With just a week until I leave Guilin and start my epic journey back home, we are currently still waiting on R’s visa application result back from the UK Border Agency, so that we can finally book his flight to come and visit me and the new baby (and hopefully, although I’m not holding my breath, be present for the birth).
Don’t get me wrong, I know visas are a necessary restriction to maintain immigration levels and restrict ‘undesirable’ people from entering a country, etc but visas for spouses just suck. I just want to be in the same country as my husband all the time, and not worry about whether we’ll be ‘allowed’ to be together, whether we’ll be ‘allowed’ to find a job to keep us afloat, or whether we can actually settle down somewhere without the threat of someone having to leave.
Having only ever applied for Chinese visas myself, this was my first experience of the UK visa system, and I found it somewhat more demanding. Instead of telling you what documents they require to issue the visa, the UK chooses to provide a 7 page list of documents you ‘may find useful’ to support your application, depending on the circumstances… Half the battle is of course collecting the documents from various different people and making sure they are in English. Fortunately this time we only needed to get our marriage certificate translated (and now that’s done we can use the same translation for years to come), although trying to determine the difference between notarised, legalised and certified translations, and which was required was no easy feat. The other documentation was all done in English, we just had to persuade the relevant Chinese people to sign and stamp. The other half the battle was a trip to the nearest big city with an application centre and the inevitable phone call asking for further documents we hadn’t provided! Being a short-term visa, I’m hoping the odds are stacked in our favour this time.
The UK spouse visa, which is the equivalent of the US ‘green card’ I guess, although the spouse visa lasts just 2 1/2 years before you have to reapply for another 2 1/2 years, before you can then apply for permanent residence aka ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (the most contradictory and confusing term for non-native English speakers if there ever was one!) is another story however. Since 2012 there has been a financial requirement to fulfill and this makes the process a lot more complex and demanding. If the British spouse is living and working in the UK, it’s not too bad as the salary threshold is below average so relatively attainable, but if the couple are living outside the UK, the requirements for a certain salary threshold (certainly far above average for China) for a certain amount of time, plus a UK job offer on return, or other savings/income sources, are not easy to fulfill. I know a number of couples who are currently considering the move and this financial requirement makes the decisions a lot more difficult.
Me and my husband aren’t currently planning a move to the UK, as the benefits of staying in China whilst we are still young outweigh the benefits of moving back, but the knowledge that when the day comes that we would like to go back we will be faced with a minimum 6 month separation or 6 month wait is stressful. It’s harder for me since I’m the partner currently living away from home so suffering inevitable bouts of homesickness, but after our baby is born, I’m sure we will both have news sets of priorities and considerations. When making big life decisions, visas are a huge obstacle which make the process all the more difficult, especially when it feels like your own country doesn’t want you, because you happened to marry a foreigner.
I’ve read a number of blog posts on the topic of visas for spouses over the years, so I know I’m not alone, but what I’ve also found is that every person’s/couple’s situation is different, so it can be hard to find applicable advice. Next stop, mixed race baby nationality issues!