Submitting the visa application…

img_6518-1For those who don’t follow my Facebook page – I have just come back from 8 days in Turkey! Amongst many other things during the very, very busy week (including our big village wedding party…) a major event happened – we applied for Berkay’s visa!

This has been a very, very long time coming. Ever since I came back to the UK in December 2014 this visa has been the end goal, but it has been the main obstacle in our relationship since day one. The whole time Berkay was in the army I was working hard to find a job earning the minimum income requirement, then once I found that 18 months ago, I began slowly ticking the other things off the list of visa requirements.

Since July I have spent every waking moment after work gathering paperwork as evidence and organising it all – hundreds of pieces of paper, constantly writing letters, perfecting them, making sure everything was explained, printing, reprinting, proof-reading, triple-checking everything, getting paperwork from outside sources to prove everything, collecting wage slips, bank statements and saving enough money to apply. Then, a few weeks ago we finally had everything ready, paid the extortionate total £2500 visa fee and booked our appointment to submit the papers in Antalya on 6th October.

So, while I was there last week (after a couple of late nights on the terrace having a final run through of the paperwork) on Thursday morning we woke up bright and early at 5am and made the 2.5 hour journey to Antalya. Actually finding the visa application centre was a mission in itself – thank goodness we had GPS on Berkay’s phone, although him trying to drive on the massive, extremely busy Antalya city centre roads was rather scary too, nothing like the Fethiye roads we’re used to which are tiny in comparison! There was so much pollution too, the whole city area was all smoggy. We arrived in plenty of time so we stopped for some breakfast – delicious meat borek and a glass of cay.
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We eventually did find the visa application centre, which was in a big multi-purpose community centre with a lot of different rooms and security scanners on the doors. It was very modern looking and had a lovely big water fountain outside. Berkay had to register in a small room and I was allowed to sit in there with him while a man rummaged through the paperwork. Seeing him reorder the paperwork that I had painstakingly ordered and labelled according to my contents page was hard to watch, that paperwork has been my treasured possession for months, I felt like snatching it all back! After the intital registration, we had to wait outside another room – there seemed to be at least 5 other people there with the same appointment time as Berkay, and there was no order to people being called into the room, it just seemed to be whoever managed to make eye contact with the man on the door first! He eventually got seen 30 minutes after his appointment, I wasn’t allowed in so I had to sit outside but I could see him through a section of glass in the door and was trying not to make him laugh when he realised I could see him. They took the paperwork, shoved it all in an envelope, took Berkay’s fingerprints and a photo and then that was that.
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It was a relief that it was all over – I had gone over the paperwork so many times and was happy with it, I was confident that we had done all we could and shown all we could possibly show, but I always ended up second guessing myself and trying to add more, so having it finally sent off and knowing I could do nothing else was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders instantly.

The decision usually takes 12 weeks, but we paid £450 to prioritise the application which means a decision should be made within 3 weeks – a huge difference and well worth the extra money. There is an online tracking system that tells us exactly where in the process the application is currently at – it’s so addictive, we keep logging in to check, even at completely random times of day when we know the office is shut, even at weekends. Berkay wakes up during the day and checks it then goes back to sleep, I check several times a day when I wake up, during work, when I come home… The day when it changes to ‘decision made’ I think our hearts will stop beating for a second!! Unfortunately, the decision won’t be known until they send it back in the post and Berkay opens the envelope and searches through the passport for visa or a refusal letter.

Our whole future is in someone else’s hands at the moment… please keep your fingers crossed for us!

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Next visit to Turkey & Visa Paperwork…

I haven’t posted on here for a month now, this is because every waking moment outside of work I have been preparing visa paperwork!

It’s been over 4 months since I last saw Berkay, after leaving just 3 days after getting married, but I am going back to Turkey in 26 days time on 1st October. While I am there we are planning on doing a little road trip to Antalya to submit his visa application. It has taken me months of planning to get all the paperwork together and we’re still only half way there!

In order to apply for the visa we need to supply evidence of every single detail of our lives and the people in it. The main things are proving that we are in a genuine relationship, proving that I earn above the income requirement, proving that Berkay has a safe place to live in the UK, and proving that he can speak English. We do this via piles and piles of paperwork as evidence. Letters, 18+ page application forms, declarations, passport copies, birth certificates, bank statements, wage slips, a letter from my employer, contract, a house inspection report, land registry documents, mortgage statements, letter from the house owner and other letters of support from my family, proof of address, utility bills, passport details of everyone else in the house, university certificate, army papers, English exam certificate, criminal record check, insurance papers, blog information, marriage photos, wedding cards, engagement cards, photos of us over the whole 6 years of our relationship, visa stamps, evidence of every flight I ever took to Turkey, extracts of Facebook, MSN and Skype conversations and call logs over the 6 years, etc, etc etc. These are just the things I’ve thought of off the top of my head, there are many more that I’ve forgotten.

