Aug 2019. With our hearts in our mouths and every single statement was written backed with the correct evidence. We left NO stone unturned. A massive ring binder, sticky notes and a partial copy of the documents were taken.
We registered the application and encountered the first problem when providing his National ID card. I simply didn't want to give his passport in case of refusal and then it would be retained.
The lady at the desk was very stern and kept asking for the passport, despite me explaining the ID card was still acceptable and the application was filled out on this basis. It wasn't a problem to supply it, as we had it with us.
We were given our number and were told to sit and be called out for the case to be uploaded to the HO database. When called, we were told to take originals out and place it in another folder, so for anyone reading, there is no point in having individual wallets for documentation, they will not take it.
They expect a COPY of originals too, which I had a partial copy as I had no guidance and simply, didn't want to waste time and money if they didn't need double sided utility bills!
They DID NOT want our photos, it was not relevant to our application. In addition, NO chat messages were printed, it is not required if you're a couple living together (a stark difference from the original application!)
The guy at the desk was incredibly jovial, helpful and allowed me to amend the application then and there to add my husbands passport details and crossed out the ID card in the application.
We were done and dusted with the biometrics by 1.45pm and were told we could go back and come back approximately 4/4.30pm. The centre was open until 8pm so we went, had a bite to eat, and returned at 4.30pm. The waiting room looks as if we are in an airport (but no flight to catch!)
Number by number, we watched dozens and dozens of cases being called, whilst our number was still on the board stating it was awaiting consideration..
Time flew by... 6, 7, 8pm.. we are looking at 7 hour wait. The building had shut down, people left, we were sitting with just another chap with his small daughter running around. At 9pm, we were called to the front of the office where the case workers sat. The chaps number was called and we remained seated.
We waited so patiently and thought it was just God's plan. Also, it was an out of body experience as I thought what a story for us to tell our kids one day, we were sitting in the Home Office ALL ALONE with 4 security guards.
9.45pm our number was called. The case worker apologised for the wait and explained: "we are waiting for a reply and the guy has gone home without telling us, so, we cannot make a decision today". After an 8 hour wait, they were waiting on an email reply.
My heart sank. Utterly devastated. However, he said, he will call us tomorrow with the decision by 11am. I had asked for my maternity notes, as I had an appointment on Friday. He walked away, then returned empty handed and said they needed it for enquires. We asked for his name, and he refused to give it and said I could simply just come tomorrow and get my notes and if the case was decided the documents.
I thought dear God, I have to come back again JUST to get my notes. Hungry, tired, emotional, we left home with a piece of paper with the further enquires acknowledgement letter.
The next day
I went to work and time slowed down, 10, 11, 12, no news. I messaged my husband at 12 to ask if he had heard anything, nothing.
Two minutes later, he called me to say "don't go crazy, but I got a call from the case worker, we can collect the documents"
i said okay.. and.. he said,
"I asked him.. okay, so my wife will come get them.. so what's happened, is it decided?"
"Yes, it's approved".
I cried my heart out at work. I left for Croydon (which was a mere 30 min travel away from me), went to the PSC and the security guards remembered me from the night. I went straight to the collection desk, which the case worker had come and gave me the documents and the letter of granting leave as a partner, 10 year route. It was a simple 2 page letter, firstly to address his application history, how we do not meet the requirements for the FLR M 5 year route due to his overstay however, due to exceptional circumstances raised it was deemed it would breach his Article 8 if refused. I told him I was upset as he KNOWS that I'm pregnant with an immune problem and it was very stressful. No matter though..
After a 2 year journey, it had ended in one day. We are in shock, not being able to process that were found success in the Premium service.
My lessons learned are as follows
- Marriage to a British partner does NOT mean a successful application, one needs to address this AS well as exceptional circumstances.
- If you are an overstayer and have a spouse who meets the eligibility for an entry clearance, leave and apply from aboard. JUST DO IT. 3/4 months later you will return. Just make sure cover letters explaining WHY you overstayed and how you overstayed are addressed.
We didn't have the opportunity as I did get pregnant and it would have been very difficult for me to manage alone without him.
- Back your personal statements/cover letter WITH evidence. Do not get emotional or write a love story. Deal with facts and provide evidence BACKING your statement.
- Be careful with what you write, think carefully if it MAY be misinterpreted.
- Pictures, whatsapp, Fb messages, skype are not needed for in-country applications if you're living together. It's a waste of paper and money.
- Do your own research. Read the appendix FM and understand how rules work. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration ... ly-members. Research what people have gone through on this board, ask questions.
- Choose your representation wisely. I had turned into my husband's frustration when I went to my current solicitor. I didn't want to rush into a new application knowing we had WAITED 18 months for a refusal. I was ready for a new application but wasted £3.5k on the damn JR for no reason. If your represenation focuses on money rather than the applicant, just walk away.
A cool £9k spent in the last 2 years to get the result we needed. We are over the moon and so happy with what we have achieved. I prepared 80% of the application and the solicitor did a stellar job with preparing the pack and the cover letter. I could not have done it without her!
We will decide to switch to the 5-year route once we get the BRP and calm down a bit. The case worker said just re-submit everything and it'll get approved no issues.
Even though the application has been approved, I stay true to my goal to campaign for a fairer immigration system. I am active on twitter and keep an eye on the change of rules and read the boards on a daily basis.
That's it for now. If anyone has any questions, do let me know. Will do my best to help. Thanks for reading