If you are a Pakistani citizen with a partner who is either a British citizen or holds indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you’ll no doubt be actively on the hunt for ways to plan your future together. You may already know that there are a number of different visa options depending on where both of you intend to live and what your present circumstances are. For a general overview of the visa types and evidential requirements, check out our short 6 minute introductory webinar here.
The financial, accommodation and relationship requirements are the most confusing for most applicants. Our second and third webinars provide further detail as to the evidence required, both on a compulsory or recommended basis.
Evidence aside, you will need a good understanding of the procedures involved. We have broken down the general procedure into 10 bite-size steps in our fourth webinar. Each country does however differ in practice to some degree, prompting the need to provide this guide specifically for applicants from Pakistan.
As with all countries, the first stage is the submission of the visa application form on the gov.uk website. This involves completing a lengthy application form which asks detailed questions about your background and current circumstances. Pay particular attention to all information being factually accurate and consistent with any previous application. Once form is confirmed, you will be directed to pay your application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge (compulsory charge for access to NHS in the UK for the duration of the visa). After payment successfully goes through, the application will officially be considered submitted.
This next stage consists of arranging and attending an appointment to enroll your facial image and fingerprints (known as biometrics) and also arranging for your documents to be sent to the decision-makers. Both of these are done using the link provided on gov.uk at the end of the submission screen.
Once you click on that link, you will be directed to the VFS Global website. VFS Global, for those who are unaware, is an outsourced service specialist company that the Home Office has hired to handle the administrative tasks related to visa processing.
The appointment is made through selection from an online calendar. There are four centres in Pakistan to pick from: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Mirpur. Once the appointment is made you will have to decide how to submit your evidence.
There are four ways to submit your evidence to UK Visas and Immigration, the decision making body, through VFS Global:
This is usually my way of doing things. It ensures I can check all evidence uploaded and that I do not have to rely on a third party scanning things. Under this option, all scans have to be correctly uploaded before the appointment and proof of upload provided together with the usual passports and any other ancillary items taken to the biometrics appointment. They will usually retain your passport unless the ‘keep my passport’ service is purchased (criteria and fees apply).
This option can be purchased ahead of time on VFS Global and the receipt to be brought to the biometrics appointment together with your originals passports and appointment sheet. The staff at the VAC will scan everything and pass back to you. Like in option one above, the passport is usually retained unless the optional service of keeping the passport is purchased.
VFS Global’s guide to options 3 and 4 can be found here. The UK options are usually best for those that have all documents in the UK and do not want to bother scanning themselves, nor send the documents onwards to Pakistan.
After you have attended your biometric appointment, and submit your documents in one of the many ways allowed, you enter the waiting period for consideration. The general service standards for settlement application indicate that a decision will be made within 12 weeks from the date the biometrics are enrolled. There is a priority service offered for those that meet the criteria at an additional cost of PKR 121104. Under this, UK Visas and Immigration aims to make a decision within 30 working days from the date the biometrics are enrolled. The caveat of course is that this is their ‘aim’ and not a guarantee. In my experience, applications in Pakistan, regardless of which VAC is chosen, usually surpass this timescale, despite meeting the qualifying criteria and presenting no factual or evidential complexities. It is worthwhile therefore being mindful of delays when considering purchasing this service or planning ahead.
The making of a decision is conveyed through a cryptic email which informs you that a decision has been made on your application (they don’t bother to tell you the result). Following that email, they either text or email you again to confirm that the actual passport and decision letter is ready for collection. Once collected, the decision is revealed inside the package.
If visa is granted, you will receive your passport back with an entry-clearance vignette stamp which will enable you to enter the UK. For spouse / partner visas this will be valid for 30 days. After arrival in the UK you will then collect a card (it looks like an ID card) called a Biometric Residence Permit which sets out your full visa details and duration. This is normally collected from a post office closest to your residence in the UK or a different location, if you selected an alternative place when completing the online application form. Those granted fiancé visas will not collect a Biometric Residence Permit, rather, their whole 6 months will be endorsed on the vignette in the passport.
For those who do not wish to go back to the VAC after the decision is made, can purchase a courier service for delivery of their passport following decision. The service costs PKR 2750 and is advertised on their website as ‘safe and convenient’, a statement which is yet to be tested by any of my risk-averse clients. If interested, purchase this on VFS Global’s website ahead of your appointment.
If you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed with this process, please do get in touch with us. Our family migration team has years of experience dealing with this type of work and will work with you to take as much of the stress and uncertainty out of the process as possible. We can work remotely with clients abroad. Our online contact form is the best way to get in touch with us.
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