Visa renewal time – an unfair system?

It’s been a few months since I posted on my blog, now its 2019 and it’s March already, can you believe it?!

Now that we’re already into the 3rd month of the year, it’s time to start thinking about renewing Berkay’s visa. He arrived at the end of 2016, on the ‘spouse visa’ which enables him to live and work in the UK for just over two and a half years. It cost around £2500 at the time, and when we got it, there was that relief of knowing there were no more visas to worry about for two years! Of course, now those two years have flown by and its time to start gathering all the paperwork, and money, to renew it!

I think visas are one of those things that nobody really understands the process of, until they know someone who has gone through it. I think people assume its easy for people to come to the UK, we’ve all read those newspaper reports about ‘foreigners coming here, getting our benefits’ etc. I probably had those misconceptions before too, to be honest.

Even though me and Berkay have been together for nearly nine years, and he has been living here, working for two and a half years, applying for the extension of his visa is still stressful and full of uncertainty. It’s not just a case of filling out an application form and ticking a few boxes – it’s a lot of work.

When he initially applied for the visa two and a half years ago, Berkay had to pass an English exam. To renew it, he has to pass a higher level exam, which he will actually be sitting this week – that’s not cheap either, £150, so fingers crossed he passes or he will have to keep trying and paying out for it.

Then there’s the cost involved – the application fee is £1033 currently, but this will go up again in April as it does every year. There’s also a NHS surcharge, which has just doubled from £500 to £1000…despite the fact that Berkay earns a fair wage (he found a job within three weeks of arriving in the country..) and pays national insurance like everyone else in the country with a job, he has to pay this £1000 towards the NHS as part of the application, so essentially he’s contributing twice! If any of you reading this have heard people say before ‘foreigners come here to use our NHS for free’ please inform them of this! I can understand if he wasn’t earning and needed to contribute something so that he wasn’t just coming here for the sole purpose of abusing the National Health Service, but when he’s already paying taxes and national insurance every week this seems very unfair!

So, total so far is £2033 + £150 for the English test, assuming he only needs one attempt at passing, but the fee’s don’t end there either… If he applies via the standard service, it can take months and months to get a decision, and they keep his passport all that time, so if there was ever a family emergency in Turkey, or he wanted to travel for whatever reason, he wouldn’t be able to, which leaves the option of paying a further £630 for a priority service, with a faster decision within a few days. So, £2033 + £150 + £630 = £2813, before travel costs to the visa application centre in London, sometimes they charge extra for the appointments where you hand over the documents, also! With the fee going up again in April, we will undoubtedly be paying over £3000 for this visa extension.

Perhaps finding the money to apply is the easy part. We also have to prove our relationship is genuine, with letters of support from friends and family, evidence we live together in the form of letters and bills addressed jointly to us at our address, spread across over the two and a half years he’s been in the country, to show that we have consistently lived together. Luckily, I knew that this was a requirement so I have folders of letters filed under my bed in preparation for this! We also have to prove we have the right to live in the property, with land registry documents, mortgage statements etc, and proof that we meet the £18,600 income requirement, with evidence in the form of payslips, work contracts, a letter from my HR department, etc etc!

Once this visa is granted (fingers crossed!) we will have to go through the same thing again in another two years time, only next time Berkay will have to pass a further test, a ‘life in the UK’ multiple choice exam paper, with general knowledge questions such as ‘when was Hadrians wall built?’, ‘how many members of the Scottish Parliament are there?’ and ‘When did the first Christian communities appear in Britain?’ – questions that seem better fitted for contestants on ‘The Chase’, rather than someone wanting to settle in the UK – I don’t know many Brits that would pass this 24 question test, by getting 75% correct.

