As part of the UK marriage visa application process, an applicant’s relationship with their sponsor will be carefully assessed by the examining UK Border Agency (UKBA) Entry Clearance Officer (ECO). The vast majority of UK settlement visa applications are decided based on the evidence presented as part of the initial submission. According to the UK Border Agency’s policy and procedures related to the issuance of settlement visas to spouses, partners and fiancees of British citizens and permanent residents, an interview is not a required part of the application process. However, in some instances UKBA officials may request a personal or telephone interview with the applicant or their UK sponsor in order to make a final determination of eligibility.
The importance of the marriage visa interview cannot be overstated. If a telephone or face-to-face interview has been scheduled, it usually means that the ECO has serious concerns over the legitimacy of the applicant’s relationship with their sponsor, or there may be other issues that require clarification before a settlement visa can be granted. The foreign fiancee must convince the interviewing UKBA officials that their relationship with the sponsoring British citizen or permanent resident is genuine and continuing, with both parties committed to getting married and living together in the UK for romantic reasons, rather than simply applying for a UK marriage visa for immigration purposes. If the couple is already married or in a registered civil partnership, both partners must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining Entry Clearance Officer that they entered into their marriage or partnership in good faith, and not to evade UK immigration laws.
The ECO’s assessment will be based on objective, factual evidence, and with the use of some ‘rules of thumb’ to ensure that only genuine applicants obtain permission to live and work in the UK. A lack of quality time together in person, quick proposal / marriage, poor English of the foreign fiancee or spouse (unless partners share a common language), or the sponsor’s unstable financial situation are just a few possible problems. In addition, indicators of a suspicious relationship include those between people of markedly different age, religion, culture or even education. 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. If a case presents a borderline situation, the ECO may refer it to an Entry Clearance Manager (ECM) for an additional fraud assessment.
The partner visa interview can vary in length depending on the individual ECO and the details of the case that require clarification, although most interviews are often very short. Not all applicants are able to stay calm in such a high-pressure situation, which may often cause nervousness and clouded thinking. Any incorrect statements made during the interview can be identified in a number of ways such as through detailed analysis of the information provided by the applicant when completing an online application form or a review of the relevant supporting documentation, including written statements, submitted by their UK sponsor. Therefore, thorough pre-interview preparation is essential. It should help the foreign partner or spouse become confident enough to conduct a marriage visa interview in an easy and relaxed manner, which will increase the chances of the settlement visa application being approved.