Filipino nationals wishing to apply for a settlement visa to join their fiancee, partner, husband or wife in the UK must submit their immigration application to the British High Commission in the Philippines. The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) team in Manila has jurisdiction over visa applicants in the Philippines as well as other countries in the region, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The application process is the same for everyone; however, applicants in the Philippines are required to meet additional eligibility requirements in order to satisfy the strict Home Office criteria for approval. It should be noted that there is no settlement priority service in the Philippines. The standard processing for UK settlement marriage and spousal visa applications takes approximately two to three months depending on the overall complexity of individual cases and other factors such as seasonal peaks and unexpected backlogs.
Mandatory requirements for visa applicants in the Philippines
Those applying for a UK settlement visa as a partner, spouse or fiancee of a British citizen or UK legal permanent resident from the Philippines must pass a mandatory A1 English language test and undergo medical screening conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Health Centre in Manila to confirm that they are free from tuberculosis (TB). The English test is designed to assure the UKVI that the applicant can speak at the required A1 level of English which is the minimum the examining UKVI officials will accept. Unless the applicant is exempt based on their age or academic qualifications, the test must be taken and provided by institutions that are on the UKVI pre-approved list of secure English language test providers. If the English level has been confirmed by one of the recoginised centres, the applicant can move on to the TB test, without any further concern about meeting the English language requirement.
The mandatory TB test requires a chest X-ray in which the contagious lung condition of tuberculosis can be detected if present. Alternatively, a sputum test can be done which will provide the same result. This may be something which pregnant women may prefer so as to ensure that while trying to meet the UKVI immigration rules, their pregnancy remains as safe as possible. The IOM TB clearance certificate is valid for six months.
Financial requirement (minimum income threshold)
The UK settlement fiancee, marriage and partner visa application forms must be submitted with the financial Appendix. Both forms are designed to help the UKVI Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) properly evaluate the relationship to make sure it is real and whether there is enough income from the sponsoring British Citizen or UK permanent resident to support the applicant in the UK. The financial income threshold requirement currently stands at £18,600. This is for one adult applicant with no dependents. The amount varies per child included in the settlement application (i.e. £22,400 for principal applicant with one dependent child, £24,800 with two children).
There must be sufficient documentary evidence to show that the couple or family can live in the UK without claiming public funds. This is not to say that a person who is in receipt of benefits, such as child benefit, tax credits, universal credit cannot sponsor their Filipino partner or spouse in conjunction with their basic income from employment, property et cetera, without the benefit top ups mentioned above or DLA, but it means that if the sponsor would need to claim extra funds per week to cover the costs of the foreign spouse or family member, then this would be considered recourse to public funds.
There are specific rules regarding bank statements such as the method in which the UKVI accept online print outs, and the fact that bank statements must be no more than 28 days old at the time of submission in Manila or Cebu. It is wise to be aware of this when sending the final package to the applicant in the Philippines for submission at the local UK Visa Application Centre (VAC), and ensuring that there is enough time between transit and submission, so that the bank statements are still valid.
Genuine and subsisting relationship
The UKVI will not always invite individuals to partake in a marriage visa interview. This is where many individuals mistakenly assume that they will have the opportunity to clarify misconstrued issues on evidence that is not present, or to top up on a bank statement, or explain information that may have been provided in a nonchalant manner. This is quite risky thinking as it can lead to a refusal. What is placed in the initial application is vital as there is no second chance. There is no reminder or nudge as to the documents the applicant has forgotten. The British High Commission in Manila will not accept revised application forms or additional supporting documents sent later in the process. In some limited cases the UKVI Deferrals Team in Manila may request further evidence, but the vast majority of applications are decided without any contact with the applicant or their sponsor.
In order to approve a UK settlement marriage or partner visa application, the UKVI caseworkers must be satisfied that the applicant and their British partner or spouse have a genuine relationship. The UKVI officers also consider the reputation of the applicant’s country of nationality based on the country specific information available (some countries are considered ‘high risk‘ due to high rates of marriage fraud and deception used). It is because they need to do their job and ensure that family immigration to the UK within certain boundaries and is accessible for desirable and genuine applicants.
This really puts the matter of having a completed application and adequate evidence into perspective. If you imagine the thousands of applications that are submitted to the British High Commission in the Philippines and other Embassies around the world, there is not enough physical time to chase an individual for evidence in an application when the UKVI case worker may have 200 cases to process on their desk. It would be much easier to review the file and refuse, leaving the couple with the option of making another application with the correct evidence, rather than contact the couple for several pieces of documents that they have failed to provide. Additionally, the UKVI visa application fee is non-refundable regardless of the outcome. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that the applicant and their sponsor are in a genuine and subsisting relationship and that the feelings involved are mutual.
This means that couples must provide sufficient evidence to show they have met in person and that they really feel deep love and commitment to one another. Support from friends and family would be a great way of proving this, especially if they are willing to provide a statutory declaration, as well as proof about how compatible they are. Keeping those insignificant flight stubs, or booking confirmation and tickets to shows, restaurant bookings, telephone bills and text messages may seem like something trivial, but these all prove that the applicant and their sponsor have met in person and try to see one another as often as possible. After all it is clearly unreasonable to expect the UKVI to empathise with an excuse of distance and expense, for not seeing the person you love. In fact, trips to see one another throughout the courtship and whilst getting supporting documents together, constitutes greatly to evidence of a genuine ‘bona fide‘ relationship. Evidence of ongoing communication (e.g. phone logs, chats, emails) covering periods apart is paramount as this shows also the relationship being subsisting.
UK Visa Application Centres (VAC) in the Philippines
Visa applicants in the Philippines are required to pay the same fee as any other non-EEA nationals seeking to join their fiancee, partner or spouse in the UK on a settlement visa. The current UKVI application fee is £956, which works out $1,530 per applicant (applicants in the Philippines are charged in US dollars when making a payment on the UKVI website) irrespective of age or whether the couple are married or engaged. In addition, married couples must pay the mandatory NHS healthcare surcharge in the amount of £600 per applicant.
All applicants need to book an appointment at the Visa Application Centre in Cebu or Manila and bring their full package to the appointment. The VFS clerks will collect biometric data (digital photographs and fingerprints) and forward complete visa application package to the British High Commission in Manila for processing. Those applying in Cebu are required to pay an additional service fee of $92 per applicant. It takes around 60 working days (two to three months) for the settlement visa to be processed as there is no premium service currently in the Philippines.
UK marriage visa services for applicants in the Philippines
We have successfully obtained literally hundreds of fiancee, partner and spouse visas for clients in the Philippines. This combined with our specialised knowledge and experience allows us to provide unparalleled comfort and support to British-Filipino couples wishing to reunite in the UK on a permanent basis. Our team of professional UK marriage visa consultants can make the process as easy as possible by preparing a settlement visa application for submission at the Visa Application Centre in Cebu or Manila. We present applications to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) team in the Philippines in a ‘decision ready‘ (i.e. clearly approvable) format encouraging the examining Entry Clearance Officers (ECO) to process individual cases as quickly as possible. We are proud to say that we have achieved very quick decisions for some of our clients in the Philippines over the past few months.
If you would like to find out more about the process of sponsoring a Filipino fiancee, partner, husband or wife for a UK settlement visa, we are here to help. Please complete our marriage visa assessment form on the right hand side so one of our immigration advisers can contact you to discuss your case within 24 hours. We do not charge a fee for the initial consultation so it costs you absolutely nothing to find out how we can help you and your loved one.