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Topic: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch  (Read 1958 times)

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Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« on: April 13, 2020, 09:44:25 AM »
Hi, everyone -- I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe in all the craziness out there!

Like so many people, the pandemic is derailing a carefully-orchestrated visa plan, and I was hoping to get some expert input on it.

The situation: I am a US citizen currently in the UK on a Tier 4 visa. My visa technically expires in January 2021. However, I recently submitted my PhD dissertation and have been informed that my visa will be curtailed to 4 months from when the final post-examination copy is accepted (which could be the day of my examination next week, though it is more likely that I'll have a period of corrections). This wasn't a problem, as I was planning to be married to my UK citizen fiancé on 4 July -- giving us, in the worst case scenario, about 6 weeks to apply for my FLR(M).

However, now COVID-19 has put a spanner in the works. Originally our reception was cancelled, which we were upset about but fine with as the chapel assured us that if weddings were allowed to go ahead by July we could get married. The council had a different view, and (while we have given notice by post, as is allowed in Scotland) they say they can not 'guarantee' that our notice will be processed in time to be referred to the Home Office and have permission granted by 4 July. They said they could only 'guarantee' that we would be able to give notice in August, which would push a marriage back into the autumn -- past when my visa is likely to be curtailed.

If US travel restrictions for UK citizens are lifted in time, my fiancé and I will likely just make a run for America, do the paperwork, and come back under the wire of my visa validity. We also know Gibraltar is an option if it comes to that.

What I'm concerned about, and hoping for guidance about, is what we do if it isn't possible to get married at all because of the pandemic. We have evidence of living together for over a year (though not two years, as he recently moved to London to begin his doctoral research), ample relationship evidence from the two years before moving in together that we dated, and evidence of our relationship from the period of time we've now lived apart again. We meet the financial requirements, as well as the accommodation requirements.

I know enough to know that this is a tick box visa and if we can't tick the box that we're legally married it will be denied. I guess I'm just wondering if there are any other alternatives here we haven't thought of but that someone more informed that us knew or if the result is likely to be that I go back to America until he can come for a wedding and then apply for a spousal visa from there?

Thanks for any advice you might have.


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2020, 10:12:54 AM »
If you can’t marry before your visa ends, you’ll have to return to the USA and apply for a fiancé visa or spousal visa when you can.  Only your future spouse’s income will count.

Big hugs!  This is still a few months away.  We allllll hope this is over by then!


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2020, 11:11:02 AM »
You may want to reach out to your MP? Obviously there are some personal circumstances that are being disrupted by this that won't be covered by all guidance, and depending on how long this drags out the Tier 4 visa may be extended to prevent you from becoming an overstayer. (especially depending on how things go in the US, it may not be safe to return in July)

Do you possibly qualify for the unmarried partner visa if you've been living together for 2 years continuously?

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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2020, 01:23:52 PM »
I guess I'm just wondering if there are any other alternatives here we haven't thought of but that someone more informed that us knew or if the result is likely to be that I go back to America until he can come for a wedding and then apply for a spousal visa from there?

DES?
https://www.internationalstudents.cam.ac.uk/immigration/work-visas-after-study/doctorate-extension-scheme

https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-administration/immigration/working-in-the-uk/after-studies/tier-4-doctorate-extension-scheme

Tier 2 (General)?  You will need an employer who will sponsor you.
https://www.gov.uk/tier-2-general

« Last Edit: April 13, 2020, 01:29:03 PM by Sirius »


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2020, 04:01:47 PM »
If you can’t marry before your visa ends, you’ll have to return to the USA and apply for a fiancé visa or spousal visa when you can.  Only your future spouse’s income will count.

Big hugs!  This is still a few months away.  We allllll hope this is over by then!

Thank you! Obviously being separated is the worst-case-scenario for a bunch of reasons (including that my entire professional network is here and going back to America would mean returning to live with my elderly grandparents, who I don't want to put at risk) but the solidarity is much appreciated.


You may want to reach out to your MP? Obviously there are some personal circumstances that are being disrupted by this that won't be covered by all guidance, and depending on how long this drags out the Tier 4 visa may be extended to prevent you from becoming an overstayer. (especially depending on how things go in the US, it may not be safe to return in July)

Do you possibly qualify for the unmarried partner visa if you've been living together for 2 years continuously?

Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk


I think my partner might reach out to his MP depending on how things go, that's something we hadn't thought of so thank you.

We won't have lived together for two years unfortunately (July 2018-August 2019, and then March 2020-on) he's been splitting his time between London and Scotland due to his PhD so there's a gap. We were getting married to solve this problem, but now....

DES?
https://www.internationalstudents.cam.ac.uk/immigration/work-visas-after-study/doctorate-extension-scheme

https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-administration/immigration/working-in-the-uk/after-studies/tier-4-doctorate-extension-scheme

Tier 2 (General)?  You will need an employer who will sponsor you.
https://www.gov.uk/tier-2-general



THANK YOU for this!! I had thought you had to apply for DES before submitting your PhD, but learned from this that it is only before submitting the final (post-viva) copy! Since your post I was able to postpone my viva to next week to give myself time to sort out my paperwork in case I pass with no corrections, which the university says would give me 30 days to get things in order.

I'm applying for academic jobs mostly so a Tier 2 looks out of the question, but this may just about do it.

The new plan, if someone can confirm this will work:

If we can't get married before my visa is curtailed, apply for DES as late as possible to use up as much time of my current visa as I can. If possible, book biometrics for a while out, otherwise wait until centres re-open and biometrics can be booked.

As soon as we can, get married. If biometrics haven't been given yet, apply for FLR(M) and then withdraw the DES application.

Hopefully this will mean we could get our money back for the DES, while also getting in under the wire for the increase in IHS fees coming in October.

The one thing I'm worried about is making a new application while covered by Section 3C -- is that allowed? If not, we'll go ahead with the DES if necessary and apply for the FLR(M) after it is granted, taking the double fees out of the initial wedding plan I suppose!

Thanks again, everyone -- I wrote this in such a panic a couple weeks ago and really appreciated the guidance even if it has taken me a while to come back and say that!


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2020, 09:41:29 AM »
I'm applying for academic jobs mostly so a Tier 2 looks out of the question,

I thought that academics did have Tier 2 (General) visa sponsors? I know that those doing a PhD job on a Tier 2 (General) visa, are exempt from then minimum earnings for ILR,  just as those on a Tier 2 (General) doing a job on the UK's shortage occupation list are too. As you are in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you wouldn't need a resident labour market test.
Here is the list of sponsors-
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-workers

The one thing I'm worried about is making a new application while covered by Section 3C -- is that allowed?

Your in time, valid application would give protection under 3c, but I'm not sure if 3c ends if you withdraw that application and apply for another visa as that might cause on overstay??? That might not affect your new visa, but could affect citizenship as that comes under nationality laws and overstaying could cause a refusal for 10 years from when the stay was legal??? I don't know.

If Ksand doesn't know if that affects 3c, then the mods on this following site will -
https://www.immigrationboards.com/immigration-for-family-members/
« Last Edit: May 01, 2020, 09:46:15 AM by Sirius »


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2020, 09:56:14 AM »
5 years on Tier 2 (General) leads to settlement (ILR). 5 years on a spouse visa/FLR(M) visa, leads to settlement (ILR). If you change from a Tier 2 to a spouse/FLR(M) visa, your time on the Tier 2 (General) visa will not count towards the 5 years for ILR and visa versa.

There is a ten years of legal stay route for settlement (ILR) for those using UK immigration rules, if it is still there in a few years time.


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2020, 10:52:10 AM »
I thought that academics did have Tier 2 (General) visa sponsors? I know that those doing a PhD job on a Tier 2 (General) visa, are exempt from then minimum earnings for ILR,  just as those on a Tier 2 (General) doing a job on the UK's shortage occupation list are too. As you are in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you wouldn't need a resident labour market test.
Here is the list of sponsors-
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-workers

Academics do, the academic job market is just awful (it was awful before COVID and now is somehow more awful, if that is possible) so most jobs out there are things like 1-year (or 9-month) teaching fellowships that either won't sponsor a visa or say they will but obviously that's only for the length of the contract, so we have basically decided that we'd rather pay for the DES and have some certainty than worry about it, even at the cost of the DES itself.


Your in time, valid application would give protection under 3c, but I'm not sure if 3c ends if you withdraw that application and apply for another visa as that might cause on overstay??? That might not affect your new visa, but could affect citizenship as that comes under nationality laws and overstaying could cause a refusal for 10 years from when the stay was legal??? I don't know.

