What if Prince Harry Moved to the US To Be With Meghan Markle?

Davies Legal Immigration

On November 27, 2017 Clarence House announced the engagement of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle. Prince Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne, is set to marry Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and it is reported that the bride will become a British citizen, prior to her wedding day. But what would happen if Prince Harry decided to move to the US to be with Meghan Markle? In this article, London/Atlanta based law firm, Davies Legal Immigration, briefly examines the differences between the US and UK spousal visa application processes.

The US Spousal Visa Application Process

The US spousal visa application process is a 2 stage process:

1.    A US citizen or Green Card holder files an Immigrant Visa Petition for the benefit of their foreign national spouse; and

2.    Upon approval of the Immigrant Visa Petition, the foreign national spouse files an application for a Conditional Residence (CR-1) or Immediate Relative (IR-1) Immigrant Visa, depending upon the length of the marriage.

1.    Immigrant Visa Petition

In this instance, if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were to relocate to the US after the marriage ceremony, Meghan Markle would need to file an Immigrant Visa Petition, evidencing her bona fide relationship with and marriage to Prince Harry.

2.    Visa Application

Upon approval of the Immigrant Visa Petition filed by Meghan Markle, Prince Harry would need to file an application for a CR-1 Visa (assuming Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married for less than 2 years at the date of the application).

As part of the application process, Prince Harry would need to undergo a medical examination with a US Embassy approved physician (involving a chest X-ray, blood test and urine test) and attend an interview at the US Embassy in London.

In January 2002, BBC News reported that St James’ Palace had confirmed reports that Prince Harry had “experimented” with cannabis. If the Press reports are correct (and a formal admission of drug use was indeed made), the US Embassy may consider whether the alleged drug use would render Prince Harry inadmissible to the US. A drug-related conviction is not always necessary in order for an individual to be deemed inadmissible to the US; a mere public admission may suffice.

How Would Meghan Markle Meet the U.S Financial Sponsorship Requirements?

As part of the Immigrant Visa Application process, Prince Harry would need to adduce evidence of financial sponsorship, in the form of an Affidavit of Support.

An Affidavit of Support is a contract between a US citizen and the US Government, in which the US citizen agrees to financially support the foreign national in the US, if the need arises. The Affidavit of Support must be supported by evidence of the affiant’s annual income or assets.

An Affidavit of Support must be filed by the Petitioner, regardless of their annual income or assets. If the Petitioner does not meet the minimum annual income/asset requirement (with reference to the Federal Poverty Guidelines), a joint sponsor or sponsors may be required to support the foreign national’s Immigrant Visa application.

In this case, it is reported that former Suits actress Meghan Markle, who left the show over a year ago, has ceased her professional acting career, pending her induction into the British royal family. Assuming Meghan Markle does not currently have any product endorsement deals or any other forms of income, Meghan Markle will be unable to meet the financial requirement through employment income.

Under these circumstances, we would need to consider any assets Meghan Markle has in the UK or US, for example, real estate holdings, stocks, shares or bonds. If they are sufficient to meet the minimum asset level (which they almost certainly will be, with a reported net worth of $7million), she will be able to rely on her assets to meet the financial requirement and sponsor Prince Harry’s Immigrant Visa application.

The UK Spousal Visa Application Process & Financial Requirements

In contrast, the UK spousal visa application process is very different to the US spousal visa application process.

UK spousal visas are known as “Family of a Settled Person” Visas. A Family of a Settled Person Visa allows a foreign national from outside the European Economic Area who are married to (or in a civil partnership) with a British national to enter and remain in the UK. It is a single-stage application process.

In order to qualify for a Family of a Settled Person Visa, a non-EEA national must, inter alia, meet the following criteria:

    The British national and applicant spouse must be aged 18 or over.

    The relationship between the British national and applicant spouse must be genuine and subsisting.

    The marriage must be a valid marriage under the laws of the country in which it was solemnized.

    The British national and applicant spouse must intend to live together permanently in the UK.

    Generally, the applicant must adduce evidence that his or her British national spouse has a gross annual income of at least £18,600 per annum (plus additional sums for dependent children) or savings comprising £16,000 plus two and a half times the shortfall in the British sponsor’s earnings (subject to exceptions). In some circumstances, the decision maker may also consider alternative sources of income or support when considering whether the minimum income requirement is met.

Comparison of Financial Requirements of US and UK Spousal Visas

Ultimately, while the objective of both countries is the same (namely to reduce the risk of the foreign national spouse becoming a public charge), the approach to financial sponsorship is radically different. The UK does not require sponsors to enter into a formal contract with the UK Government (in the form of an Affidavit of Support).

For those relying on employment income to discharge the financial requirement, the US minimum income requirements are generally slightly lower than for the UK. However, for those relying upon savings to meet the financial requirement, the requirements are broadly similar. If you are a UK national seeking a US spousal visa, we would advise you to contact us to discuss the financial requirements and seek advice on your application.

Davies Legal Immigration

At Davies Legal Immigration, we were delighted to hear news of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s forthcoming nuptials. We hope they have a wonderful wedding day and wish them all the very best for the future. Of course, if Prince Harry ever requires the services of a US immigration attorney, he knows where to find us!

At Davies Legal Immigration, we provide advice and representation in connection with all types of US family based immigration, including spousal visas. We offer the highest standards of client care and a fully flexible service, including in person, telephone or Skype consultations. Call now for a complimentary telephone call with a licensed US immigration attorney and receive a free, no obligation quote for our services.

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