Why this post?
This is the first part of a series of post which are travel guides for planning your own trips ( Read First Post . Why Planning Your own Trip is better than hiring travel agents) . The objective here is to ensure your planning time is to a great extent reduced and stress free. This post covers tips and procedures for first time Visa applicants for UK. Readers are welcome to contribute and would be reflected in the next edit. Please do note what is written below is based out of our experience and we are no authority in this subject. We have however done extensive research during our trip planning and documented our experience to compile the same. This series is written with a genuine intention to provide a one stop resource for planning your own trip)
We were ignorant about the time taken for UK Visa processing and had to almost cancel our trip since we decided only 3 weeks before travel dates. We assumed it would take a week to get our visa’s based on our previous travel experience to Paris and Switzerland
However when we checked, realized that UK visa takes anywhere between 2-5 weeks for processing especially those who have not been there before.
For UK travel, Visa is the first and most important step since it takes more time than other country visas. You do not need to book any air tickets or get any hotel confirmation for applying to UK Visa which is different from say Schengan Visa (For EU Countries) where it is mandatory. Since UK visa takes more time it is best to apply this at least 1-2 months in advance of your travel
Luckily for us , there was an option for Fast Track Visa if you fulfil certain conditions including if you had earlier availed of Schengan Visa for which we qualified.
Fast Track Visa
- For Fast Track, there is an additional fees of Rs 4000 per application ( as of Dec 2013) and you get a date for submission of your documents within 2 working days. Please note Fast Track does not mean you get the Visa for sure and quickly, it just means that your processing time would be faster. I assume if there is any issue with your submission/documents there is no advantage
- During your online form submission there is an option for Fast Track which you can click at. We had selected this option. On Monday we filled our online form and we got the appointment date for Wednesday.
Online Form Submission
- You don’t need an agent for UK Visa to fill your forms or submit.
- You need to visit https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/
- You need to register an id and then fill out the online form.
- Please do double check the data you enter on the online application form thoroughly since even if there is one mistake, it can lead to your application being rejected.
- Once you fill the online form and before you make the online payment there is a preview option. Use it to check again.
- If you find any mistake, cancel that application and again create a new id and form. The one you entered previously will automatically get deleted in few days. If you have not made payments it is not processed so no need to worry.
- However if you have realized you made a mistake after making the payments please call the call centre number. They will provide you the best solution. For India http://www.vfs-uk-in.com/callcentre.html
- When filling the online form, there is a section at the end for additional information, use this space to mention any other information which is not covered in the form but may be useful for the UK Visa officials to assess your case. We wrote about our education and work details in India and also the key assets as in any ownership of house, vehicle etc. Don’t know if this helps but we did it.
- Fees have to be paid online. The additional charges for fast track have to be paid at the documents submission venue itself.
- During online submission you will get a choice for the date and time you wish to come for the physical document submission. We chose the first slot at 8 am since we wanted to avoid the rush
- Once the form is filled, submitted and payment made, you need to print out the form and carry with you to the VFS centre
- In India, VFS Global is the agency which coordinates for Visa Formalities and it is here where you need to go for the appointment on the dates you have been allocated.
- Another important thing, before you fill the online form for visa you should be ready with essential documents since in fast track you get the interview appointments in 2 days so you may not have time to collect all documents especially if its bank related as in bank statements etc.
For UK Visa , what documents to submit at the centre
This can get a bit tricky since we found no standard list of documents to be submitted. What we learnt through research is that the Visa Officer looks for the following
- You should be financially self sufficient to fund your visit.
- That you have no plans of settling in UK. That can be proved by establishing strong ties with India, such as owning our house, work status in India etc.
- The list which we submitted is as follows; again this is merely our experience we don’t know if this is needed or not but worked for us. For each document it’s better to take the original and Xerox copies. The officials at the VFS centre request to submit as much original documents as possible. Your documents are sealed at the VFS centre and you get back all back at the time of collecting the documents back.
- Passports/ Visa Photos ( Passport Link)
- PAN Card/ Marriage Certificate
- Education Certificates
- Letter from Employer
- Salary Slips
- Official ID and Visiting Cards
- Bank Statement for last 1 years ( helps to have sufficient balance over a quarter, last moment transfers can be viewed with suspicious I guess )
- Details and statements on Savings and Investments (Mutual Funds/ Stocks/FD/ Gold Fund/ Bonds)
- Home Agreement
- Travel Confirmation ( if you have confirmed)
- Tickets ( if you have confirmed)
- Hotel Confirmation ( If you have confirmed)
- Since I am an entrepreneur , Business Registration/ Bank Statement/ITR for business
At the VFS Processing Centre for Submission
Since we applied for Mumbai, there were two centres we chose the one closest to our home.
At the venue ensure you reach just on time,
- Most importantly don’t carry any electronic items esp laptops , they would not allow. We saw many who were not allowed to enter since they came with laptops. There is no provision to keep it so you have to return at a later time
- Just carry only your documents in a plain bag as mentioned on the website. Also needn’t carry stapler, glue etc as that is not allowed to be carried inside. They will provide you there if required.
- We had assumed that there would be an interview, however at the VFS centre there was submission of documents and a biometric test. We were told that these are sent to the UK Visa Officer for review and in case of interview we would be intimated.
- There was not much of a rush and the whole process took around 30 minutes for us.
- You will get a receipt for the same which contains the tracking number.
- The next two days were an anxious wait since we had to then decide our next action steps. We received an email from UK Visa Centre after a day stating that ‘A decision has been made…..’ . Now this is was somewhat confusing. No clear indication of whether your application has been accepted or rejected, merely ‘A Decision has been made’. Moreover the tone and manner in which it is drafted makes you believe it’s negative! However on researching this we realized that this is the standard terminology being used. Also we tried calling the call centre to clarify on this and they did not give proper information, they like to be as secretive about this as possible. Or maybe, even they are also not intimated on the decision. I think when you get this message, it’s best to wait for the next sms which informs details for collecting the documents.
- And so we did get one after two days to collect our documents. So that Friday evening we collected the documents in the same sealed bag and the passport is returned to you with the visa approval. ( If it has been approved that is)
- So VISA Process took us exactly 1 week and we were relieved.
- Stage 1 over for us. Nov 29th.
- Now we moved to Tickets and Hotel Bookings . Coming Soon ( Link here)
Key Websites for UK Visa Application
Our Background for the trip
- Married Couple from India
- Planned a trip for 10 days to London and Scotland
- Both Working – Wife in Service Industry, Husband businessman
- Started applying on Nov 19th for Dec 14th Trip
In the next post we cover our hotel and travel plans and tips which helped us
Bye for now