If Ksand doesn't know if that affects 3c, then the mods on this following site will -
https://www.immigrationboards.com/immigration-for-family-members/

Yeah, that's my fear and honestly makes sense. Obviously I won't even attempt it if it looks remotely fishy, I'd rather pay the extra for the DES and then just turn around for the FLR(M) once we've saved up the money than go through everything and risk it impacting citizenship down the line.

5 years on Tier 2 (General) leads to settlement (ILR). 5 years on a spouse visa/FLR(M) visa, leads to settlement (ILR). If you change from a Tier 2 to a spouse/FLR(M) visa, your time on the Tier 2 (General) visa will not count towards the 5 years for ILR and visa versa.

There is a ten years of legal stay route for settlement (ILR) for those using UK immigration rules, if it is still there in a few years time.

Given the state of the job market in my chosen field, we're much more comfortable tying my status in the country to our relationship rather than an employer, so I think we're going to go that route. If I do a DES for a year and then 5 years of partnership I'll quality for ILR twice at the same time (10 years counting when I entered as a student on this Tier 4 as well as the 5 years of partnership) so either way it's going to be a long haul!


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2020, 04:36:22 PM »
Given the state of the job market in my chosen field, we're much more comfortable tying my status in the country to our relationship rather than an employer, so I think we're going to go that route. If I do a DES for a year and then 5 years of partnership I'll quality for ILR twice at the same time (10 years counting when I entered as a student on this Tier 4 as well as the 5 years of partnership) so either way it's going to be a long haul!

This is definitely what I would recommend if given the choice.  I chose to switch from a Tier 2 to a spouse visa a few years in and it was soooo the right choice.  Being tied to my amazing, devoted husband was much preferred over a company!

And thankfully all the visas and such are a thing of the past now.  As they will be for you in a few years time.  :D


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2020, 12:43:16 PM »
Hi everyone,

I think we have a plan and was hoping I could get some confirmation that this is all going to be ok, particularly with the documents list at the end.

The relevant information:

1. I passed my PhD viva, with minor corrections due back on 11 August. This is the latest date I can apply for the DES. Since I finished my PhD early (which I would not have done if I had known COVID was coming, but nothing can be done now...) my visa will be curtailed for 4 months from this completion date, which is 11 December 2020.

2. We currently live in Scotland, where in a perfect world we will move in to Phase 2 on Friday and our planned wedding for 4 July will go ahead, at which point the worry becomes moot. If it does not go ahead, we will move to London a few weeks early (we were planning to move in August) so we can give notice there instead, hopefully the third week in July.

3. We will wait to hear if we can get married 28 days after we give notice. If this is possible, we will book the first available time at the Registry office. If our notice period gets extended to 70 days, we will book the first available time after that period has passed.

4. In the meantime, I will apply for the DES while I can, and schedule my biometrics appointment a long way out. If we can get married before it, I will withdrawn my application, get my money back, and apply for FLR(M). This should not jeopardise my 3C Leave, since my visa will still be valid until December. This is our insurance policy against a second lockdown and further restrictions on weddings, since it would give us an extra (expensive) year to be together and find a way to get married.

5. I will, hopefully before the IHS fee rise comes in, apply for FLR(M) with the following evidence.

Accommodation:

Our lease, with both of our names on it

-OR-

If we have not moved yet, we will get a letter from my fiancé's current landlord (who he lives with) that we can stay there until we find a flat. This will be accompanied by the land registry to prove that the landlord owns the flat.

Financial -- Category C

1. A letter from my fiancé's university, who pays his bursary, dated within 28 days of the application and outlining:
a. He is in receipt of a tax-free bursary of more than £15,800* per year, for the next two years. (*It will have the exact amount)
b. This bursary is distributed quarterly. This will be presented with the dates it was distributed last year, as well as the distribution dates for the next two years.

2. Bank statements (delivered by post and saved!) from the months that he was paid this year, to correspond with the letter.

Relationship Evidence

1. Content-obscured text messages from the first two years of our relationship, which were a year of living in the same town and then a year of living apart (1/month)
2. Evidence of living together July 2018-August 2019
a. Accommodation receipt from the university, where we lived in staff housing connected to my job (dated 21 July 2018)
b. Bank statements in both our names every 4 months (November 2018, March 2019, July 2019)
3. Content-obscured text messages from September 2019-March 2020 (1/month)
4. His train ticket from his travel back to Scotland in March, where we have been together
5. Our marriage certificate

We want to start scanning things before we pack everything up to move, so I wanted to confirm that this was a complete list.

