Anyone applying for a UK fiancee, UK spouse or UK unmarried partner visa from Russia after 31 December 2013 must be tested for active tuberculosis (TB) before their settlement application can be accepted for processing by the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) team at the British Consulate in Moscow. Anyone wishing to stay in the UK for less than six months does not need to be tested, except for Russian residents applying for a six-month fiancee visa under the settlement category, who must also take the test, as applicants in this category are allowed to remain in the UK for longer than six months following their marriage to the sponsoring British Citizen or legal permanent resident, provided an extension application – further leave to remain or FLR(M) is made in a timely manner.
This new tuberculosis (TB) testing requirement has been introduced as it is a disease which many people now suffer from worldwide, and is often symptom free. With more strains now being resistant to antibiotics, many governments now require testing of this nature in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease and limit its presence in their country. For the last few years UK Visas & Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency) has been actively expanding the list of countries where UK marriage visa applicants must be tested for active tuberculosis as part of the application process with the Philippines, China, South Africa and many other countries being added to the list in 2013.
Who needs to be tested?
Anyone over the age of 11 arriving in the UK on a settlement visa as a fiancee, partner, spouse or dependent child of a British Citizen or UK legal permanent resident must be tested for tuberculosis prior to submitting their settlement visa application to the British Consulate in Moscow. Those under 11 are required to attend an approved clinic with their parents to answer questions regarding their current health. If the examining doctor is happy that the child carries no likelihood of infection, a certificate will be issued which states that the child has been examined but not tested. Pregnant women must choose to either be x-rayed with additional protection or give a sputum sample. If the latter option is chosen the results make take up to eight weeks to process and an additional fee may be incurred. Many pregnant women for this reason prefer to wait until after the baby is born before being tested.
What does the test involve?
The TB test is relatively simple and non-invasive but must be carried out at one of four UKVI-approved test clinics: Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. Results from other clinics will not be accepted. When attending, it is important that the staff know that the test is for a UK settlement marriage or partner visa. The initial test is a simple chest x-ray and if this is clear the results and certificate can be ready in as little as four hours. If there is reason to suspect from the x-ray that TB may be present, a sputum sample (phlegm) will need to be collected which is then tested further. This second test can take much longer – sometimes up to two months. If this shows that TB is definitely present, no certificate will be given and the person being tested will be offered treatment. After treatment a re-test will be necessary but this cannot be carried out sooner than six months after the original test. All types of tests are subject to a fee which is non-refundable. Any applicant found to have active TB who requires re-testing should take all previous paperwork with them. Applicants will also be required to prove their identity and so a passport is likely to be essential.
All TB test results attained at an approved clinic are final and there is no recourse for appeal, although anyone is permitted to retake the test after treatment and six months having passed. The certificate is valid for six months only. If a certificate expires, a re-test will be necessary. The timing of the test is therefore important; UK marriage visa applicants should make sure they are ready to proceed with the settlement visa application and travel within six months. The certificate must be attached with the visa application and cannot be sent in afterwards.
Although of course the doctor/patient confidentiality is important, the attending physician may be required to report cases of TB to relevant local authorities as well as UK Visas & Immigration who may in turn share this information with the Health Protection Agency. The point of TB testing for those coming into the UK from areas prone to TB infection is to keep the country as free as possible from tuberculosis and so these steps will be adhered to strictly with no exceptions.