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How to Get a UK Visa

Obtaining a visitor's visa to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a daunting and usually difficult task. I also think it is more difficult from some countries and therefore for some nationalities than others, although this is not admitted official government policy. Poorer people from poorer countries definitely have a harder time convincing embassy staff to grant a visa.

This is not their personal vendetta, but a reflection of government policy, which, in turn, is supposed to be a reflection of the opinion of the majority of the British public. It is a good idea to bear this in mind when dealing with the embassy staff regarding a visa application for yourself or a friend.

It is worth pointing out here that a British (UK) visitor’s visa is valid for six months and multiple entries into the UK, although in practice, the first visa to be granted will usually be limited by a note pinned into the visitor’s passport. For example, if you have applied for a visa to visit friends for the month of, say, March, you would be granted a multiple entry, 180 day visa with a letter, signed by yourself, pinned into your passport, which states that you wish to visit the UK from March 1st to March 31st and that you will not attempt to extend that stay. The visa also precludes you from access to ‘public funds’ – social security, unemployment benefit, et cetera.

Most people are refused a visa the first time because they do not have a strong enough, valid reason for going to Britain. If the reason is to visit a lover, then you have a far better chance if you can prove that you have had a ‘continuing relationship’ for at least six months. At this stage of the proceedings, all your efforts should be directed at validating the reason for your visit or proving your relationship.

I will concentrate on providing evidence of a continuing relationship. Most applicants from poorer countries will need a sponsor. This is usually an employer or a lover. Obviously, immigration stamps in a passport can prove; how long it is possible that a couple could have known each other, but you will need more evidence than that. A letter from a friend, employer or relative stating when you met can help. However, you should keep all correspondence, telephone bills, bank statements (recording ATM transactions), restaurant receipts, theatre tickets, train and bus tickets, even menus and photos. In fact, anything that can help establish that you are having the relationship that you claim you are having and that you have had it for at least six months.

You could then obtain the application form (VAF 1,4) either by writing to or visiting the nearest British Embassy or Consulate or downloading it from the internet. Most embassy sites provide excellent advice on what is required or recommended to put in the envelope with your visa application form, but it will include: two colour, passport-size photos; the application fee (about GBP48) in local currency; the applicant’s passport; proof of the applicant’s address; proof of a continuing relationship of at least six months; the sponsor’s letter; proof of the sponsor’s means of support; proof of the sponsor’s accommodation and possibly, the sponsor’s passport to prove entry stamps.

The sponsor is, therefore, the key to making a successful (first) attempt at obtaining a UK visitor’s visa. The sponsor has to be prepared to act as guarantor for the applicant and the embassy staff will want to be able to check the sponsor’s ability to take care of the applicant. This means that the sponsor has to provide a letter from his/her employer proving continued, stable employment and/or a bank book, proving that he/she has enough money to provide what he/she has pledged on the visa application form; and proof of accommodation in the form of paid council tax bills, property deeds or a letter from the mortgage provider. Proof of marital status does not seem to be an issue for the sponsor or the applicant, although the question is asked of the latter.

Some applicants are refused for apparently strange reasons such as:

‘the applicant has never left the country before’ – this is easier for some to remedy than others.

‘the applicant has not displayed a strong enough economic or social bond to the country‘ – meaning that they do not trust him/her to return to his/her native country. A letter from a relative, proof of children and a letter from the applicant’s employer can help, although proof of children is not considered a compelling social reason to return! Proof of property ownership is useful.

It is better to take your time instead of rushing the application. Make sure you have a valid reason for wanting to visit the UK and then make sure you can validate everything you say. Treat the application as if you were a barrister – back up everything you say with evidence or a letter.

Run through your ‘story’ until the applicant has it word perfect (they will not want to see the sponsor and sometimes, he/she is not even allowed to wait on the embassy compound). The applicant will be required to attend an interview the first time and this can be held in English or the applicant’s native tongue. The visa will normally be available for collection the next day.

Hint: apply for more time than you need as the visa runs from the day it is granted, but you may not be able to get a flight straight away. You will probably also be required to return to the issuing embassy when you arrive back to have the visa cancelled; after all, it is a multiple entry, 180-day visa that couldbe used to return to the UK without the sponsor’s knowledge, so try not to arrive back on a Saturday unless you want a holiday in the capital.

And lastly a warning: don’t be tempted to lie - it’s not worth it!

Go to How to Get a UK Visa 

by +Owen Jones