Fiancé Visa - the route less travelled.
Bula Marama’s! My name is Kiara Valentine and I will be sharing my story and how I transitioned from Fiji to the UK with a Fiancé Visa. I never thought I'd be writing about this experience, but if it helps even one person in a similar situation, I'd do it ten times over!
Disclaimer: The information I've provided in this blog is based on the requirements in 2021. Please note that this was how I approached the Visa application based on my situation at the time. Requirements and costs may differ on a case by case basis. Keep checking the UKVI website for updates and if you need professional immigration advice, I will recommend an advisor below.
Okay, first things first.
For perspective, let me tell you a bit more about myself. I am of Indo-Fijian descent and was born & raised in Nadi, Fiji. I love serving Christ, am very career driven and have a passion for all things digital marketing, travel & make-up. In 2012, I met my now-husband, Michael Valentine (Mike) in high school. We both played high school field hockey and met at a tournament. Fast forward to 2019, Mike enlisted for the British Army and that’s when we began our long-distance relationship.
In September 2020, Mike asked me to marry him! At the time of the proposal, he was based in Lyneham, UK as a serving soldier and I was in Nadi, Fiji, focused on building my career.
We had tried several times to meet, but because we were mid-pandemic, travel plans never worked out.
The plan was to get married in April 2021 with our family in Fiji, apply for a Spouse Visa, move to the UK and build a life there. That all changed when the borders completely shut down early April 2021. This was where I truly learnt the hard way – that not everything will go according to plan. I had to trust that God was working it all for my good and He has our best interests at heart. For weeks, I tried thinking of ways to work around this border closure. But, nothing. There was no way I was getting married in Fiji in 2021.
The Fiancé Visa
A couple of weeks went by and after a bit of research, I realised there was something called a Fiancé Visa. What was this Fiancé Visa? No one ever talked about it – not the people who had moved to settle in the UK, not any of our military friends & family… because it was the route less travelled. It was also more expensive than the usual Spouse Visa that everyone applied for. Mike and I decided that given the circumstances, we were willing to take the risk with this option.
The Fiancé Visa is a settlement visa that allows you 6 months in the UK to get married. Once you’re married, you’re required to apply again for 5 years limited leave to remain. The latter is basically the Spouse Visa.
If we’re looking at cost in FJD, I paid:
Initial application - $4,760.00
Final payment after marriage - $2,790.00
TOTAL COST - $7,550.00 FJD
Here’s a link to all the info regarding a Fiancé Visa: Army Families Federation Visa Advice Please note that this link applies for Armed Forces Families. Focus on ‘02 Visas to remain in UK - limited leave under Appendix Armed Forces’
To apply for the Fiancé Visa, I used this link: UKVI Online Application Form
The Application Process
After reading all the information on official websites and opening the online application, I knew I had my work cut out for me. It’s quite intimidating at first and I realised I had lots of planning, filing, letter-writing, and spread-sheet creating to do. UKVI really likes to make you work for it.
Thankfully, there are awesome organisations like Marama Alliance UK (MAUK) and Army Families Federation (AFF) to guide you through processes like this. AFF is a UK based charity (NGO), that is focussed primarily on supporting military families, with a team focussed solely on Foreign & Commonwealth (F&C) families. Fijians fall under this category.
MAUK held a number of Facebook Live sessions featuring Advisors from AFF and this prompted me to get in touch with an F&C Assistant. My case was handled by Amy Pearson and her support was second to none. I highly recommend involving AFF (or similar organisations) to avoid making any crucial mistakes in your application. From the moment I emailed her in 2020, till I finally received my BRP in August 2022, she was on a mission to ensure I had the best immigration advice and exhausted all her avenues to make this process a comfortable one for me. The best part is, it’s a FREE service for military families. You can contact Amy Pearson or any Foreign & Commonwealth Assistant via email on email@example.com. Other Immigration Advisors often offer a paid service.
