I am a Brit, as is my daughter. My wife is not, however, and she's is France with a 5 year Carte de Sejour, being non European. She recently applied for and got a visa to vist the USA with me and my daughter to attend my eldest son's wedding in Washington DC. The visa application was fairly complicated but smooth, including the interview at the USA Paris consulate. Although we didn't actually ask for a visa of that length she was given one for ten years. The whole procedure was not one that led to anxiety and on arrival in the USA we were through in five minutes flat.
My other son is also getting married this year, but in the UK. As my wife has a Schengen visa only she is required to get a visa to enter the UK even when accompanied by me and our daughter. We applied for a visa for two years (320 euros) which involved a great deal of paperwork, a visit to an office in a distant suburb of Paris, where photos and fingerprints were taken. She then handed over a vast amount of paperwork including our marriage certificate, passports for all of us, a detailed intinerary in the UK, paid over 30 euros for a delivery bag. I should say that we live in distant Brittany so a considerable journey and cost was involved.
A week later her application was refused. The reasons given that there was no evidence that we had any relations in the UK (there are in fact only four people in the UK with our surname to my knowledge and we are all related! We had given full details of where we would be staying in the itinerary and a covering letter giving details of the wedding) and that there was no evidence that my wife had sufficient funds for the week. (I am paying for everything, not uncommon when one is bringing up a young family)
The very next day we made a new application, this time submitting far more financial information, inluding the following documentation:
Application form 15 pages
Interview arrangement (ineternet booking required)
Payment another 100 euros plus an envelope at that end costing abot 30 euros
Covering letter 2 pages
Itinerary whilst in UK all addresses etc
Wedding invitations and copy
Covering letter from my son and his passport details
Colour copies of three passports with originals
Marriage Cert plus copy
Financial info on me
Bank statements and copy 2 banks (me)
Bank Statements and copy (wife)
Financial projection and copy
Rates Bills and copy (Habitation, Fonciere)
Income tax receipt and copy (France)
Wife's French employment record and copy
Wife's French benefit record and copy
It was with some difficulty that my wife insisted that they took all the documents which have been submitted to prove it's a genuine application. We've been married four years in June and it's very clearly a genuine application. I am not unsupportive of tighter border controls in general but the tail is very obviously wagging the dog. At the "interview" they don't seem very concerned with taking any financial details yet in London they appear to be of great importance.
The "interview" is done by an agency which is in fact really a place for checking completeness of documents, taking photos and fingerporints only. There is no real qualitative interview and no discussion of the circumstances. The decision is taken in London and there is no chance of actually speaking with the office in London as the phone number is secret and they say there is no appeal procedure.
We await the result of the latest application with interest. If my wife is not given a visa then it will not be easy for my three year old daughter to come alone with me. I regard attendance by us as a family at my son's wedding an important family occasion. It will certainly affect my full enjoyment of the wedding, which is in June.
The cost of all the paperwork, special envelopes, applications, travel to Paris etc for what is essentially a week's visit is nearly 1000 euros so far. My budget for the whole week was 2000 euros and I have alrady made a significant contribution towards the wedding. We had arranged to stay with two lots of friends and stay two nights sightseeing in Snowdonia (hotel booked), and two nights in a hotel for the wedding (hotel booked). I have already booked and paid for the car ferry. Abortive costs could amount to another 100 euros or so.
What started out as a plan to have a lovely week in the UK, meet a few friends, do some sightseeing and attend the wedding has in fact turned out to be a total nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions. At the same time one reads daily of problems in the UK Border Agency, where persons apparently fighting vendettas against the country are allowed free passage, but my wife is not allowed to visit her stepson's marriage, even when accompanied by me. I never imagined that we would have a problem with such a visa.
Does anybody else have any ideas or experiences? It's not so much Survive France as Survive UK! I frequently receive publicity begging me to visit the UK with my family to enjoy a holiday there- they must be joking!
If another refusal is met I will be writing letters to Downing Street and the Home Office and will do anything legal to get her over!