Becca Jane St Clair

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My Visa Journey Part 3: Citizenship

invitation I became eligible for my UK citizenship in January 2013 after three years of residency, but we did not submit my application until September 2014. At the time I submitted my application, I was quoted as it taking 3-6 months to process, but closer to six….so imagine my surprise on Saturday when I got my acceptance letter! Total time from application being submitted to letter arriving on my doorstep was 6 weeks and 6 days!

The application itself is pretty straight forward. You download it off the website. Don’t forget to download the guide and booklet to filling out the application as well as the payment form*! The current fee is £906, but this usually increases every 6-12 months, so it’s a good idea for you to double check with the website. I think the most frustrating part for me was finding the application online as UKBA used to have it’s own separate website and sometime between getting my ILR in 2012 and now, they moved all their files over to Google to the rescue!

You can either send your application in on your own (and send all your original documents) or you can pay £50 to your local council for a Nationality Checking Service. At this appointment, they will photocopy all of your documents and send those so you will not need to send in your originals.

Before you start to fill out the application, you need to get your photograph taken. I went to Snappy Snaps and had 4 photos done for £10. I’ve since used one for my provisional driver’s license and will use the remaining two when I apply for my British passport. You also could use one of those £5 machines in Tesco, Asda, etc. but every time we tried to get mine done the machine seemed to be down. I also preferred having mine done by a person and not a machine, because this ensured my photograph met the exact standards. Photos in hand, I was ready for the second important part of my application: your references.

You need to have two references. Both references need to have known you for at least three years. One needs to fit some very specific criteria** such as being a business owner, and the other reference needs to hold a valid British passport. Your first reference does not necessarily need to be British, by the way and neither referee can be related to you, even by marriage. Fortunately for me, I have been friends with the owner of MediVisas (BTW, an excellent source of advice!) for well over three years and I used one of our local 16mm members who I have known since I was first a visitor in 2008.


Before you sit down to fill out your application, you should first make sure you fit the residency criteria. As the spouse of a British citizen, I was eligible after three years of residency. Even though I waited longer, they are only interested in the past three years. You must have been in the country (not travelling) on the date exactly three years before the date of your application, and in the past three years you must not have been out of the UK for more than a total of 270 days and no more than 90 in the past 12 months. You also will need to know the exact dates you were out of the country (if you didn’t keep track, just go back through your passport stamps). Days spent partially in the UK (date you left and date you returned) do not count. You will need to enter the dates (for the past three years only if applying as a spouse) on page 7. If you run out of space, you can add additional details on page 13.

In addition to needing to know when you were out of the country, you need to list all of your UK addresses for the past 5 (three as a spouse) years. This can prove difficult for people who have moved multiple times. If you are reading this now with an eye to gaining citizenship, start keeping track of your addresses!

If you didn’t need to take the Life in the UK test for your ILR, you will need to take this test before you can apply for citizenship. If you are not from an English speaking country, you also will need to take an English language tests. Details for both of these can be found on the website. Hopefully, you kept hold of your LitUK test result paper, because you will need to send it with your application. If you don’t have it, you will need to take the test again, as they do not re-issue pass certificates.

You also will need to know your parents full names (including maiden for mother), birth date, nationality, and birth place, as well as all of this information for your spouse.

If you book a Nationality Checking Service appointment, you will need to bring:

-Your current passport and your passport with your current visa (if it’s in an expired passport)
-Your expired passport if it shows dates you were out of the country in the past 3 years***
-Your birth certificate
-Spouse’s current passport
-Spouse’s birth certificate
-Marriage certificate (the certified one, not the pretty one)
-Life in the UK Test pass certificate
-English language test results (if applicable)
-Proof of current address+
-Any other documents showing a change in identity (examples: adoption certificates for you or your spouse, divorce papers if either of you were previously married)
-Any other travel documents as issued by the Home Office. If you have a biometric card, bring it (I don’t have one).
-£50 to pay for the Nationality Checking Service (My council only accepted cash)
-Completed Application
-Payment slip for citizenship plus payment (No cash accepted. Card or Cheque only)

Please note that if any of your documents are in a language other than English, you will need to get them translated.

My Nationality Checking Service appointment was on a Wednesday morning. I did not need to bring my spouse along with me, but I did need to bring his documents. My appointment took about 15 minutes because I had organized everything ahead of time in a document folio in the exact order it would be needed. The woman who did my review praised my organisation….I couldn’t imagine doing these things without keeping my paperwork organised! As we went through my application, she had a checklist of documents and after we made the stack, she left the room to photocopy everything and returned all of my original documents to me. If you do not use the checking service, you cannot send copies and would need to send your originals.


