Have you seen the movie ‘Green Card’? Released in 1990, it is a romantic comedy telling the tale of an American woman, Bronte (Andie McDowell) and a Frenchman, Georges (Gérard Depardieu) who enter into a sham marriage so Georges can obtain a Green Card to remain in America.
The couple must sit through a nerve-racking interview with two officials from the American immigration service who grill them on their living arrangements and how they met. A combination of conflicting stories and George’s unfamiliarity with Bronte’s apartment mean they fail their spouse visa interview miserably. Of course, in true Hollywood style, the pair eventually fall in love, although the happy-ever-after is only implied – Georges is deported at the end of the movie.
Despite the fictional portrayal, the film accurately depicts the anxiety that can accompany couples taking part in a spouse visa interview, which is also part of the UK marriage visa application process. The purpose of the interview is to assess the validity of the applicant’s relationship with their sponsor and is undertaken by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Entry Clearance Officer (ECO).
A spouse visa interview is not a mandatory part of the Spouse Visa application process; however, if you are asked to attend one, whether as an applicant or a sponsor, its importance cannot be underestimated. That is why we have created this survival guide to help you keep your cool no matter what questions the interviewers throw at you.
What You Need To Know
Take it seriously
If you have been asked to attend an interview by phone or in person as part of your Spouse Visa application take it seriously. If the officials had no doubts regarding the legitimacy of your relationship or questions that required clarification, the interview would not be taking place. You must be able to convince the ECO that your relationship is genuine, continuing and is not just made-up for immigration purposes.
Know the type of questions that will be asked
People may tell you that if your relationship is genuine, you will have no trouble answering the ECO’s questions. However, in an environment where you know you are being judged on the quality of your responses, nerves can get the best of you, causing you to freeze-up and appear to not know the answers to some of the questions being asked. Adding to the pressure, if English is not your first language, or you are giving your answers through an interpreter, facts and genuineness of feeling can get lost in translation.
Some example of the questions you are likely to be asked in a spouse visa interview include:
- Is this your first application for a UK Visa?
- Have you ever applied for a visa to another country?
- Have you ever been refused a visa?
- When and how did you first meet your husband/wife?
- Did he/she write or call you, how have you communicated?
- When did your husband/wife propose to you?
- What religion is your husband/wife?
- What are your husband’s/wife’s hobbies or what does he/she do in his/her spare time?
- What do you have in common with each other?
- Why did you marry him/her?
- What do you like most about him/her?
- What are the real reasons that you married him/her?
- How do you feel about the differences in your cultures?
Know the signs the ECO is looking for to determine that your relationship is not genuine
The ECO will base their assessment on objective, factual evidence. They will also use a ‘rule of thumb’ guide based on past experience to ensure the authenticity of your relationship.
Signs that will raise a red flag as to the sincerity of your marriage include:
- you have spent little time together as a couple
- you married shortly after you met, or before meeting in person (it does happen)
- neither of you speak a common language
- the sponsor’s financial situation is unstable
- there are marked differences in your age, religion, culture and education.
If the ECO is not quite convinced your marriage is not a sham for immigration purposes he or she can refer it to an Entry Clearance Manager (ECM) for an additional fraud assessment.
Make sure you send the correct supporting documents and that both of you know what they are
In case of any discrepancies between the answers given during the marriage visa interview and supporting documentation submitted as part of the initial application, the ECO has the authority to refuse the applicant straight away. Therefore, you must make sure that the story of your relationship and the documents to prove the genuineness of your marriage match-up.
The supporting documents which must be sent along with the application are:
- your passport or other travel documentation
- at least six months’ worth of bank statements, payslips or other specified and mandatory financial documents that show you meet the financial requirements of a marriage visa
- evidence of available accommodation in the UK
- evidence that you meet the English language requirement
- TB test, if applicable
- evidence of an ongoing, genuine relationship.
Please note that this is a non-exhaustive list
The last point is the one that most people worry about the most when collating their documentation for a UK Spouse Visa. It is also the area where you and your spouse need to be most consistent in your story during the spouse visa interview. Examples of what you can send include:
- photographs of you and your spouse together
- selective excerpts of Skype logs
- a selection of emails to and from your spouse
- a letter of introduction from your family and friends who have known you as a couple
- wedding photographs, invitations etc.
Obtain the right legal advice
If you have been asked to attend a spouse visa interview, then it is likely your application for a Spouse Visa has not been viewed as straight-forward by the UKVI. As you can see, there is a lot of documentation to collate and interview questions that you need to have ready answers to. By engaging an experienced immigration solicitor to help both you and your spouse prepare for the interview, you are likely to pass with flying colours and be free to begin your life together in the UK.
Saracens Solicitors is a multi-service law firm based in London’s West End. We have dedicated and highly experienced immigration team who can assist you with any questions you have regarding applying for a UK Spouse or Civil Partnership Visa and attending a Spouse Visa Interview. For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.