Since the beginning of March 2013, all visa applicants in the Philippines, including dependent children over 11 years old, have been required to be screened for active tuberculosis (TB) as part of the UK settlement visa application process. There are no exceptions to this rule, which includes fiancees, unmarried partners and spouses of British citizens and UK permanent residents as well as their dependent children. Everyone must now undergo a mandatory medical examination before they hand in their completed UK marriage visa application to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) team at the British High Commission in Manila. Anyone who applied for a UK settlement visa before 28 February 2013 will not be required to take the test to check whether they have an active TB infection.
Children under the age of 11 will be examined by an IOM panel physician based on the information provided in a health questionnaire completed by the accompanying parent, to establish whether they need to have the screening test which is mandatory for those over this age. Any certificate issued by a doctor confirming that there is no need for additional screening must be included in the child’s UK settlement visa application in lieu of the certificate confirming that there is no current TB infection necessary for an adult applicant. All children under 16 must attend the designated medical facility for screening or examination under the supervision of an adult. Any unaccompanied children will not be tested and the testing fee will not be refunded.
When arranging for the screening, be aware that there are only certain clinics that have been approved by the UK Border Agency for carrying out tuberculosis testing in the Philippines. Only certificates issued by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Health Centre in Manila will be accepted by the British High Commission; a certificate from any other doctor will be rejected. There should only be a brief delay in arranging the screening, but at busy times there may be a couple of weeks’ wait so please allow for this when making any plans for onward travel.
The initial fee, which is payable on the day of the exam, only covers the first stage of the testing, which is a chest x-ray. If it is inconclusive, the applicant will be asked to provide a sputum sample (this is a sample of coughed up phlegm) and this will incur extra charges and will mean that the results may take a little longer to be released. When making payment it will be necessary to provide a government-issued photo identification to ensure that the person being tested is the one making the UK marriage visa application. The x-ray usually takes less than an hour (sometimes longer in busy periods) and the results are ready within 24 hours. If the applicant is required to have a sputum test as well, the final results can take up to two months to obtain, and no certificate will be issued until the results are ready.
If the results show that the applicant has an active tuberculosis infection they will be unable to apply for a UK settlement visa. There are no exceptions to this rule. Treatment will be recommended and after six months, which is the normal time it takes to eradicate the infection, additional tests will be performed to confirm whether the treatment has been successful. Because there are some forms of TB which are resistant to the usual drugs used, the treatment is not guaranteed to be successful on the first attempt, but if the infection is still active, further treatment will be offered. No certificate will be issued until the applicant is free from tuberculosis.
The testing is rather more complicated for pregnant women who are making a UK marriage visa application as there are medical reasons to avoid too many x-rays during pregnancy. Even so, testing is still mandatory and there are two options available. The woman can have an x-ray as long as there is additional lead screening to protect the baby. If she is unwilling to take this small risk, she can go straight to the sputum test. Because this result can take up to two months to be reported, some women who are in a later stage of pregnancy choose to wait until the baby is born before being screened.
Finally, if you have a medical history of TB you will still need to be screened even if you have had successful treatment. One thing that makes TB such a dangerous disease is that a previous treatment of an infection may not be permanent. The doctor’s decision is absolutely final and there is no appeal if you disagree. You can be re-tested if you are confident that the doctor is wrong, but the re-testing will not be ‘fast tracked’ and the testing will still incur the fees.
It should be noted that the certificate is only valid for six months, so the timing of the test is crucial, but – and this point is very important to remember – if you are living or working in close proximity with someone who has tested positively for TB, you will be given a certificate which is valid for three months only. Secondly, although other countries require TB testing prior to applying for a visa, these may not be accepted by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) when you apply for a UK fiancee or marriage visa. Because different countries have different levels of testing and detailed requirements, each application must be accompanied by a relevant certificate from the IOM Health Centre, as above. Lastly, the certificate must be available for checking on entry to the UK, so make sure that you carry it on you or in your hand luggage when you travel. In any circumstances, if you are found to have TB, disagree with your doctor or cancel your UK settlement visa application, the fee for the screening, along with the UKBA visa application fee, is non-refundable.