Right, back to the process. The first thing I did was create a spread-sheet to tick off tasks. These included documents that we both needed to retrieve, bookings we needed to make, payments we needed to complete, etc. As soon as a document was ready, I printed it out straight away and filed it. Its next destination was the Home Office.
Remember that if you choose this route, you’re not only placing an application for your Fiancé Visa, but you’re also working towards a wedding in a foreign country. I had to contact the Wedding Registrars in Edinburgh, Scotland (where Mike was newly based) to book our wedding and organise all the legal stuff to start happening in the background. In Scotland you are required to give 29 days’ notice prior to your wedding and book everything that’s necessary for the day. Each registrar may differ in procedure, so do your research! You can read more about how to go about planning your big day here: UKVI – Marriage & Civil Partnerships
We also booked our wedding photographer via Instagram. We would highly recommend Ieva Marija Photography if you’re marrying in Scotland. She did an amazing job capturing the best moments from our intimate wedding and was super easy to work with.
All your correspondence with wedding vendors in the UK will be crucial documentation to add to your Visa application. This provides evidence that you intend on getting married when you arrive. To help you further, here’s a list of extra documents I provided asides from the main documents you are required to submit. They are not all necessary, but I believe these supported my case quite significantly.
By the end of all this collating, you would have a book-full of documents. It’s important that you give them as much information as possible about you, your relationship and your future plans. Remember, they don’t know you from a bar of soap and you’re just another number on their list of tasks to-do. Get the documentation right and you’ll be fine. But refrain from adding unnecessary pieces like your high school grades.
At this point, my documents were sorted, I had booked all wedding arrangements and now it was time to lodge the application. Once I paid for the application online, UKVI directed me to a link to book my biometrics. This appointment cost me an extra $97.00 USD (Document Scanning & Standard Appointment FEE). Once you’ve attended the appointment, it’s a waiting game.
Settlement Visas like this usually take 12 weeks before an answer – but yes, you guessed it – I waited longer! I waited a total of 14 weeks, which honestly felt like the longest 14 weeks of my life.
I followed up with them about 3 times using their paid online customer service. It costs £2.74 per enquiry. You can do this here: Contact UKVI from outside the UK Other forms of contact are also linked here, but it’s a real struggle getting a hold of them unless you actually pay.
Aside from that, all you can do is wait to hear a response from them. This is probably one of the hardest parts of the Visa, but I encourage you to live in the moment, enjoy your time with your family and friends, because once you receive your Visa, it’s ‘adios amigos’! 👋🏾
The Wait is Over
The feeling of finally receiving your Visa is bitter-sweet. I was so excited because this was the gateway into a life I had been praying for, but I was also mindful that I was leaving my family to start my own. Mike and I were 2.5 years into our long-distance relationship before I finally landed on British soil in January 2022.
We finally got married on February 10th, 2022 at the Royal Mile Chambers, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Photo credits: Ieva Marija Photography
The Final Application
Soon after the wedding, I was back to busy-bee mode. Sorting through all my documents to apply for my Spouse Visa. This time around, it was much easier because I had most of my documents collated from my previous application in Fiji. Note: UKVI will return everything so don’t discard documents until the process is complete.
It’s a very similar application process to the first one and you can APPLY HERE to extend your stay in the UK. AFF also provides guidance about how to make the application which you can find HERE under 02- Visas to remain in the UK - limited leave under Appendix Armed Forces. Once lodged, UKVI will provide the option to book a biometrics appointment. This appointment cost me £176.00 (Document Scanning & Standard Appointment Fee).
The waiting period is usually 8 weeks before they get back to you with an answer, however, I lodged in March 2022 and finally received my BRP in August 2022. It’s truly a test of patience, but in my time of waiting, I managed to explore Scotland, set up my new home with my brand new husband and get a stunning job offer! Can’t complain there.
To wrap up and summarise everything, here’s a roadmap of my journey.
Hope you enjoyed reading, just as much as I loved sharing my little story. Feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any form of support.