As you can see, we have a busy couple of months ahead, getting all this paperwork organised, scanned and written, so that when we are able to apply in May/June, we are ready to do so.  I’m not really complaining about the process, I understand that rules have to be in place, but everyone I explain this process to, unless they know someone who has done it themselves, seems to be shocked when I tell them what it entails. With Brexit bringing out the worst in people recently, I have seen more and more people stating that ‘UK has no control of its borders, no immigration rules, no checks on people entering the country’ – I’m writing this post in the hope that if any of my readers believed this before, or have heard people making these assumptions, please, educate them and tell them you know differently!

It is very frustrating, handing over piles of paperwork to a complete stranger, to judge us based on the evidence they have in front of them, like we are some sort of criminals, and pay them £3000 for the privilege or believing we are genuine, or not.

 

2016 – a year in photos

So, as the clock stuck midnight last night we bid 2016 a fond goodbye. While many people were glad to see the back of the year, on a personal level it was a good one for us, and definitely the most eventful of our lives! Berkay finished the army, we planned a wedding, got married, had TWO weddings, applied for Berkay’s visa, he moved to the UK and we spent our first Christmas as husband and wife together. For the past 3 years I’ve done ‘a year in photo’s’ recap posts, so here is this years!

January 2016
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On 18th January Berkay completed his 12 month army service, which was a huge relief. It was like a huge weight lifted. His army service had kept us apart for most of 2015 so the start of 2016 when we knew the end was imminent was very exciting. A week after he finished his service I travelled to Turkey to meet him, it was the first time we’d seen each other since April 2015 – 9 months, the longest we’d ever spent apart. I spent 10 days in Calis/Fethiye with him and love these photos from those few days – all bring back lovely memories.  Of course I had to watch a few sunsets while I was there, and take part in our favourite past time – playing backgammon and drinking tea in seafront cafes! The weather was unusually warm too, it was definitely interesting to spend a January day on the beach fishing in a vest top!

February 2016   
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By February I was back in England, but we had celebrating to do – after I got back we decided we’d get married that year, and I started planning things with my family. Me and mum went wedding dress shopping, which was the most bizarre experience, I wasn’t at all intending on getting a big, white, wedding dress but after trying one on, that is exactly what happened, and we celebrated with champagne cocktails!

March 2016
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After only having been back in England for 5 weeks, I found myself boarding another flight to Turkey mid-March, this time only for 4 days. They were a very busy 4 days, spent running around offices to hand in our marriage paperwork and book a date. Berkay even had to have a blood test, but once it was all handed in we had the date confirmed – 27th April. Amongst the 4 days of rushing around, we managed to enjoy a bit of time together.

April 2016
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April was obviously the best month! At the beginning of the month things became to feel real when I had my hen ‘party’ afternoon tea. A few weeks later, I flew to Turkey with a suitcase full of wedding-related things, met Berkay, and started to prepare mentally for the week ahead! Slowly over the week other members of my family flew out to join us – my nan, grandad, dad, stepmum, brother, sister, mum and step dad. Just having all of us in the same county was lovely, especially with it being Turkey, as that was the place that I called home for so long, yet some of them had never been to, or hadn’t been to for a long time, and never ever all at the same time! Having everyone there, being able to show them things and places and for them to meet some of our friends and Berkay’s family was nice. On the day of the wedding, 27th april, we first drove around Fethiye, Calis, Kayakoy and Yaniklar for a pre-wedding photoshoot. At 6.30pm, My dad and little sister bridesmaid, walked me down the aisle where I was greeted by a crowd of our friends and family, and my mum bawling her eyes out!

May 2016
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Unforuately, just 4 days after getting married, on 1st May I was on a plane back to England. It was tough getting back to reality, but I had plenty to keep myself busy with!

June/July/August/September
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The summer months were the most boring, I just worked, worked, worked, and when I wasn’t working I was sitting at home gathering piles and piles of paperwork ready for the visa application. I remember sitting at home every night watching the Olympics on tv while writing visa letters and scrolling through 5 years worth of Facebook messages trying to collect and organise them as proof of our relationship! Eventually, it was all ready for the application.

