Tips for Applying for a UK Visa

After posting my recent visa update, I thought it might be useful (maybe?) to someone going through a similar visa process if they happen to stumble upon my blog to offer some tips. These are things I picked up from going through a number of visa application processes of my own as well as from advising on visas when I was study abroad advisor back in the day. So, I hope these come in handy for someone.

In no particular order, my visa tips…

  1. Be on top of when you need to apply and how much time it will realistically take you to complete your application. You don’t want to have to rush everything as the applications are quite in-depth and require a number of additional documents be included. For us, this meant passports, marriage certificate, birth certificate for our daughter, bank statements, pay stubs…you get the point.
  2. Save random things. Basically, be aware of what sort of supplemental materials you’ll need to include in your application. For us, the hardest things were bills or other official correspondence addressed to both of us. These cannot be bills printed from your online account, which is difficult when most bills are sent and paid online now. We needed 6 pieces spread over the course of 2 years from 3 different sources. It’s helpful that my husband saves pretty much everything!
  3. Photocopy everything before you send it to the Home Office. This is so important. Most of what you will send off will be originals. What if something gets lost in the post? It will make your life so much easier if you have copies of everything in case something does happen to your application. Another reason for photocopying? Ease in completing future applications. The applications I submitted for my first leave to remain and for my second were essentially the same. It saved me loads of time by being able to flip through page-by-page and use my previous application as a guide to how I worded things, etc.
  4. Check, double check, then check it forty more times. I’m not exaggerating. The applications have to be perfect. You don’t want to spell something wrong or enter a date wrong. Small things can delay applications, so it is worth it to review your application a lot before sending it off. I even recommend having someone that you trust look over it for you. A fresh pair of eyes can often spot errors that might not jump out at you as you’ve been the one filling in all of those small blocks that have made your eyes cross.
  5. Just because the application is the same, doesn’t mean the requirements are the same. This time around I was required to pay an NHS fee. (Talk about a shock to the system when the price of my visa nearly doubled with that addition!) The application isn’t complete until every piece is submitted, so be sure you know exactly what is required.
  6. Post it securely. The Royal Mail has something called Special Delivery, which keeps whatever you are sending under lock and key until the postman collects it from the post office. This service can also be tracked online, and when it arrives at its destination, a signature is required from the recipient. It cost me less than 9 quid and was completely worth my peace of mind.
  7. Don’t book any international travel until you are certain your visa has been approved. The Home Office has your original passport and, in some cases like mine, your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and you cannot travel abroad without those documents. Okay, this one is a good idea, but I totally didn’t listen to my own advice. Months ago, we booked flights back to the US for Thanksgiving at the end of November. I was fairly certain it wouldn’t be an issue, but I half wondered if I hadn’t jinxed myself with those flights.
  8. Call the Home Office if you have any questions. Although you might know others who have gone through a similar process and their experiences are helpful to hear, they cannot ultimately give you an official answer on specific questions you have about the application. I’ve called the Home Office a few times, and they have always been helpful. It doesn’t hurt to be certain, so give them a ring and yourself some peace of mind.

I do hope this might be helpful to any newbie visa appliers out there! And, please feel free to get in touch with me if you need to vent or chat about the application process. It always helps to have someone on your side who has been there before.

Would anyone else like to add any tips of their own?

Please don’t go!

Well, don’t worry, United Kingdom, you’ve got me for another 2 and a half years.

I found out last week that I was approved for my second leave to remain as a spouse – hooray! Having been approved once before in this same visa category, I wanted to believe that I would definitely be approved this time as I am even more settled now with Richard and our daughter. However, as I sent off that 2-inch thick envelope containing every detail of our life my application, I still left the post office feeling a bit anxious.

This time, I received my letter requesting me to submit my biometrics just over a week from posting my application. This is compared to when I applied in 2013 using the FLR(M) application and it took close to a month to receive that letter. Receipt of that letter left me feeling hopeful that things were moving quickly and I might receive word soon. I actually went to the post office the day after receiving the letter and had my digital fingerprints, photograph, and signature captured. I wanted to be on top of it, especially as we have flights booked to the US for late November.

After submitting my biometrics, it was once again a waiting game. I knew I should receive a reply from the Home Office within 8 weeks of submitting my application, so I marked each week on the calendar and silently wished for super smooth sailing.

It was a surprise when last Friday there was a knock on our front door, and it was a courier with a small envelope addressed to me. This envelope carried my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which resembles a driver’s license and which I must have with me when traveling abroad. The rest of my documents were sent under separate cover and arrived via Royal Mail that afternoon with a signature required upon delivery. What a relief!