At the appointment, I was told I would hear from them in about 2 weeks letting me know the payment had been taken, and then I wouldn’t hear again for 6 months as that was how long it was taking to process applications. Well, I must be lucky as my letter arrived this weekend — what a perfect fifth anniversary present for us!

First thing Monday morning (today!) is ringing up the county council office to schedule my citizenship ceremony! Unfortunately, I can’t apply for my British passport right away as I am travelling to the US in January and I do not think I would have my passport back in time, but at least I will have my new passport before my trip to the US in May! (and yes, I will keep my blue US one too! I get to be a dual citizen!)


*When I went to my appointment, they had copies of the payment form, but to be on the safe side I would print one out.
**The guide claims there is a “list on our website”, but I could never find it. However, the full list if acceptable referees can be found here.
***If you have travelled to a country that is part of the CTA (such as Ireland) it’s a good idea if you have copies of your boarding cards if you flew or took a ferry to show the dates you entered and left. I’m not sure if this was a requirement, but I submitted the information as I listed Ireland on my dates out of the UK.
+This is not listed as a requirement, however I was asked for this at my appointment. Fortunately, I had with me the letter I recieved with my ILR that listed my current address, although she did tell me it would have been okay if I didn’t.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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My Visa Journey Part 2: ILR (aka Permanent Residency)

Yesterday was probably the most nerve-wracking and important day in our lives. As if getting married and applying for a Spousal Visa wasn’t bad enough, it only lasts for 2 years (technically, 28 months to give extra time in case you arrived more than a month after your visa was issued). To stay in the UK longer, you currently need to apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain AKA Permanent Residency). You can apply by post or in-person. The in-person appointment has a heftier fee, but it’s an immediate decision and saves weeks of finger nail biting. We decided on an in-person appointment for peace of mind, and also just in case we decide to go abroad on a long weekend (we’ve toyed with a weekend in Paris, but might put it off so we can save more for a trip to Austria in June).

My appointment was for 11:15 at the Sheffield PEO office and the appointment information states you should arrive 30 minutes before your slot. We decided to take public transportation the whole way starting with a bus at 7:40AM out of the village. Our train was running early and we actually arrived at the PEO office with an hour to spare.

Getting through security was an ordeal. There was a couple behind us complaining that their appointment was in 10 minutes and I couldn’t help but wonder why they hadn’t read the information on the website! To get through security, we had to take the batteries out of our mobile phones to show the inside. We were allowed to put the phones back together, but we had to leave them off the whole time we were in the PEO. Tim made the best blunder of the day by forgetting his dress shoes were work issued and had steel toes! Fortunately, security just waved him through after I said “it’s the shoes”.

We checked in early and were quite surprised to get called up to the desk within 5 minutes. Our case worker, Joe, looked at my application and asked me when I filled it out. I told him I had printed it off the website a few days prior and he said “everyone’s been telling me that, but this is the old form”. He then handed me the new form and asked me to fill it out. There are NO differences between the old form and the new form, save for the fact that the bottom of the new form says “10/2011” and the old form “04/2011”. Apparently, the website hadn’t been updated with the new form and everyone coming in this week has had to re-do their form on arrival. I told the man at reception I had finished the new application, and before we even found seats in the crowded lobby, we were called to the desk again.

This time, Joe went through our entire packet. He asked me where in New York I was from, and I puzzled him by answering “I’m not”. I then explained how I was born in Brooklyn, but my parents moved when I was a baby. Surprisingly, he knew where Princeton was after he didn’t know where Hightstown was. He checked to make sure we had the required documents, transferred it into a plastic document folder, and told us to proceed to the payment counter. We had to wait for about 10 minutes while someone came to the counter, but the money was soon out of our account and the woman at the payment counter said she would “pop (y)our documents over to the case worker” and that he would be with us “shortly”.

Shortly turned into two hours. Two nervous hours. I tried reading, but I couldn’t even tell you what I was reading. I couldn’t even speak to Tim because I knew if I opened my mouth I might start crying from all the stress. I kept worrying that we had missed something, or something was wrong. I kept wondering if I should go back up to Joe to ask him if they needed more documents, because I had two years of bank statements, payslips, etc. with me just in case. Finally, we were called to another window where we faced a stony-faced man named John.

