Prince Harry finally proposed to girlfriend Megan Markle and Royal wedding fever has already begun. But Meghan Markle is not British, which means that her path to becoming a royal won’t be simple.
As a US citizen currently living and working in Canada where her TV show Suits is produced, Meghan Markle needs a UK visa to live in Britain. Despite marrying a prince, she will still have to go through the same process as other non-EEA nationals. Applying for a UK visa costs around £1000 and applicants must meet the minimum family income requirement of £18,600 per year or savings of at least £62,500.
The minimum income requirement won’t be a problem for millionaires Meghan and Harry, but the requirement has been criticised by many for keeping families apart. Set in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May, as a means of immigration control, it has created many “Skype families” who stay in touch over Skype. The income requirement was calculated at a rate which should prevent migrants from becoming a burden on the welfare system. But with 40% of British workers in full time or part time employment not meeting the threshold, particularly young people and women, it remains a significant barrier.
Meghan Markle will need to return to the UK as a fiancé in order to get her status changed. She needs to prove that wedding plans have begun and then must get married within 6 months. As a fiancé, Meghan will not be able to work in the UK, paid or otherwise.
Once the wedding has taken place, she will need to apply to switch her status to spouse. Only after 5 years of living in the UK can Meghan apply for indefinite leave to remain (after passing the Life in the UK test), and after 5 years of marriage she can apply to become a British Citizen.
Even future Royals must follow the rules to be able to legally live and work in Britain. And with all eyes on them, Prince Harry and Miss Markle will have to make sure that they do everything by the book. With fines to employers of £20,000 per illegal worker, it is critical that employers ensure that all their staff are legally entitled to work here.