October 2016
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1st October, bright and early, I flew to Dalaman again. The first day was spent driving 4 hours away to Berkay’s village in Beyagac, Denizli where we had our 2nd wedding party. Over 5000 people invited, with well over 1000 actually turning up. It was an experience, that’s for sure, and pretty traumatic for a shy girl like me! The best thing was that I was reunited with Boncuk, albeit temporarily. I hadn’t seen her for 18 months and thought she may have forgotten me but she hadn’t at all, she was so happy to see me and smothered me in kisses! Towards the end of the week, we drove to Antalya to apply for Berkay’s visa. Handing in the application was a huge relief and we anxiously awaited the result, our fate in their hands. To relax a little, we checked into the 5* Titanic Lara Beach resort hotel for a night and absolutely loved it – I’d never been in a 5* hotel before and it was definitely exactly what I needed after a week of stress!

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The last week of October deserves it’s own little section – after nearly 3 weeks of frantically checking the tracking website, finally the ‘decision made’ box turned green and Berkay got his passport back in the post – we opened it on Facetime together, and inside was a great big shiny visa! What we’d been working towards for years was finally a reality! As it happened, me and mum had booked into a spa the weekend after, so we used that as an opportunity to celebrate.

November 2016
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After what felt like a very long month, 18th November finally came around and Berkay arrived at Gatwick airport, greeted by balloons, banners and a lot of my family. Such a surreal moment, knowing he didn’t have to go back.

December 2016
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Always a month for fun and festivities, Decemeber didn’t dissapoint. I’d spent the previous two Christmas’ and New Year’s without Berkay, so having him here to help celebrate our first as husband and wife was lovely, even if he doesn’t totally understand the madness of Christmas, Santa and all that goes with it. Last night as Big Ben rang out, me, Berkay, my dad, stepmum, sister, brother and his girlfriend all spent the evening together, celebrating the end of the year but also the start of 2017.

Berkay is still adjusting to life here in the UK but we’re working on it.
Who knows what 2017 holds but I hope it’s kind to us all. I hope all my friends, family and blog readers all have a happy, healthy new year.

Hos Geldin 2017.

Berkay is coming to England!

On Friday, Berkay’s visa application status changed to ‘decision made’ and the passport was sent back in the post. We had absolutely no idea whether it was a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and anxiously tracked the UPS parcel on its journey to Fethiye. We had hoped that it would be there on Saturday so that we wouldn’t have to spend the whole weekend not knowing, but it wasn’t to be… so, first thing Monday morning Berkay went and waited outside the UPS office until the delivery truck arrived from Istanbul via Mugla. It was early, around 9.45am their time, 7.45am our time, and my alarm had just gone off to wake me up for another day of work..

As I was walking out the front door, Berkay FaceTime’d me – with the parcel in his hand. He opened the envelope while talking to me and we both had the horrible few seconds of searching through the envelope for either a letter of refusal, or a visa stamp in his passport…

‘They gave it!’ he said – and he was right. There it was – a big, shiny, visa sticker in his passport.

WE DID IT. HE GOT THE VISA!
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My family cried, I cried, even strangers I’ve never met but who read my updates on Facebook cried! It was definitely an emotional Monday morning, and I’m so glad that we found out early so that I didn’t have to sit in work and wait all day! It was also well worth paying the £450 extra for priority service, if we hadn’t we probably wouldn’t know until January.

After all the stress, worry and hard work, it finally paid off. The months of gathering paperwork, years of searching for a job earning over the minimum income requirement, months of gathering wage slips and letters, printing photos, Facebook messages, call logs, proving every inch of our relationship and explaining every little detail of our lives over the past 6 years, it was all worth it eventually.

