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…
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?