From the look on his face, I was expecting bad news, but he surprised me by telling us we had been approved! He then chatted with Tim about his job for a little, and asked us how we met (in some ways, I wonder if he was checking the information on file from my first application, but I’ll pretend he really was interested). He then told us we could leave and return in a half hour to 45 minutes for the visa to be processed. I really wish they had given us the option of leaving and returning during the two hour wait instead!

We left and walked down the river to a Tesco Extra for a snack and by the time we got back and went through security again, my visa was ready! Happy day! What a relief!

We celebrated by having a late lunch at Meadowhall at our favourite restaurant, Frankie and Benny’s.

As of January 2012*, These are the minimum required documents for ILR (if settling as a spouse**):
-Completed ILR application. The bottom of the application should read “10/2011”.
-Life in the UK pass certificate
-Your passport
-Your spouse’s passport
-Two passport photos of yourself
-One passport photo of your spouse
-Three most recent payslips for your spouse and yourself (if applicable***)
-Three most recent bank statements (jointly held or singly held)
-Six pieces of post spread out over the previous two years illustrating that you and your spouse share an address. Alternately, you may use six addressed to each of you for a total of 12. They should be from at least three different sources****.

Anything else is just extra fodder and they honestly don’t need it unless you need further documents to prove residency, employment, or funds. If you are in doubt, contact an immigration lawyer^.

All hurdles are complete for settlement in the UK. Once you have ILR, as long as you do not leave the country for an extended period of time (I believe it currently is two years), you are permitted to live here.

My plans? Citizenship, once I become eligible. As a spouse and under current rules, I will become eligible on January 22, 2013, after three years of residency.

*Please check the UKBA website for up to date information as requirements can change at any time and use my information as a rough guide.
**ILR applicants that fall under other categories have additional requirements. See website and application for details.
***Include payslips from whoever is employed. If you both have jobs, include payslips for each.
****My documents were council tax bills for both 2010 and 2011, e.on bills from random months in 2010 and 2011, a barclay’s bank statement, and a Santander/Soverign Bank statement. If you have changed address, you might require more documents.
^ I did not contact a lawyer to review my application as I felt fairly confident I knew what I was doing based on my own research. However, I brought along additional information in case we were asked for it including our birth certificates, marriage certificate, expired passports, Tim’s payslips for the previous two years, bank statements for the past 6 months, mortgage statements for both 2010 and 2011, and pieces of mail for each month from January 2010 to December 2011 addressed to either myself, Tim, or both of us. If I was sending my application by post, I might have included some of the other documents.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Taking the Life in the UK Test

I took my Life in the UK test today and passed! The test honestly took 5 minutes and that included going back over a few questions I was unsure of and reviewing all my answers….and I only started studying about three days ago. This post will NOT tell you what questions will be on the test (it’s randomized anyway), but it could help you prepare for it.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Life in the UK test (LiUK) is the test everyone must pass before they can obtain permanent residency/citizenship. The test is in English, so if English isn’t your first language you will be certified as part of an English course. I have no idea if you get given the same test or not, but I’ll assume if you’re reading this that you speak English!

Before you can book a test, you will need to register on the Life in the UK test website. After you register, you will have the option of booking your test. You put in your postcode, and the site will tell you where the closest testing centre is. If you click on the centre you want to take your test at, it will take you to a calendar page and show you the available dates and times for that centre. If you don’t like the dates on offer, you can go back and pick a different centre. This is how I wound up taking my test at Nottingham since the Lincoln centre only does tests every other Friday.

The test costs £50, which you will need to pay when you book it. You also will need to enter details from your identification. It is very important that you bring that same piece of identification with you when you take the test. If your ID does not match exactly, you will automatically fail the test. The computer system allows three tries to match an ID before it locks someone out of taking the test. If you get disqualified from taking the test, you will not be refunded and you will need to re-book a test.

As far as studying goes, your best bet is to purchase the official guidebooks published by the UKBA. That book has everything you need to know in it (link to be posted later), including some additional information about Britain’s history, ILR, and citizenship. The important chapters are chapters 2-6. You can also purchase other guides, but make sure they contain chapters 2-6 of the official guide or you might not learn the correct information. The official books will be the most accurate and the most up-to-date, as the test is not updated annually. Purchasing a book that says it has been “updated for the 2011 census” will not help you since the test was last updated in 2007 or so.

