Please note that I am not a visa or immigration expert and the details below are simply my experience. Things may have changed since my application in 2015. The post is my experience only and may not be entirely reflective of the experience of others.
I get a lot of emails from readers about my experience moving abroad, and specifically about the visa application process. I originally entered the UK on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, which is available to Canadians under the age of 31. This is my experience with the YMS visa (read about my experience with the spousal visa).
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?
This information is for Canadians. To find information about whether or not you’re eligible from your home country, I’d suggest you check out: https://www.gov.uk/tier-5-youth-mobility.
So Canucks, here’s your eligibility check list:
- Canadian citizen.
- Aged 18-30 on or before the start date of the visa.
- No dependents (children under 18)
- A minimum of the equivalent of £1890 in your bank account.
- Must not be currently residing in the UK.
So, you can apply for this visa if you’re not in the UK, as long as you’ve been in that country for at least six months with a long term visa and there is a UK Border agency nearby where you can have a biometric appointment. Think – if you’re teaching English in Korea or doing a working holiday in Australia, etc.
THE WAITING GAME & MY TIMELINE
So now you’re ready. Application submitted. Biometrics complete. You’re waiting on the visa with your fingers crossed. You’re growing impatient and worried.
Here’s my timeline.
March 1st, 2015: Filled out the application online, after I had gathered all the necessary information. I did not submit the application.
March 11th, 2015: Coordinated with my bank to get a letter indicating proof of maintenance funds. Hit submit on the application. Printed out what I needed. Made an appointment with the VAC.
March 25th, 2015: Biometrics Appointment. Because I applied from Saint John, New Brunswick, I had to drive to Halifax, Nova Scotia for my appointment. Completed my appointment, submitted all the necessary documents. The waiting game began!
They’re pretty specific about the timing of the appointment:
“Please arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Please be aware if you arrive any earlier, you may not be admitted to the application centre. If you arrive after your scheduled appointment time, you may be asked to re-book a future appointment. “
My appointment was for 8 am. I had intended on staying at a friend’s place in Dartmouth, but because I was the first appointment of the day and traffic can be a bitch (especially with the current bridge construction), I opted to stay right in Halifax. The appointment is at the Four Points by Sheraton on Hollis, so I opted for a room at this hotel. There are plenty of cheaper hotels within walking distance as well (I’d recommend the Haliburton Inn), if you’d rather do that.
March 30th, 2015: I received an email that served to confirm that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) in New York had received my visa application and that it had been placed in queue for assessment and decision by an officer. At the bottom of the email was “FAQ” with a few lines. It indicated that UKVI aims to process all visas within 15 business days of receipt, and if its going to be longer than I will be notified by email. It also recommended that I not purchase any flights until my passport with visa were back in my hands. It also indicated that the average processing times for visa applications received this week was 9 working days, and that there are no current or forecasted delays.
April 14th, 2015: I received an email saying “Your UK visa has been issued – Please do not respond to this e-mail.
Packages normally ship within two working days of receipt of this email and may be tracked on your preferred mail providers website some time afterwards. ***shipping reference number***
If you supplied a return shipping waybill (separately) after sending in your application, shipping delays may occur. We aim to ship all packages within 5 working days of this email notification. Please do not contact UKVI New York for shipping updates.”
So there you go – I’m off to the UK!!
April 16th, 2015: DHL delivered my passports back to me, with me with the visa stamped in my current passport. There were some issues with the waybill (UKVNY spelled my name and address wrong). I called them as soon as I noticed it, and they made the changes and sent it out for delivery. I will point out that you CANNOT change where you want the package sent to because of the contents of the package. It must be sent to your address you specified on your form. I wanted to have the mail redirected to my office because if I wasn’t home to accept the package, it would have been sent back to DHL and the nearest location is 2 hours away.
This is your appointment to get your finger prints done and your retinas scanned. There are a number of locations in Canada to get it done, and a few user pay services in Canada in cities that don’t have a specific biometrics office.
