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I am a UK national and have a girlfriend who was born and lives in Belgrade, Serbia. I have visited her over there for a period of 5 days, but now we see that for her to come to the UK she must acquire a Standard Visitor visa.

She owns her own apartment in Belgrade, also has a stable job there where she has worked for 4.5 years. We hoped that she could quit her job there and come and live with me for 6 months, with me as her "sponsor" (I live in rented accommodation earning £35,000 per annum), then have her return to Serbia to get a Marriage visa.

The problem is we cannot find any clarity online as to if we should apply for her to come to the UK specifying for a short visit, like for 2-3 weeks only, or if we should state that she is coming for the full 6 months to be with me?

The above linked page, summarising what a SVV is for, states:

You can’t [...] live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits.

  • 1) Does this mean it would be ok for her to live with me for one long 6 month visit?
  • 2) If so, is it sufficient for me to show payslips/bank statements showing my earnings, and that she would stay with me without her having to declare large amounts of funds in her own bank account?
  • 3a) Is it best to have her just stay for a short 2-3 week vacation visit, go back to her job, then apply for a marriage visa later down the road for her to come here and marry me?
  • 3b) If the answer to 3a is yes, can she safely return for a second 2-3 week visit to the UK within that 6 month visa period?
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    3a sounds like the much better plan. From a Visa point of view, the "stable job" is mostly of value in that it shows a reason to return to Serbia. Quitting it completely demolishes that. – CMaster May 14 at 16:04
  • @CMaster I expect it also helps allay fears that the local guy might be involved in human trafficking - if they have a stable job at home, they'd be a lot less likely to be willing to move to a different country to become a prostitute and/or less vulnerable to being coerced into being a prostitute after they arrive. – nick012000 May 14 at 23:26
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In theory, yes, she can do this. The limit is six months, and if she plans to stay for six months or less, it's allowed. The problem is that she is likely to be denied, because a "genuine visitor" does not quit their job before traveling to the UK. That is probably only one of several red flags the visa officer might notice, but it is certainly among the most prominent.

One thing she certainly should not do is say that she's visiting for a short time and then remain for a longer time. While she would not be violating the terms of her admission, she would be vulnerable to suspicion of deception in a subsequent application for a visa or for entry. That can lead to a ban of 10 years.

With that in mind, some answers:

1) Does this mean it would be ok for her to live with me for one long 6 month visit?

Technically, yes, but the chance is good that her visa might be denied or she might be sent back at the border.

2) If so, is it sufficient for me to show payslips/bank statements showing my earnings, and that she would stay with me without her having to declare large amounts of funds in her own bank account?

She must always show her own bank account. The visa officer needs to have as full a picture as possible of her finances. On top of that, the more money she has, the more likely she will be seen as someone who isn't inclined to work illegally. If her bank balance is small, then you should show your financial records to show that you can support her. Adding money to her account for the purpose of the visa application is likely to lead to rejection of the visa application, and it can also lead to suspicion of deception, which is mentioned above. (Also see posts containing "funds parking".)

3a) Is it best to have her just stay for a short 2-3 week vacation visit, go back to her job, then apply for a marriage visa later down the road for her to come here and marry me?

Yes. That makes her life in Serbia look much more stable, meaning that she will be that much more likely to be granted a visa.

3b) If the answer to 3a is yes, can she safely return for a second 2-3 week visit to the UK within that 6 month visa period?

Absolutely. A couple of 2-to-3-week visits over six months is a much more reasonable pattern for two people with stable lives who are in a long-distance relationship.

I live in rented accommodation...

You'll need to show that your landlord has given permission for her to stay with you.

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    Thanks for the great answer @phoog – ajmedway May 13 at 22:40
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    @ajmedway they do issue them, so probably fairly realistic, especially after several months of visits. You might want to look around at Expatriates and ask there. – phoog May 13 at 22:47
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    "You'll need to show that your landlord has given permission for her to stay with you." For six months, sure -- they'd essentially be living at the property. For a couple of weeks, though? I can't see a landlord having any reason to object to that, so would a visa officer really expect to see permission? – David Richerby May 14 at 7:31
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    @ajmedway Almost no supporting evidence is mandatory, but you're defending against the person looking at the forms deciding your girlfriend might be evicted from your flat and need the money for a hotel until her trip home. Check what your tenancy agreement says about guests. – origimbo May 14 at 10:24
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    @ajmedway visa officers (and border officers) are indeed more likely to suspect that she might want to stay if they think the two of you are in a romantic relationship. But they are also likely to suspect deception if you try to make it look like you're "just friends" when that is not the case, and the consequences of suspected deception are more severe. There is indeed nothing wrong with a long-distance girlfriend visiting you, and the best way to address the question of possible overstays is directly: make it clear that she has a home in Belgrade and a decent job there. – phoog May 15 at 14:29
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If your marriage is already decided, it would be better to keep it to the short visits until the marriage and bring your then-wife to UK afterwards. Even if your girlfriend manages to get a 6-months visitor visa to join you in the UK, she will not be able to work or study legally. What do you personally expect her to do during the 6 months? This is also the question that your girlfriend will likely be asked at the visa interview and at the immigration control, and unless she has a convincing answer, she likely won't get through.

  • On the other hand, won't a very quick marriage raise red flags? – domen May 14 at 9:25
  • @domen What counts as a "quick marriage"? Anyway, the OP doesn't seem to mention how long they have been in a relationship. – Dmitry Grigoryev May 14 at 9:33
  • @DmitryGrigoryev We have been in contact via internet-based friendship for a few years but in recent 3 months in regular/daily phone contact and I have been to Serbia for 5 days. – ajmedway May 14 at 9:36
  • From what I understand there was a one 5 day visit. Flight takes only 2h or so. I know long distance is a thing, but this would raise red flags for me. – domen May 14 at 9:37
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    @ajmedway You should invite your girlfriend for short stays in UK, and visit her in Serbia. If you only spent together those 5 days, don't rush into marriage unless you know her better (that's just common sense). When you're certain about the marriage, you can apply for the marriage visa, or even marry her in Serbia. – Dmitry Grigoryev May 14 at 11:28

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