If you do not want to purchase the books, you can borrow the official books from your local library. Now that I’ve passed my test, I can offer the first person to comment on this entry directly on my blog ( the copies of the book I used, which I received second hand from my friend Jessy after she passed her test last year. I have both the official Journey to Citizenship book and the practice question book. I also purchased a non-official study guide that has quizzes for each chapter I will pass along. I do not want any money for them, but I will only send them within the UK.

I also wound up downloading a non-official study guide for my Kindle, too. I found it much easier for me as I could read the Kindle version anytime and anywhere. There also are websites to help you and Tim and I even saw a computer program for it, so there are loads of options out there.

The practice tests I took really helped, even if I did blitz about 10 of them the night before. I even had 2 questions on my test nearly word-for-word out of one of the practice tests!

Taking the Test

The test is pass/fail, but you need to get at least 18 out of 24 questions right. The test will be a combination of multiple choice and true/false. There are no open-ended questions, and no room to add any comments.

Navigating the test is pretty easy. There will be a row of 24 boxes at the top for the questions. If you have selected an answer, the box will be coloured in (blue). If you have looked at the question but not answered it, the box will have a blue outline. A plain box indicates that you have not yet looked at the question or answered it. Opposite the boxes will be your timer. You have 45 minutes to take the test, and the test is set up to give you warnings at the halfway mark, 10 and 2 minutes remaining. The middle section is where the questions and answers are. The bottom left has buttons to move between the previous and next question, and the bottom right has the “finish test” button. DO NOT CLICK “FINISH TEST” UNTIL YOU ARE SURE YOU ARE DONE. If you accidentally click it, there will be a second screen asking you if you are sure, but if you exit the test you cannot get back into it and if you did not complete the test, you risk failing it.

You will not be allowed to have anything with you on the desk other than your ID, but you can ask for paper and a pencil. I was the only one who asked for it, but I found it helpful when I was asked a statistic question and I was able to write down all the numbers I could remember from the book. I also used my paper to keep track of which questions I wanted to make sure I went back and looked at again. I had four questions I wasn’t positive of the answer, but since you only need 18 correct to pass, I was confident when I walked out.

You are not allowed to talk or look at someone else’s computer while taking the test. Both will result in an automatic fail. The testing centre I was at allowed you to bring in personal items (handbags, phones, etc), but you had to turn OFF the phones and leave everything under your desk. We were told that if they even heard a phone vibrating while you were taking the test that you would be disqualified.

Like I said, you will have 45 minutes to complete your test in, but in my honest opinion, you only need at the most 20. Most of my friends who have taken it before me have said it took them 5-10 minutes. I was done in about 5, including double-checking my answers. The test is not a race though, so take as much of the 45 minutes that you need!

This may be specific to the testing centre in Nottingham only, but when I was done with my test, I was able to leave the room and join Tim in the waiting room by raising my hand. Tim and I talked about the test, and I talked with another person who had taken the test. We were then called in individually to get our score, but we were called in while people were still taking the test. I understand at some centres, you need to wait until everyone has finished before getting results. I was walking out the door well before the 45 minutes would have passed. Your result will not tell you how many questions you got right or wrong, only if you passed or failed. Your pass certificate will get stamped and signed, and you need to keep this safe as you cannot get a second copy. If you lose it, you will have to take the test all over again.

To those of you taking the test in the future, good luck!

[Please note that any information about the Life in the UK test or ILR and citizenship requirements are valid as of 10 November 2011. If you are reading this for advice in the future, please double check the information against the official UKBA website.]

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Life in the UK

No time for a real entry today, it’s time to cram, cram, cram.

I have my Life in the UK test tomorrow in Nottingham. I have to pass this test in order to be eligible to apply for my ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) also known as permanent residency. It’s a short test, but there’s a lot riding on it. I’ve been studying like mad for the past few weeks and it will all come to head tomorrow morning.

I’m taking my test in Nottingham because the testing centre in Lincoln only does tests every other Friday and when I went to book a test, the first date wasn’t until the 25th. Fortunately, the testing centre in Nottingham is only about a mile from the railway station.

Wish me luck!!

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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I am an Immigrant

Apparently, there is going to be a speech made today (or maybe it has been made already) about more changes to the UK immigration system. My reliable source told me not to worry, and it looks like by “cutting family visas”, they mean more restrictions on people who come over as dependants of people here on work visas. Not family visas where you’ve moved to the UK to live with your family. Whew. My friend also pointed out to me that they already did put restrictions on the family based visa, based on the new English test, which isn’t aimed at people from English speaking countries anyway. The government scrapped the “Earned Citizenship” route as well, which affects my permanent residency, because it now looks like I am back to applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in December 2011 instead of the new Probationary Citizenship that was to go into effect in July 2011.