Gathering all this information is painstakingly time consuming, especially scrolling through the 180,000+ Facebook messages we have had together and picking a few conversations from each year of our relationship to print out and show them – a nearly impossible task! It’s also frustrating trying to gather paperwork we need from other people, like getting blood from a stone! It seems people don’t realise the importance of this application and all the information that goes into it.

With all the documents, application fee, house inspection report fee, NHS surcharge, translation fees, travel to/from Antalya to the application centre and the £450 fee to prioritise the application and get a slightly quicker decision, the total of the application is well over £3000 – a huge amount of money.

It seems so surreal that in October, when Berkay goes and hands in the paperwork at the application centre, it will be out of our hands, we will be totally out of control of our future. The decision of where we spend the rest of our lives will be in the hands of someone we’ve never met, sat at their desk reading through our pile of paperwork, all we can do is put our blood sweat and tears into that pile of paperwork to make sure it leaves no doubt in their mind that we are a genuine, loving husband and wife just trying to live together and settle down. It’s nerve wracking, and we’ve been working towards it for so long that when the application is submitted I won’t know what to do with myself or my free time – I expect I’ll spend every waking moment tracking the application status online and praying that we get a quick decision!

I’m trying to keep my blog updated in the meantime, but all my effort at the moment is going into work and the visa… In October I’ll hopefully have lots of photos and thoughts to share from my trip. Other than the road trip to Antalya, we’re also planning on going to the village to visit Boncuk too, with a stop-over at Pamukkkale, and the usual BBQ’s, sunsets and breathtaking views of Fethiye of course!

26 days to get everything ready to go! 

The Frustrating misconceptions about visas.

 If there’s one thing that gets me most passionate, most vocal, and most annoyed, its the topic of visas.

Visas, ah, bane of my life. Our whole life is determined by visa applications and the result of them, the verdict reached by someone sat a desk in an office making assumptions about our intentions and relationship. I can deal with that, it was a choice we made, a life we chose to follow when we met each other and started our relationship, although recent changes in the law have made things more difficult, it’s still something we just have to accept.

What I do find hard to deal with, and what really frustrates me more than anything is people’s ignorance.

4 years ago, we applied for a visit visa for Berkay to come to the UK for a 3 week visit over Christmas. I was living with him in Turkey, he had a full time job, was a student, had money going in and out of his bank account every month, rented a house, had family ties and we had letters of support and a sponsor (a member of my family) in the UK. The visa was refused, because they didn’t think he’d return, despite the hundreds of pieces of paper we supplied as evidence that he would. We applied again a week later with even more evidence and got the visa granted, and he’s had two more granted since then, but knowing the time, effort and cost of the whole process just for a week’s holiday makes it really hard to accept ignorant comments from people such as:

“Turkish people rip us off paying £13 for the visa”
“This Evisa is so hard, I don’t even have a printer, It’s too much effort to print it”
“England should take a leaf out of Turkey’s book and charge people to visit”
“We have property in Turkey we should be able to visit when we want”

Now, where do I start to address these comments? These people have no idea. To put it into perspective, this is the amount of paperwork my partner had to show in order to convince the entry clearance officer that he was a genuine visitor to the UK…
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Just some of the things we had to show to convince them to give Berkay a visa for his 3 week holiday included a 20 page form, list of all his family ties, proof he was a student, proof of address, rent contract, 6 months bank statements, a letter from his boss stating he had a job to return to, insurance papers, police check, a 5 page letter explaining why he wanted to visit, a letter from me, proof I exist, photos of us together, a planned itinerary + expenditure, a letter from one of my family members who would be his sponsor, proof they exist, proof of address, bank statements, job status and a letter stating Berkay could stay with them for the 3 week holiday.

Can you imagine having to show all of the above just for a 2 week holiday to Turkey? If us British people had to show all of that to visit, we’d never bother to leave the country! Doesn’t it put it into perspective, it’s not really that much effort to log on to the evisa website, submit a few details and press print is it? That’s not even considering the fact that that can be done from the comfort of your own home (unless you haven’t got a printer..) To apply for a visa to the UK, Turkish (and most non eu-nationals) have to travel hundreds of miles away to their nearest British visa application centre. For us, it was Izmir, 4 hours away from Fethiye, and 4 hours back again – an 8 hour round trip. Some people even have to travel to different countries to apply. Plus the running around involved in getting all the documents from the many different people and places, and printing, photocopying and translating them all into English. Compare that to the effort it takes to fetch your passport from a hidden drawer somewhere in the house and enter your name, date of birth and verification code on the evisa website…. there really is no comparison, is there?

