Britain’s newest royal—Meghan Markle—still has a battle ahead of her before she can truly declare herself a Brit: the U.K.’s Immigration System. In Britain, as in the United States, the path to citizenship through marriage to a British citizen is lengthy, painstaking, and, some have reported, scary. Meghan Markle will be treated no differently. At least according to what Kensington Palace said in a statement last year: “Meghan Markle will be compliant with all immigration requirements, and of course has taken advice on that throughout the process. . .” The process, much to the dismay of the royal family, is quite long.
According to the Home Office, Markle presumably would have first entered the U.K. with a British Fiancé Visa, which gave her 6 months to marry Prince Harry or face a violation of her visa status and possible deportation. Assuming she maintained that status until her marriage to Prince Harry on last Saturday, Markle may now apply to the British Home Office for “leave to remain,” giving her another 2½ years. When this expires, Markle must request a 2½-year extension of her “leave to remain” before she can apply for “indefinite leave to remain”—the British equivalent to the American permanent residency (“green card”). That is over 5 years to permanent residency alone.
And with each application, the Prince and his American Princess must go through a grueling process, including showing the couple can afford to support their lives (they must earn a combined annual income of at least £18,600 ($24,983.71 US), undergoing extensive background checks, and establishing that Markle married Prince Harry not because he is a prince, or to become a royal herself, or just to become a Brit. The couple must prove “love.”
How do you prove “love” to a British immigration officer? You bare your soul and give up your marital privacy. From the photos, videos, texts, recordings, and details that would make the Queen blush, to what they ate for dinner last night, and the night before, and the night before that.
Only after all of this happens, and another 12 months pass, can Markle finally apply for British citizenship—a process that itself could take years.
Just over 7 years from courtship to citizenship for Britain’s new royal—nearly 4 years longer than it would take in the United States.
Unlike for other Americans who marry Brits, Markle’s country of citizenship is quite important, particularly to the royal family, because of 3 letters: I.R.S.
Stay tuned to The NMM Immigration Blog to learn about Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry and the Royal Fear of the I.R.S.