The Visa Application Saga

Thursday, 16 May 2013
For those of you who read my post Another Two Years, you know that on 4 April I sent off my application for an extension of stay in the UK. Then on the second of May I went down to the Post Office to give my biometric data (fingerprints and photo). On 9 May, I was delighted to find a thick parcel from the UK Border Agency sitting in my post box. Could this actually be my passport and biometric residence permit back?!  

American Passport
Well I did receive my passport back but for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately my application had been deemed invalid because I, like a complete and utter moron, didn't tick a box saying that I hadn't committed any war crimes. This meant that my application was incomplete and could not be approved. Not only that, but the application forms and fees had changed on 6 April meaning I needed a completely new application and to pay an additional higher fee than the one I had already paid.

While researching the new forms, my husband and I discovered that instead of applying for "an extension of stay in the UK as the partner of a person present and settled in the UK" what I should have been applying for is "indefinite leave to remain the the UK as the partner of a person present and settled in the UK". In other words instead of using FLR(M) as I did previously, I should be applying with SET(M).

Monday night was a bad night indeed. I was angry at myself for making such a stupid mistake, especially since my husband and I had double- and triple-checked the document. I was frustrated at the process for being so confusing. I was saddened by the fact that now the likelihood of my passport coming back in time for me to go to a friend's wedding in Pau, France this July seems unlikely. Overall I was just numb, all I could really do was print the document out and eat Cadbury's chocolate.

Thankfully, my work was understanding and allowed me to take the day off Tuesday to stay home and complete the application. I had almost completely finished the new SET(M) application when another road block was thrown my way. I have not taken something called a "Life in the UK" test which is required from every person applying for indefinite leave to remain.

This is something I had previously never heard of, but discovered it is a test on your knowledge of the historical and political life in the UK. First you must order the book, which you can do from here. Then you must book your test (the earliest test you can take is 7 days from when you try to book your test). This was when I called the UK Border Agency.

I spoke to a lovely woman who listened to my plight patiently and really seemed to feel for me. She asked when my previous visa had run out, which it did on 3 May (I'll never fully understand why you can't apply for your visa more than 28 days before it expires). She then told me because I hadn't taken my "Life in the UK" test my application for SET(M) would not be complete, I also had a deadline of 28 days since the date written on the letter from the Border Agency (9 May) to reapply. If I passed this deadline without reapplying, I would have to go back to the US before I could reapply and would not be allowed to return to England until my settlement had been decided.

Getting the book, taking the test, hoping I passed the test, and waiting for my certification confirming I passed the test, and then applying for SET(M) could very likely take me past that 28 day window she said. Therefore, instead of applying for indefinite leave to remain I should once again apply for an extension of stay in the UK.

It is now Thursday and I have completed my FLR(M) application and it has been checked multiple times by multiple people, not just my husband and I. Along with our passports and passport photographs the application also includes;

  • Our marriage certificate
  • My husband's birth certificate and 2 change of name deeds
  • 5 bank statements
  • 6 pay slips for myself
  • 6 pay slips and 1 P60 for my husband
  • 1 letter from my work confirming my employment
  • 1 letter from my husband's work confirming his employment
  • 6 items of correspondence ranging from council tax bills to tenancy agreement

Visa Application Documents

I am hopeful that at least this time I won't screw up. I tell you all this in detail because I want my readers to learn from my mistakes and take away two lessons that I learned the hard way.

  1. Have someone that you trust other than your partner look over the application.
  2. Do extensive research on the process many months before you are due to apply, and don't be afraid to call the UK Border Agency.

Erin x

For more information on applying for an extension of stay in the UK visit

For more information on applying for indefinite leave to remain visit

For more information about the Life in the UK Test visit


  1. Holly Nelson said...:

    Oh Erin, these errors sound so familiar :( I understand your panic and frustration. It is for reasons like these that Luke and I couldn't be together for a year and a half! You will get there though. Hoping I will too! Good luck with everything, I will be watching to see how you go, wish you could just have my British passport!

  1. Belinda said...:


    I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that, talk about confusing! This post has been super helpful as I figure out my next steps.

    My fingers are crossed for you that this is all resolved soon!!

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Thanks both of you, it was my own damn fault but it still doesn't make it any less painful.

    Holly - I didn't realise your partner was named Luke, so is mine! Haha. When I first read your comment I thought you were talking about him and I not being together and then had to reread it.

    Belinda - I'm glad I can be of help to you! Although I made mistake, I think that mistake and all the research I've done in the past few days means I know this damn process pretty well now.

    Erin x

  1. Holly Nelson said...:

    Yep, he is also Luke! One of the reasons I love your blog - I feel like we are the same person, only in reverse!

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Haha brilliant! Now if only we could trade identites everything would be so much easier, well for me. Good luck getting into Canada with my American passport! ;)

    Erin x

  1. Holly Nelson said...:

    Cheers for that! Well you are welcome to my passport anyway, isn't it terrible to resent your own passport!!