Thanks for any feedback you may have  :)


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2020, 02:59:05 PM »
4. In the meantime, I will apply for the DES while I can, and schedule my biometrics appointment a long way out. If we can get married before it, I will withdrawn my application, get my money back, and apply for FLR(M). This should not jeopardise my 3C Leave, since my visa will still be valid until December.

Section 3c of the Immigration Act 1971, is protection for the applicant if they have put in a valid, in time appliction and their visa expires while UKVI are making a decision, to prevent them becoming an overstayer. You will have a valid visa until December 2020.

Since last posting on your thread, I have found this about the difference between withdrawing an application or varying the application instead, which might be worth a read?
"This guidance explains how an application for leave to remain in the UK is made valid, and what to do if it is not. It also describes how an applicant can change the purpose of an application, withdraw an application and calculate the date of an application."
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/specified-application-forms-and-procedures

I can't help on the rest, wait for others on that.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2020, 03:04:43 PM by Sirius »


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2020, 03:57:07 PM »
Section 3c of the Immigration Act 1971, is protection for the applicant if they have put in a valid, in time appliction and their visa expires while UKVI are making a decision, to prevent them becoming an overstayer. You will have a valid visa until December 2020.

Since last posting on your thread, I have found this about the difference between withdrawing an application or varying the application instead, which might be worth a read?
"This guidance explains how an application for leave to remain in the UK is made valid, and what to do if it is not. It also describes how an applicant can change the purpose of an application, withdraw an application and calculate the date of an application."
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/specified-application-forms-and-procedures

I can't help on the rest, wait for others on that.

Thanks, Sirius. Your point above about 3C was something I hadn't considered, and obviously we're hoping there's no need to be extending past December 2020, but this further information is really helpful to have just in case things go (somehow, inexplicably) more sideways in the future.

Fingers crossed still for info on Phase 2 this week and our wedding to proceed as planned, otherwise my fiancé is going to get in touch with his MP as previously suggested in order to see if anything can be done to facilitate at least giving notice ASAP when it becomes possible again or an indication of if the Home Office will investigate, since we assume there will be a backlog and 70 days before 11 December 2020 is 2 October and I have already had one nightmare about not being able to give notice by then... ugh!


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2020, 09:08:14 AM »
A rare bit of good news in all the mayhem of COVID: Scotland moving in to Phase 2 yesterday means we were able to give notice! The Registry Office here says they automatically refer all marriages involving a foreign national to the Home Office, but they did not seem bothered about letting us select a date 28 days out so I'm hoping that means we're unlikely to be investigated and have our notice period extended.

Does anyone know what the normal timeline is for the Home Office declining to investigate is, or reasons they may decide to investigate our relationship?

If we can manage to get married, we'll go ahead and apply for my FLR(M) basically immediately, with the list above. Can anyone confirm that it is ok, so we can start scanning things now?

Thanks  :)


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2020, 11:10:30 AM »
Does anyone know what the normal timeline is for the Home Office declining to investigate is,

I doubt there is a normal time atm with Covid-19.

or reasons they may decide to investigate our relationship?

They brought the rule in to due to the high number of people who could not get another visa and would have to leave if they did not marry somebody who could keep them in the UK.


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Re: Impact of COVID-19 on Tier 4 to FLR(M) Switch
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2020, 11:23:54 AM »
I doubt there is a normal time atm with Covid-19.

They brought the rule in to due to the high number of people who could not get another visa and would have to leave if they did not marry somebody who could keep them in the UK.

I understand why they brought the rule in, I'm just wondering if there are particular things that flag a relationship up -- mostly trying to find a bit of reassurance that it is unlikely that they would investigate our relationship so that we can actually make some sort of plan. I'm honestly frustrated because it seems like the Registry Office doesn't *have* to refer us and are choosing to based on their own internal policy, but maybe that's my mis-reading of the guidance I could find online.

The council have said that we're going to be able to be married on 18 July assuming the HO don't intervene, so it seems like they're still operating on the 28 day maximum at least, I was just wondering if people usually (in the Before Times) heard before that 28 days was up.


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