Many people wonder about the intricate details of the UK family immigration process, not only how to make a fiancee, partner or spouse visa application in Russia, but also who is responsible for deciding settlement applications submitted by Russian nationals. In this article we aim to shed some light on the immigration process and how we can assist you and your loved one. If you are a British Citizen or UK legal permanent resident wishing to bring your Russian partner, husband or wife to the UK on a settlement visa, you may find the following information useful.
Departments involved in the UK marriage visa application process in Russia
The main agency responsible for reviewing and deciding upon all UK settlement marriage and spousal visa applications submitted in Russia is the regional UKVI Visa Office in Sheffield. The British Consulate in Moscow is no longer involved in visa processing and decision making. The UK Visas & Immigration – UKVI (formerly the UK Border Agency) team will make a final determination of eligibility based on the information included in the initial application package. The examining entry clearance officer (ECO) will review the forms and supporting documents in accordance with the current Home Office regulations and legislation to make sure the application has been made in the prescribed manner. Prior to this point applicant’s biometrics must be recorded at one of the following UK Visa Application Centres (VAC) in Russia:
Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk or Rostov-on-Don
These UK visa application centres (VAC) are managed by TLScontact, a private company subcontracted by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to collect biometric data of the applicant and forward UK visa applications to Sheffield for further processing. It should be noted that TLS plays no role whatsoever in the decision making process. TLS staff is not permitted to advise or guide the applicant on choosing a visa category, or comment on whether or not the application will be successful, or how long it will take the UKVI team in Sheffield to make a decision.
Neither of the above steps of making the biometric appointment, or submitting a UK marriage visa application in Russia can be undertaken successfully without first ensuring that the basic eligibility requirements of the visa application are fulfilled as defined by UK Visas & Immigration.
Specific requirements for Russian nationals applying for a UK partner visa
Whilst all settlement applications have general ‘blanket’ requirements that serve as a guide for making a UK fiancee, partner or marriage visa application, the following are specific “local” requirements in Russia that all applicants must adhere to: (1) The applicant must have evidence of successfully meeting the English language requirement. (2) Russia is the only country in the world where applicants must sign a written consent form to comply with the biometric aspect of the UK visa application. (3) Effective 31 December 2013, anyone applying for a UK fiancee, spouse or unmarried partner visa in Russia must be tested for active tuberculosis (TB) as part of the application process. A TB clearance certificate must be submitted to the UKVI Visa Team in Sheffield along with the application form and other original supporting documents.
Mandatory tuberculosis (TB) screening for applicants in Russia
UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) has included Russia into its TB pre-screening list, as research has shown that Russia is one of the 67 countries where there is a high incidence of tuberculosis (TB). This specific requirement is designed for applicants wishing to come to the UK for over six months, which includes those applying for a UK fiancee, partner or spouse visa under the settlement category. In order to obtain the required medical clearance, an appointment must be booked at one of the UKVI-approved clinics. Applicants can expect to get an appointment within a few days of their request. The fee for tuberculosis screening in Russia is determined by the clinic. This fee is not included in the cost of the marriage visa payable to the Home Office.
Those applicants who are free from active tuberculosis will be given a certificate, which is usually valid for six months. If the TB test result is positive, the application will be refused on medical grounds unless the applicant provides evidence of the treatment they have had to clear the illness. Children under 11 years of age do not need to be tested.
English language test in Russia
Since November 2010 there has been an English language requirement for those seeking to settle in the UK as a fiancee, partner or spouse of a British Citizen or UK legal permanent resident. The purpose of this test is to ensure that prospective migrants are able to communicate effectively with individuals and organisations once they have arrived in the UK. The UKVI-approved English language test providers, such as the British Council (IELTS test), provide the relevant (SELT) English language tests in Russia. The UKVI Visa Office in Sheffield will only accept pass certificates issued by the approved test providers. It is advisable to book the test as early in the process as possible as it usually takes six to eight weeks to take the test and get the actual results back from the provider.
Visa application fees and processing times
Effective 6 April 2018, the fee for a UK settlement marriage visa is £1,523 per applicant. Dependents are charged the same fee as the principal applicant. The UK Visa Application Centres (VAC) in Russia do not accept cash payments. The fee must be paid in advance using a debit or credit card. It should be noted that applicants in Russia are required to make payments in US dollars (which works out a little over $2,000 USD per applicant), as the UKVI online payment processing system does not support payments in other currencies, including pounds sterling and Russian ruble. Processing fees are subject to periodic review and therefore applicants are advised to confirm the exact fee at the time of application.
At present the vast majority of settlement applications submitted in Russia are decided within three to four months, unless the applicant and their UK sponsor choose to purchase an additional UKVI settlement priority service which attracts a separate fee of £610 per applicant. Premium settlement partner, fiancee and spouse visa applications are usually processed within six to eight weeks. It should be noted, however, that non-straightforward applications can take the British Consulate in Moscow longer to process. Furthermore, additional factors such as the volume of applications and current backlog in Sheffield may influence the processing time.
UK marriage visa services for applicants in Russia
We have an unparalleled passion for family immigration. Therefore, unlike many other immigration law practitioners, we specialise exclusively in partner and marriage visas which makes our company services very unique. Rather than needing to focus on all areas of immigration legislation, we decided to limit our practice to marriage visas, which means that our specific experience and training in this area enables us to provide you and your loved one with undivided, applicable immigration advice. We have a native Russian speaker on staff who has over 10 years of experience helping Russian nationals apply for a UK marriage visa to reunite with their partners in the UK. What is more, with our extensive knowledge of “local” UKVI requirements in Russia, any potential changes in legislation or concessions applicable to your case can be applied swiftly for the benefit of yourself and your other half.
We encourage you to complete our online assessment form on the right hand side to find out more about the process of sponsoring your Russian fiancee, partner or spouse for a settlement visa to come to the UK. One of our experienced UK visa consultants will contact you within 24 hours of receipt of your enquiry. Please provide us with your name and phone number so we can call you to discuss your case. As part of your free initial consultation we can call your loved one to explain the process and answer some of her preliminary questions in Russian.