When my BRP arrived, it was just me and my girl at home, and I showed the card to her and kept saying, “Yay! Mommy can stay!” She thought this was hilarious and would hold up the BRP then say, “Mummy! Yay!” It was so sweet. (Yes, I say ‘mommy’ and she totally says ‘mummy.’ I’m holding onto my little American-isms as long as I can yet it is adorable to hear her say ‘mummy’!)

So, what does all of this mean? It means that in 2018, we have to reapply again, but for indefinite leave to remain. That will be a huge deal for us!

 

It’s a doddle.

I’m sure that most of my readers in the US (hey, Dad!) find the subject line of this blog post as confusing as I did the first time I heard the word doddle. I had no idea what it meant. I mean, none whatsoever. Usually, I can figure out the meaning of a new-to-me word by the context in which it is used, but this time my cluelessness shined brightly.

So, I turned to my personal resource on all things British…my husband. He explained that it means something that is easy. I Googled it and this came up, which I like as it emphasizes that it is an ‘informal’ word:

doddlesource

Hearing this word made me think back to an email I wrote recently to a woman from my hometown. She also met her English husband in Las Vegas and is in the process of emigrating to the UK, so we’ve become pen pals of sorts. (This is a very random and strange coincidence being that my hometown has a population of about 3500.) I explained to her that sometimes it is difficult being so far from family and dear friends, but most days are interesting because I find myself learning something new even if it is just a word.

When I wrote those words to her, I wrote them in a way in which I hoped they would help her begin to prepare for life as an expat. But, in turn, I’ve found myself thinking of those words a lot more lately and wondering if I had to write them down to help myself. This is not to say I’m not happy here because that is so far from the truth, but sometimes you need a wake up call to be reminded that although life is sort of on hold at the moment awaiting the visa to be approved that it doesn’t mean I should let the days pass me by because life here is interesting and I should soak that up fully.

I struggle, though, because for seven years after I graduated from university I was a woman with a fulfilling job. Then, when we made the decision for me to move to England, I became a student again and felt like I had a purpose as I was studying to achieve one of my life goals. I finished my dissertation and there was wedding planning to be done, so that kept me busy. I was proud of myself and what I achieved in all of those times in my life. But now, it’s a little strange because a lot of my days revolve around when and if the post is delivered. This is not really something I am proud of.

I’m in a state of limbo. I can’t wait to start applying for full-time jobs and to create my own daily routine that hopefully allows me to begin to settle into a fulfilling career here, but I also am aware that once that job finds me that I might be thinking back to these days and wondering why I chose to fill them with reruns of The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother and a plethora of other US television shows (ah, the glamorous life of an expat!) instead of investing my time in something I love, like my writing.

I just know that I should be making the most of this free time because…well…because why not?! It really is a doddle.

{Visas} Staying Here (Legally) as a Wife: Part Two

Photo 1

On Wednesday night I had a marathon phone call with my mom. One of the topics we covered was the frustration I have been feeling in relation to the visa process. As I’ve mentioned previously, I never expected this to be a breeze, but I didn’t expect for the process and the information we receive to be so vague.

I think the assumption that we would be kept more in the know stems from my experience with the UKBA Office in New York City when I applied for my student visa. That office communicated with me very clearly via e-mail when my application was received and when I would receive more information from them.

Also, if a person is applying from outside of the UK, there is a tool on the UKBA website that allows you to check what the typical processing times are for your specific visa type. However, I attempted to find out the processing times within the UK, and from my research and scouring the UKBA website, that information is not available nor is a general guideline of processing times outlined in the first letter we received.

I have been trying to understand what has bothered me the most about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because these offices within the same organization all work so differently. One would think that all offices would have the same guidelines and information-sharing tools to simplify and streamline how the organization functions as a whole. Alas, that is not the case at least from the eyes of an applicant, but perhaps behind-the-scenes it all works the same.

All of those frustrations aside, after I hung up the phone with my mom, I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe I needed to have that conversation with her to spring things into motion. (I know it might be a bit strange, but I do feel that sometimes the world works this way.) I bet you can all guess what happened the following day. There was a letter in our post from the UKBA requesting that I complete the next step in the application process which is to have my biometrics taken! Ha!

I immediately located the Post Office branch closest to us that captures biometric information. And today, I made sure to tick that step off of my visa to-do list. I knew from the student visa process that having your biometrics taken is quite simple. Most times, the hardest part is actually getting to the place to have them done and the same was true today. I was in and out of the Post Office in less than 10 minutes, which still allowed me time to ask the woman who helped me if she knew what happened from here. Any guesses on what she said? She has no idea! I had to laugh when she told me it’s like a ‘secret service’ because they are not told anything about the next steps aside from that it takes no more than 48 hours for the information to arrive at the UKBA. So, at least there’s that!

Anyway, I’m very glad that it seems we are making forward progress on my visa! And now, we’re back to waiting!

If you want to read Part One, you can do so here