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    You shouldn't resent your own passport! I don't resent mine at all, I just wish I had dual. Ahh maybe some day. :)

    Erin x

  1. Mary McAndrew said...:

    Erin, so sorry you had to suffer through all that! I think those of us who wait to be with our sweethearts know what true love is! I haven't seen Gary in a year and a half! I'm going through selling almost everything in my house to prepare to move, but still haven't decided when oh how to apply for our visa yet. I'll have to write to you and Belinda for advice.

    It helps SO MUCH to read about what you two go through, thank you so much for sharing it all, even and especially mistakes!

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Hi Mary,

    I'm glad my writing can help you. I wish when I had first started the visa process a few years ago that I could have found some blogs to read. Now I find it comforting to hear about expats going through similar issues.

    I know it may seem like forever, but on the day you get to see Gary the long-distance will all seem a distant memory. Just keep smiling and if you have any questions just let me know!

    Erin x

  1. Bonnie Rose said...:

    I cannot wait to hear that its all worked out and see celebration tweets. Fingers crossed this process the rest of the way goes smoothly. x

    Bonnie Rose | a Compass Rose

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Thanks Bonnie! I hope so too! I'll be shouting it from the Twitter rooftops!

    Erin x

  1. Holly Nelson said...:

    Hey Erin, just wondered how it is going? X

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Hey Holly! It's going slowly but surely. I received a letter last week confirming they had received my application and it was currently being processed. They also took the money out of my account. Fingers crossed it all goes well and quickly!

    Erin x

  1. Dannielle said...:

    This sounds like so much of what I went through! I begrudgingly took that stupid life in the UK test, and if you think you can just rock up and take it without studying, you will surely fail. They ask the MOST RANDOM questions ever. I've heard they have made it easier since I took it in November (go figure) and it is more relevant to England today. I missed out on a friends birthday in Ireland because it took them almost five months to process mine (I went for indefinate leave after a two year partner visa, whats with us americans falling for these british guys eh?). So good luck, and all I can say is, as long as you've got all the right documentation and a strong will you will get there!

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    I'll be sure to study for the test! I've already purchased the books and had a little read but I need to start reading them properly. Looks like I know what I'll be doing for the next few months during lunch hours.

    Erin x

  1. Tony Barker said...:

    Hello Erin, I've just read what you have had to go through and hope that all will be good in your future. I married a Russian girl in 2007. Applying for visas (first visitors and then marriage) was straight forward with no problems. Also gaining "indefinite leave to remain" was straight forward as the "life in the UK test was taken in conjunction with her English course. (A letter attached to her Eng. cert. stating that she had studied life in the UK material). It's no longer possible to do this. In fact everything with regard to applying for any type of visa to either visit, study or live in the UK is becoming very difficult. As you have found out for yourself, a visa can be refused for any stupid reason, and I think that you were fortunate in having the fee for your first application refunded. Over the past 3 years I have helped my wife's family members with applications to both visit us and study in the UK. I have found that it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain any kind of visa without going to appeal (and I consider myself quite expert in filling out applications and writing letters of invitation). One piece of advice that I would like to share with anybody applying for entry into the UK; if you need advice from the UKBA, don't take the answer you receive as gospel. A lot of the rules are open to interpretation and different representatives will give you their own understanding of a particular rule. It is best to spend a lot of time on the UKBA web site in addition to your enquiry, it's time consuming but worth the effort. It's also good advice that you've given to get somebody other than your spouse to check your application. Finally, good luck to everybody who is building their future together. Sometimes the UK Border Agency forget that they are dealing with people's future

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Thank you for your comment Tony and your advice for those going for their visas. I'm glad to hear the process was easier at one point. While I don't like it, I do understand why they've made things more difficult. Too many people try to take advantage of systems and the rest of us are punished. Thanks again for your very helpful advice. :)

    Erin x

  1. Maura Hutchinson said...:

    Oh no! I have just realized I needed to take Life in the UK to apply for my SET (M). My spouse/partner leave to remain visa expires September 26th, meaning I have no time to do it! I have already completed 5 years residency in the UK (3 years on highly skilled migrant worker and 2 years on marriage visa). What can I do? Can I apply for FLR (M) again? HELP!!!!

  1. Hi Maura,

    As far as I am aware you can apply for FLR (M) again! I would ring the UK Border Agency as soon as possible and enquire. I think you can apply for FLR (M) multiple times. Have you heard anything back?

    Erin x

  1. james abram said...:

    Me and my wife are planing to live in the UK. We are already married in the Philippines. My question is this, do we still need to apply for a UK Marriage Visa?

  1. anne go said...:

    Great article, Erin. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I learned a lot and will take note of this. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out a “SET M Form”, I found a blank fillable form here: This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related legal documents that you might find useful.

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