by Genevieve Rogis
Over the next few months, I will be applying for an unmarried partner visa in the UK. You can start from part one of my Visa Diaries series here.
You get a lot of sympathy when you’re separated from your partner, and your home, for any length of time. People ask how you are, if you’re holding up ok, if you miss him. They help you look on the bright side, remind you about seeing your friends and family, having a long holiday, enjoying better weather and bluer skies.But I have stopped talking about it. I don’t tell people why I’m here anymore. Yes, I’m just visiting. No, I’m not working. Yes, it’s lovely to spend an extended amount of time in Australia after so long away. I’ll be going back soon.
See, I’m sick of sympathy, no matter how well meaning, and not interested in wallowing in the injustice of it all.
Most of the time I’ve been fine. Frustrated, yes. I miss Andy, yes. But it is genuinely great to reconnect with my family, my friends, and my country.
But I’m getting antsy now. I’m ready to go home now. But I have to wait.
I always knew it would get worse once March hit and I’d handed in my application. This is the time I have been dreading, when the real thumb twiddling really begins. There’s an end in sight, and I’m sure it’s edging closer, but I don’t know when it will arrive.
This, I assure you, is far worse than a countdown to a particular day, minute, or hour. I can’t relax. Every morning, the instant I’m awake, I shoot out of bed to pick up my phone and check my email, already expecting to be disappointed, but still unable to give up hope that today might be the day.
It’s now been just over two weeks since my supporting documents arrived in Sheffield, and according to my lawyer the priority service that I paid for should have taken about ten working days.
But since when did anything that had anything to do with visa applications go smoothly and in good time?
The wait hasn’t been made any less agonising by the little bits of communication I’ve had from the applications office.
Two weeks ago, I received an email from VFS Global, the third-party company paid to handle visa applications. I was momentarily excited, but it merely informed me that I hadn’t included a pre-paid, self addressed envelope with my application. I agreed. This was deliberate, as all the information I had suggested that, having booked a priority service, I did not need to supply one.
It was at this point that I decided to try and contact UK immigration, and hilarity ensued.
Suffice to say it is not easy. It is impossible to get in touch with VFS directly. But hidden in the depths of the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website, there are two options for contacting UK Immigration directly.
One is a phone line. Have your credit card handy, because in the great tradition of user-pay services, it will set you back GBP£1.37 a minute.
I chose the alternative, an online form. I’ve used this service three times now. While every email has been signed off with a name, I can only assume I am in fact speaking to a robot, as the responses all share two things in common. They direct me to guidance that I have already read, and fundamentally fail to answer my question.
I asked about the pre-paid envelope, and was sent a link to the guidance on how to apply for a visa, and a request for feedback.
I took the easy route, and sent the stupid envelope. I also acquiesced to the request for feedback. It wasn’t positive.
My second trip to panic stations came when all of my supporting documents were promptly returned to my address in the UK in said pre-paid envelope. As far as anyone looking at them back home could tell, there wasn’t any cover letter, and I had received no other notifications.
I was a little confused, and a bit worried. Had my application been refused, and they were just waiting for me to figure it out on my own? Had some intern made an error? Or was this all part of the plan?
So I waited. After a week of hearing nothing, I filled out the form again.
The response this time was marginally better. My application has not yet been looked at, Pat tells me. She also provides a link to guidance on processing times. She ignores my question about my returned paperwork.
My feedback is marginally more positive.
Another week passes. I’m starting to get anxious now. So I fill out the form again, foolishly presuming that if I ask a clear question, I will receive a clear answer. I ask how my application can be processed when my documents have been returned to me already.
In response, I receive the same email Pat sent me the week before. Word for word. But this time signed off by Peter.
Thanks Peter. You’re a real card.
In the meantime, however, Andy has found a cover letter scrunched up in the bottom of the envelope that my documents were returned in. It has assured me that this is normal procedure, my documents have been copied, and my application will be looked at in due course.
Thank goodness for that. In the meantime, I’ve got one more feedback form to fill out, and some waiting to get back to.
Gen will be writing a regular column for Expat Focus, detailing her experience of the visa process in the UK. Keep up with her updates here on ExpatFocus.com