Like many happy couples before them, Harry and Meghan have decided to take the plunge and announced their long-awaited engagement today. Good on them, they seem like a lovely couple and they deserve every happiness, I just hope that the immigration system doesn’t end up being a higher priority than her dress…
This might turn out to be really straightforward, as the future Princess Henry of Wales, Meghan might find that the Home Office exercise discretion and fast track her pathway to settle here and become British. Let’s imagine though that she is not set to join the royalty and has to follow the process everyone else faces. It could get bumpy.
As an American, Meghan will need to apply overseas for a fiancée entry clearance visa before travelling to the UK to join Harry for their wedding. That isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. She will need to start by evidencing her marriage (I dearly hope she includes a PDF of this article) and then meet strict financial rules.
We can be fairly certain that Harry will be able to meet the financial requirement. That will mean demonstrating an annual income meeting or exceeding £18,600 or, alternatively, £62,500 in savings which have been held for six months. Whichever route Harry chooses, the financial documentation must be in the specified format, otherwise Meghan may run the risk of a visa refusal.
Once Meghan has her Fiancée application ready for submission, she will then choose whether to engage a priority service to submit her visa application – an important decision considering standard processing can take over three months, but for an extra $1,400 she can have her visa in-hand after just 24 hours following submission.
Following approval of the six month fiancée visa, Meghan will be able to travel to the UK to join Harry for their wedding celebrations. However, before exchanging ‘I do’s’ and riding off into the sunset, Meghan and Harry will need to plan ahead to ensure that a Spouse of a British Citizen visa extension is filed for Meghan prior to her fiancée visa expiry, including all of the necessary specified supporting documents.
Upon approval, this spousal visa extension will only be valid for a time-limited 2.5 year period, so before the end of this fairy tale, Meghan will need to submit a further extension application. Only after Meghan has completed five years in the UK as the Spouse of a British Citizen, will she be eligible to apply to settle here permanently. The Home Office helpfully makes an in-person appointment service available for each of these applications within the UK which allows for priority same-day processing – so the visa centre in Croydon might want to prepare for a royal visit.
From there she can become British, with a UK passport issued by her grandmother-in-law. That special and potentially surreal moment will follow yet another expensive and document heavy immigration application.
This could all sound quite straightforward on paper and, let’s be honest, Meghan probably won’t need to do a lot more than sign a few papers. But she ought to feel a little grateful that she is marrying a prince, because between the financial requirements, cost, complexity, documents and the time-frames you don’t see many fairy tale visa applications.