Lots of people were saying they didn’t realise how hard it was so I hope all my annoying visa updates and stress and worry has opened your eyes to just how hard it actually is to get a visa for the UK – it took so much effort, time, money and a lot of hard work! We have to do all this process again in 2.5 years time too, and meet the requirements at every check point, it’s not a permanent visa! Next time you hear someone say “we let everyone in, they all come here for free and get everything” please tell them you know that’s not true and tell them our story, educate them! It’s cost over £2,500, including an NHS fee, and the visa is very clearly stamped “no public funds” which means Berkay is not entitled to any benefits, despite what a lot of people would have you believe!

I still don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet to be honest, and I don’t think it will until he’s here, and even then it will feel like it’s just a holiday for a while! Everything is going to change, not just for us but also for my family since we we will still be living at home with them for a while. I’ve already been flat searching and house hunting but it’s going to be very difficult to find somewhere until Berkay is here and working as we need two people’s wages to be able to afford to move out around here!

Berkay worked his last night shift in the hotel in Calis last night, and it closed for the winter season today. I think it’s bittersweet, because although we really wanted him to get this visa and for us to be able to live in the UK together, until now, it’s always been an uncertainty, and now it’s a reality! He has worked in that hotel for 12+ years, since he was a student doing work experience with his tourism school, and now it’s definitely the end of an era. This morning he packed up his things and got the bus to Denizli, where he currently is staying in the city with his uncle and cousins. Tomorrow, he goes to the village again and will stay there for 3 weeks before going back to Fethiye, saying another goodbye and boarding a plane from Dalaman to London mid-November.

Once he’s here we’ll be very busy, adapting to life here, working, saving, celebrating his birthday and Christmas and very much looking forward to what 2017 holds for us.  This time last year he was in Diyarbakir doing his army service in a dangerous place and we were having 30 second phone calls once a day. It felt like the day would never come when I’d be able to post this ‘BERKAY IS MOVING TO ENGLAND’ post, but here it is… and that definitely feels good to type!

Good news!

We got some great news on Thursday…
Berkay got his visit visa!

This means he can come to the UK for Christmas, New Year and back again in March for mum’s wedding. So happy!
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It’s only a 6 month visa, and he’s only planning on staying for a total of 6 weeks out of that time, but it’s such hard work to get visas to the UK, as I have mentioned before.

I really didn’t think he’d get the visa this year, so it was a lovely suprise and I’m so glad, this one was more important than the rest as previous years I was living with him, but this year if he didn’t get his visa who know’s when I’d see him again.  I have spoken recently about not feeling like I fit in here anymore, so having Berkay with me for Christmas is going to make me feel a lot happier, I can finally start to look forward to the holidays like everybody else! (:

Still yet to book his flights, but hopefully he’s coming mid December for 3 weeks. Our friend will be looking after our lovely Boncuk, if only Berkay could smuggle her in his suitcase! 😦 ❤

If anyone has any questions about visit visas, feel free to ask, always here to help!

xxx

Visas..

Visa’s are the bane of my life.

Honestly, one day they will be the death of me! There is not enough space on the whole internet for me to say quite how I feel, so I won’t bother (: But what really, really irritates me, is seeing British people complain about Turkey’s holiday visa rules, the length of the visa queue on arrival at the airport, the fact people can’t renew the visa every 90days by just hopping on a boat to Rhodes, or how much a rip off the £10 visa is. Honestly, if people realised the effort people went to to get a holiday to the UK, they’d never again complain about having to wait 30 minutes in a queue, or having to pay £10… I guarantee it.

It’s so frustrating seeing people break the rules too, choosing to deliberately overstay their visa or work on a tourist visa illegally.  I don’t understand why people abuse the really very simple Turkish visa system. I wish people just stuck to the rules, people are ignorant and being on the other side and experiencing it from another angle is really frustrating.

Imagine if Turkey were as strict as the UK, just how many British people would still be able to come on holiday, the £80 each fee’s, the hundreds of pieces of paper detailing the life history of every person in the family, proof you have no debt and are rich or have friends in Turkey willing to support you? Tourism would dramatically decrease, I bet.

I thank my lucky stars Turkey’s rules are not as strict as the UK or we’d really be screwed.