As for the £13 fee, the fee for Non-eu nationals to visit the UK is £80, plus the bus/train/car journey to the visa application centre, and the fee back again to collect the decision 2-3 weeks later or the fee for the courier to deliver it by special delivery instead. There’s also the fee to print, photocopy and translate the documents… so the £80 fee turns more into a £250 fee. £13 doesn’t look like such a ‘rip off’ afterall, does it?

The last point was something that I saw posted on a Facebook group recently. “We have property in Turkey we should be able to visit when we want without visas” – well, in theory perhaps, but when the situation is turned around and family’s in the UK are separated from their non-eu partner at Christmas because they are unable to get a visit visa for a holiday, people say  “you should have thought about that first, you made your bed now lie in it”, does the same principle not apply then? Why buy property in a foreign country and then complain you can’t visit as often as you’d like due to visa restrictions?

A lot of people also seem to assume that the difference in difficulty and price is because of the fact that ‘foreigners visiting the UK get nhs and benefits’ .. really? If it was safe to do so I’d post a copy of Berkay’s visit visa on here which clearly states on it “no recourse to public funds” which means no benefits, and no free healthcare. He had to purchase travel insurance before travelling to the UK, just the same as we purchase travel insurance to cover us for medical issues when abroad.

I think a lot of people truly do not realise just how difficult the process is for non-eu nationals to visit the UK. We are blessed that Berkay has been granted 3 visas, but that doesn’t mean he will be granted future ones, there is always the possibility of refusal and all that wasted time, money and effort. It’s something we, and millions of other people just have to deal with, but please do spare a thought next time you complain about the visa process for visiting Turkey. It’s not a rip off, it’s not a lot of effort and it’s not that the Turkish government has a vendetta against British holiday makers at all.

Instead, be thankful that we have British passports which allow us visa free and/or fairly easy travel to most countries in the world, and be thankful that Turkey doesn’t have a reciprocal agreement and invoke the same requirements for a visa as the UK, because then most of us would probably never have visited the beautiful country in the first place.

Visa time..

It’s been 6 weeks since I last saw Berkay, thankfully time is going by quickly, he’s currently in the process of applying for a visit visa so he can come to England for Christmas. 

He’s actually on the bus for the 5 hour journey from Fethiye to Izmir as we speak. We completed the application and made his appointment at the visa application centre for 9am tomorrow morning, fingers crossed everything goes to plan and he gets it granted with no problems, but we won’t find out for up to 3 weeks/15 working days. 

He’s had two visit visas granted before, and one refused 2 years ago. Despite what most people think, the UK’s borders are not open for all and it is not easy for citizens of non-European countries to come to the UK, even for a 3 week holiday. The whole process is a very long, detailed one and it is very frustrating. I have spoken before on here about how annoying it is to hear Brits complaining about having to pay the £10 visa fee on arrival in Turkey, and moaning about having to wait for 30 minutes in a queue for the visa stamp. If you compare that to the process of a Turkish person visiting the UK, it really is nothing to complain about at all.  The visa fee for non-EU citizens to enter the UK is £80 and even after paying, it is not guaranteed that the visa shall be granted, as we discovered the first time Berkay applied, and was refused. 

The amount of paperwork we have to provide is also ridiculous, not only does Berkay have to show his entire life history, prove his ties to turkey in the form of property, land, employment, family links etc, but me, as his partner also have to prove that I exist, copies of my passport, proof of address, evidence of our relationship, photos… Then there is the issue of having enough money. Berkay has no money saved as wages are rubbish, and so has to have a sponsor. My dad is his sponsor, who also has to show bank statements, work contracts, invoices, tax returns, earnings, passport copies, letters, etc. If British people had to show all of this to travel to Turkey, nobody would ever bother going, can you imagine the amount of people who get into debt to pay off holidays etc, they’d all be refused unless they just so happened to have a friend in Turkey who had money saved in the bank.

The previous times Berkay has travelled to England, I have travelled with him. On arrival at the airport we felt like criminals with all the questions asked and people watching us. I understand that checks have to be made, but the whole visa process is ridiculous and horrible. There is always a risk of people overstaying visas or working illegally, but when you’re genuine and know you are going to stick to the rules, it’s frustrating having to prove yourself and have strangers judging your life and making important decisions just by reading pieces of paper.

Fingers crossed he hands in his huge pile of papers ok tomorrow morning, and that we get the decision back as soon as possible. The wait to open that envelope searching for a refusal letter or a visa stamp in his passport is a horrible one too, glad I’m not there to go through that this time.

Let’s hope we hear ASAP and Berkay can join me in the UK for 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year. Wish us luck please! ❤