If you are a South African national intending to come to the UK as the spouse or partner of a British citizen, or someone settled in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa to do so.
In this blog we will discuss the stage after submitting a spouse visa application and outline the process which must be completed using the Home Office commercial partner active in South Africa, TLS Contact.
Upon payment of the application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) to the Home Office, your application will be submitted to UKVI. At this stage you will be sent an email confirming your application has been submitted with a link to access the website of TLS Contact to complete the final stage.
TLS Contact must be used in South Africa in order to book an appointment to enrol biometrics and to provide supporting documents. Whilst this is a purely administrative stage of the application, it is no less important than the form itself. Our firm has a great deal of experience in navigating this section of the process, and as such, we have provided a step-by-step guide below.
Your first task is to decide where in South Africa you will attend a visa appointment. There are five UK Visa Appointment Centres (VACs) in South Africa:
Next, you must choose a date. You are presented with an online calendar displaying all available dates and time slots to choose from. Whilst most appointments should be free, this will depend on how busy the VAC is, and you may have to choose a chargeable appointment if your day of preference is booked up.
Once you have chosen your VAC and selected a date and time for your appointment, you will be tasked with submitting your supporting evidence. You have three ways to do this:
This is our preferred method of submission. It is free of charge and provides an assurance that all evidence prepared is uploaded properly rather than relying on a third party administrator. Each document can be manually uploaded, it is also possible to drag and drop documents into the upload section of the webpage. Once each document has been uploaded, you will be asked to inspect each file before uploading the full bundle. You will then be provided with a printout confirming each document has been uploaded, which you must bring along to your appointment.
This is a chargeable service. The applicant must pay a fee to TLS Contact and a VAC administrator will scan all supporting documents at the appointment, and upload the bundle to TLS Contact on their behalf. The fee for this service is currently £75+VAT (exchange rates will apply).
This is another chargeable service. Rather than taking their supporting documents to the VAC, an applicant can post their bundle directly to a processing hub in the UK. The fee for this service is currently £75 (+VAT).
The normal timescale for a decision on a spouse visa is 24 weeks from the application date. It is possible to pay for a priority service which lowers the decision time to 30 working days from your biometric appointment. It should be noted that the priority service is not a guarantee, and is not uncommon for the process to take longer than 30 days.
You will be notified of your decision by a series of emails over the course of a few days. The first will state:
“A decision has been made on your UK Visa application.
Following this email you will shortly receive a separate notification from the Visa Application Centre advising you that the decision has been received. The staff there will contact you when your documents are ready for collection. ”
The second will state:
“Your application will soon be ready for collection at the TLScontact UK Visa Application Centre. You will receive a final email when your application is ready for collection.
The third will state:
TLScontact UK Visa Application Centre is pleased to inform you that your visa application process is almost over and that your passport will soon be ready to be returned to you.”
You should then receive an email notifying you that your decision and documents are ready to collect.
If your application is successful, your passport will now contain your new entry clearance vignette valid for entry to the UK. Once in the UK, you can then collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which is your full visa for your period of leave to remain. Where you collect your BRP will depend on your answer to this question in the application form, it is usually the closest post office to where you plan to stay in the UK.
Depending on your family ancestry, you may have alternatives to applying as a spouse.
The first option is known as the UK Ancestry visa. It is open to Commonwealth citizens who are able to show that they have a grandparent born:
You must also be 17 years or above, have enough money to support yourself and any dependants without help from public funds, and have the ability and intention to work in the UK. For more information, please take a moment to read our blog on the UK Ancestry visa.
The second option may be registration as a British citizen if you were born abroad to a British mother between 1949 and 1983. In a case our firm assisted with in 2018, Advocate General for Scotland v Romein, Ms Romein was not able to obtain citizenship after her birth because at the time it was not possible for women to pass citizenship on to their children.
The upshot to this judgement is that anyone born abroad to a British mother between 1949 and 1983 can now apply for registration as a British citizen, regardless of whether their birth was, or would have been, registered with the British consulate.
Our immigration solicitors have assisted with many applications for family visas from South Africa and we have a wealth of experience navigating the tricky submission procedures. If you would like help applying for your family visa from South Africa, please do not hesitate to contact us for expert advice and assistance.
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