Wednesday, 1 July 2009

FAQ's About Obtaining a UK Visa

Q. The website is kind of unclear. Do my spouse and I need separate visas? What about children?
A. YES. You will each need to fill out separate application forms. (Usually online.) Everybody needs their own visa.

Q. Do my spouse and children also need to have biometric data taken?
A. YES, unless they are under the age of five. (Children under age five are not currently required to have their biometric data taken.) When applying online, this can be particularly annoying, especially since some systems don't take into consideration that you may wish to book your appointments together. When my husband and I applied, he was given a slot at the end of August. The next appointment available when I applied (only minutes later) wasn't till mid September. Thankfully for us it was only a 45 minute drive. For some, the nearest office is hours away. So...

Q. ...Will we have to make the trip (to get our biometric data taken) twice?
A. Not necessarily. My best advice would be for both of you to apply (DEFINITELY, don't just think you can squeeze in an appointment without applying for one. In my experience, they WILL NOT see you if you do not have an appointment number. Even if you cry.) So, each of you get that appointment number and then make the trek to the office with your spouse for whoever's appointment comes first (even if the other person's appointment isn't for several days or weeks). There is a good chance that they will see you both together if one of you has an appointment scheduled for that day. Let me repeat again, though. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS UNLESS YOU BOTH HAVE APPOINTMENT NUMBERS. And, if they insist on only seeing the one with the appointment on that day, at least the other has an appointment scheduled. If you'd waited to make that appointment, you would be adding several more weeks on to your waiting time.

Q. How long should I allow for my visa to be processed?
A. Well, the visa website says something like three weeks. If I were you, I would allow more like three months, just to be safe. This is coming from someone who had to cancel plane tickets and buy new ones because our visas weren't ready in time. To give you an idea, we applied at the end of July. The first biometric appointment wasn't available till the end of August. After that, we still had to send our paperwork in to be processed. This took a further three weeks. In all, our visas took about seven weeks to be processed. Maybe it was just a particularly busy time when we applied--it may not happen to you. But, if you can apply sooner, just do it. You will save yourself a potentially big headache and a sizeable wad of cash.

Q. My spouse is planning to work while I study. Is it okay to count this toward our maintenance fees on the application?
A. Yep. We did anyway.

Q. The application says to include our address in the UK, but we haven't secured housing yet. What should we do?
A. Make reservations at a hotel or hostel for when you arrive and include that as your address. Indicate you'll be staying there until you have secured housing.

I will keep updating with more FAQ's. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions and I'll be happy to answer as I can.

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  1. Hi! your blog is very helpful. Thank you so much for compiling all this info!
    I am applying for a marriage visa in the next two months and was wondering can you call to schedule your appointment for your biometrics before you have applied for your visa? As you say there could be a long wait and I would like to have that appointment scheduled. Also how do I find the nearest biometrics testing office?

    Again thank you so much for sharing everything and hope you're loving the UK!

  2. Hi, Shannon. So glad you've found the blog useful.

    Unfortunately there isn't any way to schedule your biometrics appointment without first completing the online visa application. After you've finished the application, you will be assigned a Visa Appointment Reference number which you will need both to book and to attend your biometrics meeting. As I said above, this number is essential as they will not let you do anything without it. So, the best thing for you to do would be to complete the application as soon as you can. Then, once you have the application done and have been assigned your number, they will offer you a slot to have your biometrics taken. (To my knowledge, the only way to find out where the biometrics locations are is to complete the application. Only then you will they give you the list of locations for your area--unless, of course, you live in the Seattle area, and then I can tell you! :))

    If you end up being really short on time, and the biometrics appointment is scheduled weeks in the future, I would recommend trying to attend your meeting early anyway--in fact, you can give it a try as soon as you have your reference number and you know where you're supposed to go. As I think I've said above, they gave me an on-the-spot appointment, no questions asked, when I showed up with a valid reference number. I can't guarantee anything, of course, but it's worth a try. The worst that can happen is they'll send you home and make you wait for your actual appointment day.

    I hope this all makes sense--please let me know if you have any clarifying questions!