When you attend your appointment, you need to bring a few things with you in addition to your hands and face:
- You need to bring your current passport and any expired/cancelled passports. Your passport needs to be valid for six months. If your passport expires, you must renew it but keep the passport with the visa in it to show to immigration officers.
- You need to have proof of funds. Refer to the document above for the details of what constitutes proof. The proof must be dated within 30 days prior to the date of the application. It can be dated on the date of application, or within 30 days prior to that. Try to keep this amount in your account until you enter the UK, as upon arrival, immigration officers can ask for proof of funds. The date of the application is the date you paid the fee to the UKBA. The required amount is £1890. The money must be accessible to you, meaning having stocks or bonds, assets or credit cards do not count. Your TFSA, joint bank account or lines of credit are ok. For reference, I had the cash money in my account and that’s what I used. From my bank, I got a letter my bank rep wrote for me saying what my accounts had and what the account numbers were, etc. I also got him to print a statement of accounts for me.
- You’ll need the appointment confirmation, visa fee receipt, and the VAC service fee receipt.
- You’ll also need 1 recent passport sized photo. It doesn’t need to be stamped or dated on the back so don’t worry about that.
- Print your application once it’s complete and bring this with you. It’ll be available to you when the application is complete. This needs to be signed and dated. You’ll also have to complete a self assessment form. This should be signed and dated as well.
Be organised! Keep a folder for everything. Label everything. Don’t panic, and keep yourself calm. Planning in advance will help you with this.
Here’s my experience at my biometrics appointment:
- Arrive 15 minutes before your appointment. Mine was the 08:00 appointment (the first one of the day), so I arrived at 07:45. The VFS people didn’t arrive until about 08:05, which is fine, but I was there early and waited with security. I should point out that mine was done at a Users Pay Visa Application Centre in Halifax. They operate at the Four Points by Sheraton on Hollis Street, in the Majestic Room.
- At about 8:05, one of the VFS staff came out and gave me a form to fill out for DHL (the delivery service). Basically, it was the Bill of Lading and a form that said I was ok with them delivering the package (my passport) back to me and leaving it in my mailbox, or wherever. He will give you a copy of this once you enter the room.
- Once I was done, security asked me to empty my pockets into a very official punch bowl and he did a security scan thing over my body. I was then asked to come into the boardroom.
- In the Boardroom, there were two areas set up: one that had a guy at it who had the DHL package that took all of my documents to be submitted, and one that had a lady set up at it to do the biometrics. I sat in front of the man first, and he asked me for the required documents. He didn’t specify what I needed and did not review anything I had. I’m very glad I was prepared and knew what I needed, otherwise I would have felt very overwhelmed. He then gave me a very unhelpful checklist. This document has everything listed on it for every possible visa and I was to scan the list, and check the boxes of what I was submitting. Because the checklist had an obscene amount of things on it, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I asked a few questions, but he was kind of non-chalant with answering and was not a Tier 5 expert, by any means. I affixed one of my passport photos to the checklist, filled out the information (name, passport, reference number, date and location of application), and handed that in.
- Once I handed in all the documents to him, he put them in the yellow DHL envelope and asked me if I wanted to pay an extra $193 for a rush service that would move my application near the top so I would hear back within 2 weeks (as opposed to 4). I did not pay for this. He gave me a copy of a receipt showing that I had submitted, etc, and then handed the DHL envelope to me, and told me to go see his colleague at the other side of the room.
- I sat on a high stool in front of her and she messed around with her laptops and equipment that was there, before requesting my envelope. She emptied it and scanned the bar codes he had placed on my passport, as well as the bar code on the visa application. She then had me put my fingers on the finger print machine, and then took a photo of me. She put everything back in the DHL envelope with a printed receipt that showed my biometrics were done, and handed it back to me. I had to seal it, and pop it into a box for shipping.
- Once I dropped it into the box, I was done and the waiting game started.
My advice for the Biometrics Appointment: Know your shit. Have yourself sorted and organized and ready to go. Go in prepared.
Are you applying for the Tier 5 visa?