Revisiting The FLR(M)

It’s nearing that time. In October 2014, much to our surprise, our FLR(M) visa was granted, permitting me right to reside in the UK for 2.5 years. Two years have almost come and passed us by in a whirlwind of life and we’re in the process of gathering documentation for the extension.

There are two tracks for people on the Family Visa route with the UK Home Office; the fastest of the two is the five year route which is what we’re aiming to achieve. Part of the requirements for that – aside from me needing to have lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years – is that I pass the Life in the UK test. By the time this next visa is up, I will know more about the UK than most of the natives. True fact.

But, sorry to say, I haven’t had the time, energy or opportunity to even start studying for that, so it’s perhaps a very good thing that I have two more years left to go before I’ll be able to cross that bridge.

All that said, we have to complete the extension application, first. So what’s new about the visa application since I last applied? A fair amount has changed, actually. In some ways it is less confusing than before, in other ways it is even more convoluted.

Thankfully, our financial circumstances are less complicated this time around as well. Because of the nature of my employment history, while I have been working now for almost a full year, I do not have 6 payslips from my current employer. This means that we’ll have to submit the application sometime in December so that I have a fill 12 months of payslips. My current visa expires in April 2017 – this is not in my comfort zone, but its the best I have. If I wanted to wait until I have those 6 payslips… it would be January. So yeah, that’s even worse so we’re aiming for this one. On the upside, with a full year of slips showing my income, they’ll be able to take my full potential into account (hopefully they won’t be jerks and try to pick the lowest earning month and average it across the lot… it’s happened, I am not paranoid). While I do not have the exact figure yet, my estimate puts me pretty close to hitting the income requirement on my own. If there is enough overtime over the holiday period, I might actually make it – without it I’m literally £1,000 short of the target.

We did find guidance that shows we are allowed to count my husband’s bursary from his coursework at the University, but there is a certain amount of hoop jumping involved and people who have supplied the documentation for such before have been refused so we’re understandably leery of depending on it. In an ideal setup, I’d very much like it that it could just be added icing on the cake – removing any doubt and assuring us a easier approval. I don’t trust the UKBA not to ruin a wet dream, but I want us in the best possible position to argue against them if they try it.

There was some debate between my husband and myself about if we could apply the income from our child’s tax credits and benefits. Unfortunately, the guidance I found on the government website specifically states that it can’t be counted. Though, I do think it might if it is part of the savings aspect (once it is in the savings account, money is indistinguishable from itself, savvy). Though we haven’t the savings built up to test that theory out ourselves (requires £16K plus 2.5 times however much a shortfall there is to meeting the income requirement in a savings account for 6 months; ain’t nobody got time for that).

They have also upped the ante for proof of continued relationship, they are requiring a minimum of 6 forms of mailed correspondence from an approved list bearing both the name of the applicant and the sponsor – though that is 6 unique pieces over the whole period in which the couple has been together. If that cannot be achieved, then they will accept 4 items with both names and 2 in just the sponsors name along with 2 others in just the applicant’s name (see: 8 total). It does go on to give other combinations that are acceptable, but the number of items required to meet them get longer along with it – becoming all the more unwieldy. It will take some work, but I’m pretty sure we can manage it. Thankfully, I’ve saved basically every piece of formal document that we have gotten up to this point, so if failure is something I should taste, it will not be because I lacked in ingredients (what kind of screwed up metaphor is that? Moving on…).

Because of my inability to properly dispose of things (see: unabashed hoarder), we’re going to be able to recycle some of the pieces from the first FLR(M) application we filed. Old payslips and bank statements double as proof of residence, yo.

Oh, and all of these letters they sent me about my immigration status? I’m sending those as evidence of residence as well. Eat it UKBA. Eat. It.

I’m still running the jargon through with a fine-toothed comb; some bits I’m not 100% sure I’m following, other bits are as clear as pea soup. It goes without saying we’ll have a solicitor look at it before we submit, if possible. In some ways, the added wait time for payslips, while it means we would be applying during the busiest time of the year for me, if we do it right it may well mean we’re actually fully prepared for it.

There is also the fact that they’ve jacked up the price, putting priority service way out of our budget. A normal application now is over £800 for one applicant, plus they’ve added an NHS fee which needs to be paid separately on top go that. Nevermind that the original cost of the application already factored that into the price. I have major beef about being double charged but this really is a case of us not having the rights or status to fight against it. Another battle for another day.

How much money are we talking here? Well, with the new Immigration Health Surcharge, for a visa such as the FLR(M), on top of the new standard application fee of £811, one needs to pay £500 for the said IHS. Oh, and as though we weren’t nickel-and-dimed enough, there’s also a fee for registering for the biometrics residence permit (again). That’ll be another £19.50, please. In total, for a standard application, excluding any additional legal costs from solicitors, we’re talking a crisp £1,330.50 that’s going to be digging a new hole in our bank account. Ouch.

While some folks will be exempt from the IHS and the possibly even the Biometric registration fee, I am not one of them. I checked. Twice.

So what comes after this visa? Assuming I get that Life in the UK test out of the way, the final visa is the SET(M) for us, which would grant me indefinite leave to remain. So, approximately 3 years from now. About which time I’ll have a new challenge: renewing my passport. Possibly applying for a UK one as well then, but those are concerns and thoughts for a future post.

Still, it is a bit hard to believe, it’s 7 years since I first started sending e-mails back and forth with my husband. A relationship that started with the most innocuous of questions about bats in Honduras…

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