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How to Obtain A UK Visa

The UK has a very thorough list of requirements in place to govern entrance and immigration to the countries.  The laws are strictly enforced and those attempting to enter without the necessary documents will usually be denied entry.  However, it is important to note that obtaining a UK visa is a fairly straightforward and simple process.

Who Needs a Visa

A visa is not required for entry for British Nationals, including citizens of British Overseas Territories, British Subjects and British protected.  Citizens of the European Union,  Commonwealth citizens, and citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland are likewise exempt from needing a visa for entry.

Additionally nationals of over 50 other countries no not need a visa if they plan to stay in the country less than six months.  Included in that list are citizens of the US, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Israel, Japan, and Mexico.  The UK provides a site which allows travellers to check if a visa is required. For more info click here.

It is important to note that a visa does not permit the traveller to work in the UK or to enrol as a student. Both of those pursuits require separate permits and applications; work permits are applied for and obtained by employers and not the worker.

The Application Process

All Uk visa applications are submitted on the internet at Visa4uk.fco.gov.uk.  The government works with a commercial partner, VFS Global to aid visitors in the application process. For those lacking internet access, visa application centres (VAC) are located around the globe and offer premium lounges which allow the applicant to complete the online application.

The online application process saves time and is very efficient. The online process also allows applicants to receive help from family members in order to answer some of the questions.

Once the online application is complete, the applicant prints a hard copy of the form and makes an appointment at the nearest VAC to complete the application process.

Visa applications can be made within three months of the intended visit.  Almost 90% of all applications are processed and a visa is issued within 15 days of completing the application. However, it is better to apply as soon as possible to allow time to gather any necessary documentation, and to minimise problems caused by any delays.

Fees for the application and any administration fees will be due at the time the application is submitted.

Information and Documents Needed

The documentation required to have a UK visa approved is fairly straightforward and is presented at the VAC.  As part of the application process the applicant has to supply two passport-sized photographs and have their fingerprints scanned. (Those with temporary injuries to their fingers are advised to wait for any injury to heal prior to applying for a visa.)

One of the key parts of the visa application is to answer all questions truthfully and honestly. Erring on the side of caution and providing too much information is far preferable than omitting a simple bit of information that results in the visa being denied.

Some examples of common documentation that will be needed at the VAC:

  • Those whose marital or civil partnership is anything other than “single” will need to show supporting documentation. If the couple is divorced or one of the partners has deceased, the appropriate certificates are required.  Information about the spouse or partner will be necessary even if the spouse or partner is not travelling with the applicant.
  • Evidence of employment should be available. This includes the employer’s address, phone number, email address and the employment start date.
  • Some financial information will be required. Basically the government is trying to assure that the traveller has the necessary funds to pay for their travel and stay.
  • The visa application includes questions about any criminal convictions.  While a criminal conviction does not necessarily preclude obtaining a visa, the applicant needs to provide complete documentation on the crime and any sentence imposed.

A good rule of thumb is to bring documentation for any of the number of questions as possible. If the documentation is not needed, no harm is done. Not having documentation can result in delays or denial of the visa. This is a prime example of a situation where being over prepared can pay off.

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