But all the talk lately about immigration rules changing, caps being made, and fees raising reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Erin a few weeks back. It was right around US election day and I mentioned to her that I hadn’t registered for an absentee ballot. My reasoning behind this was that I felt since I no longer lived in Lancaster/Pennsylvania/the United States, I really shouldn’t be making decisions on how things are run. I’m not there every day to experience life under [insert name of politician], and being in the UK means I only get exposed to print media, which as we all know, can be biased. I don’t think not voting made me a “bad American”, either.

I can’t vote in the UK, either. I am an immigrant, and even with permanent residency, I still can’t vote. In order to vote in the UK, you need to have citizenship. I have every intention on gaining UK citizenship when I am eligible (should be January 2013, if my calculations are right) because I feel that since I plan on spending the rest of my life here, I should be able to state my views on the government and be able to vote. It killed me not being able to vote in the May election.

I was discussing things over with Erin, and I proposed to her my idea — You should be able to vote where you live, regardless of immigration status. Obviously, some rules would need to be made to keep people from moving just for an election, but why shouldn’t you be able to vote where you live and vote for the candidates that you support?

I’m also in favour of “world citizenship” and having it not matter where you wish to live. Ever notice on a sci-fi show how they almost always refer to the government as “earth” or “world”? Why can’t we have that now*? Yes, I know. Overpopulation. If we had world citizenship, then everyone might move towards the “desirable” places to live, and places that were “undesirable”, like deserts where you can’t grow anything, would soon become abandoned. But it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

I never thought I would become an immigrant. Immigrants were my dad’s parents, and my mom’s great-great-grandparents. Not me. But, here we are. I am an immigrant. And I’m happy.

*Okay, so it’s been pointed out that a government controlling the world isn’t such a hot idea…but that’s not really what I meant. I’m more for the “world citizenship”, not world government!

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Staying in the UK

I often get asked what the process is for staying in the UK permanently, so I thought a post about it was in order. First, I want to explain that any information I post below is valid as of 13 May 2010. If you have found this post at a later date as part of a search or in the archives, there is a very big chance the information is out of date.

I am in the UK on a two-year spousal visa. Tim and I had to pay £585 for this very elaborate sticker. After the two years are up, we will need to apply for a further visa for me to stay. Under the OLD system, this would have been called ILR – Indefinite Leave to Remain, and would have meant I could permanently stay in the UK and could apply for citizenship if I wanted to, but it would not be mandatory. When the BCI (Borders, Citizenship, and Immigration) Bill was passed in July 2009, the decision to remove ILR as an option as of July 2011 was made. As I will become eligible for my next visa in December 2011, I will fall under the “new rules”…

All we know is it will be called “Probationary Citizenship” and if you want to stay in the UK you will HAVE to apply for citizenship. The few details released are that the road to citizenship will take 5 years or 3 years if you do volunteer work…but this is all we know.

As soon as we have more information, I’ll let everyone know.

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Made it to the UK!

For those of you wondering, I made it to the UK! 😀 I even managed to get the last seat in Business Class for the flight instead of having to fly in Economy Plus. Woot. United has incredible service (at least in Business Class). I don’t think my water glass was ever empty, and they were constantly trying to push glasses of wine!

The food was alright, but I wound up having to have the steak wrapped in bacon, which as a vegetarian was a no-no. So I ate the salad, the veggies, and potatoes. Fortunately, I had planned ahead for this and packed a bento so I had plenty of food.

We actually got to London around 5:30, but because planes aren’t allowed to land until 6, we had to circle around. 6 was still early for our flight, and we were the only international flight heading to immigrations/customs.

Going through Immigration/Customs was a breeze! Tim wrote a letter stating he had invited me for the length of time I was staying, and that *really* helped.

Of course, this meant I was ready to go by 6:30, and Tim wasn’t coming to get me until 7:30!

Tim and I decided we would make afew stops on the way back, and after trying to stop at two different manor houses that were both closed for the season, and being unable to locate the castle he wanted to take me to, we headed to Stamford for a few hours. We walked the town and the shops – a lady in a store selling hair clips convinced Tim to buy my clips (75p), and we went in a few used bookstores.

I loved Stamford. Such a lovely old beautiful town with even prettier buildings.

A sneak peek of some photos:

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