This part is possibly one of the most time consuming elements of the whole visa process, because you’re mostly relying on other people who aren’t working to the same emotional, panic driven schedule as you.
For us, people are so supportive and excited about the prospect of us coming back that we didn’t really have to nag anyone too much to get their statements back to us. I would say, however, to start thinking about this part first.
This element can be ticking over in the background while you’re getting the rest of the documentation ready.
Perhaps the strangest part of these statements is writing down, in tangible terms how I felt about Zac, and seeing his version of what he feels for me.
Even stranger is reading that from an outside perspective.
You never really get to hear what people think of your relationship (weddings aside); usually you’re not hearing people’s real opinions until it’s over and by then, they’re more than a little negatively skewed.
It was humbling and also slightly overwhelming to see how supportive people are of our relationship, how much they want us to be able to be together, even if that puts 10,000 miles between them and us, how happy they think (they know) we are.
You’ll understand when you get to it.
We didn’t brief anyone on what to write in our statements, as such.
We wanted them to sound completely natural, but the facts have to be spot on.
With the best will in the world, not even my sister knows the exact date Zac and I met (even though I’ve told her), she doesn’t know when our first date was, when we moved in together, all those little details that even we aren’t certain of empirically.
But people were worried about doing it ‘wrong’.
They didn’t want to be the reason our visa application went tits up and for a lot of people, just coaxing the statement out of them without a template took additional time.
We told everyone to state their job and how they knew us and then told them when and how we met (as if they’d forget: we’re that couple who love telling our “How we met…” story, predictably ending with “So now I’ve got this weirdo just following me around the world…”), when we moved in, when we decided to move back to the UK and what our plans for the future were. They were to include when they met Zac or when they met me and a little back story on their opinion of our relationship and how we hang out together.
The social context of the relationship is really important, but also really hard to prove.
How do you show on a form that you are in love, that you socialise as a couple, that it’s all real? That’s why we didn’t want to give anyone any guidance other than the facts.
You’ll have to put up with a lot of moaning that people don’t know what to write, but formal or informal, it doesn’t really matter.
We had statements ranging from…
“It was pretty clear how happy she was with how she spoke about him. We soon had Zac over with her for a group catch up and then a few weeks later they came for dinner just as a couple. They were always very affectionate and had lots of fun together.”
“I really don’t know how I can sum it up for you in any other way than their love is magic. Something really quite wonderful has happened here.”
“We still regularly chat about sport, particularly with cricket season underway and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him better as a permanent feature in Becky’s life. It is clear for anyone who meets them together that they are very much in love, and I would be very surprised if I ever heard of a breakdown in their relationship.”
On a more personal level, the statements that you each provide are probably the most important and ours were 3 – 4 pages each.
Statements from friends, family, colleagues don’t need to be long, (mostly they were 1 page) but it made sense that ours were more in depth – we’ve got the biggest scoop on what makes us, ‘us’ after all!
A few key things to remember…
– Dates/times need to be spot on, check and double check. While we knew exactly when things happened (we were there after all) I’d written one date and Zac had written another. Double check the calendar against dates you can prove (pictures, tickets etc.) and then backtrack – you’ll be surprised how early/late some things may have happened compared to your ‘internal calendar’.
– Make sure your pronouns are consistent. If you both did something, it’s we. Throughout this process there is no I and me, she, her, his or him, it’s all we.
Zac moved in to my house very early into our relationship, and while he still had his place, we used it for the washing machine and the telly – we weren’t living there. Probably because it was still early in our relationship we never officially termed it ‘our’ house, but that distinction has to be made clear. Zac was paying bills, buying things for the house, doing the gardening, cleaning the bathroom, he had his own set of keys – it was his house. Within a month we’d moved the telly to mine and did laundry at his Mum’s house, only ducking past his place to see the cats or when my sister was visiting to give her a night in a ‘real’ bed, but when we were still being tentative about our relationship we didn’t want to say those big scary words: “We’ve moved in together.”
With hindsight of course, it doens’t matter, but make sure that there are no slip ups in your pronouns.
If needs be, get someone else to double check things for you.
– Don’t be afraid to sound cheesy. If you can’t imagine you’re life without them, even if you’ve never told them that, say it. I’m not suggesting you overly romanticise your whole relationship, but when I was writing my statement it really drove it home just how much Zac meant to me.
(Even when he storms in to the office while I’m writing, pretending to be a horse, whinnying in my ear and not leaving until I give him a kiss)
For me, until it’s written down it’s an abstract concept, I can pretend it’s not real, but once the words have come out, once I’ve taken the time to write them, that’s probably when I really start to feel them.
Maybe that’s a writer’s thing.
– Most importantly don’t get disheartened. There are going to be times when it feels incredibly overwhelming, when you feel like you want to stop, like it was a terrible idea, but you’re too far in now to quit. There’s a hell of a lot to get done and the omnipotent fear of ‘Immigration’ can make you second guess everything: don’t.
Easier said than done, but I’m spending the rest of my life with Zac, one way or another, this is just another one of those formalities, and sometimes knowing that just about makes it seem manageable again.