Do you want to see Big Ben, the London Eye, or how about the Buckingham Palace or the numerous red double-decker buses that trawl the streets of London? Maybe, you’re more of a Potterhead and you’d like to visit the Warner Bros. Studio? Whatever the case may be, you’re probably interested in going to the UK as you’re on this page. Haha, I’m not an expert at this or anything, but I just wanted to share my experience on getting my UK Tourist Visa (or what’s known as the UK Standard Visitor Visa) here in the Philippines.
Having applied for Schengen visa before in the French and Czech embassies, I think that applying for a UK Standard Visitor Visa (so much easier to call it Tourist Visa, but okay huhu) is easier and much more convenient. I also think, though it depends on your perspective really, that there’s less pressure, because you don’t have to speak to a consulate about your trip and all that jazz. This is the gist of it: You just have to apply online, set an appointment date, and just come to VFS to submit your requirements and get your biometrics. After that.. Well, that’s where the hard part comes in. That is, waiting for their decision!
I’m no expert, but I’m going to try and simplify the steps as to how I was able to get my UK Standard Visitor Visa:
First step: You have to first create an account on Visa4UK in order to proceed. Once you’ve created an account, you have to fill up the various forms on there, like what places are you planning to go to the UK, how will you be able to afford the trip, places that you have travelled to previously, etc.
Second step: After completing the forms, you should then book an appointment at the Visa Application Centre in Manila or Cebu. This is a must as they do not cater to walk-in applicants.
Third step: Bringing all the required documents with you, you should then proceed to your appointment at the VFS (Visa Application Centre). It is recommended that you go 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
Fourth step: After submitting your application (make sure that they are in the order in the way that is stated on their check-list), you are then required to take your biometrics. Basically, this is the part where you wait to be ushered into a room where the person there will take a photo for you (the one that’s going to be used for your visa), as well as take your fingerprints.
Fifth step: Aaaand, you’re done! Now all you need to do is wait. Usually, they decide on whether to accept/reject your visa application within 2 weeks. Do not lose the receipt that they will give you when you have submitted all your documents – you need this to get your passport back. You can either come and pick it up yourself or send a representative (You need to have an authorisation letter and give your representative a valid ID so that he/she can pick it up for you) to do so. You can also opt to receive it via courier.
Requirements for a Standard Visitor Visa
- You must be able to prove that..
- You will leave the UK once your trip comes to an end,
- You have sufficient funds and are able to support yourself and any dependents that you may have during the course of your trip,
- .. And that if there are additional costs relating to your visit, you will be able to pay for that. Also, you have to show that you are able to pay for you return.
Documents that you are required to submit:
- Current Passport
- Previous passports, if available
- Birth Certificate
- One passport size colour photograph: Make sure that it adheres to the UK Border Agency Guidelines
- Financial documents showing that you have sufficient funds available and that you can afford the trip.
- Bank statements and certificates
- Proof of earnings such as a letter of employment confirming your employment details, payslips
- If you are being sponsored by your parents (relatives/significant other, etc.), you need to bring bank certificates of their account, their most recent ITR’s, business registrations if they have their own business, or affidavit of support (In my case, my father is the one that is sponsoring my trip so I had to get an affidavit of support)
- If you are going to be sponsored by an org/institution, you must get a letter from them stating what costs will they be covering, and the details of the invitation – that is, why are they sponsoring you?
- You should definitely come 15 minutes before your appointment, though not earlier than that as the guard won’t let you in if you’re too early. Be warned: The lines can get really long and we had to wait around 25-30 minutes before it was finally our turn (Our appointment was set to 9:30 as far as I recall, by the time we were done, it was already around 10). Anyway, before getting to the step where you pass all your documents and get your biometrics done, you have to line up to get a number – that’s the same number that will flash on the screen inside when it’s your turn. Be sure to go to the proper line! Because there’s also lines for the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada here.
- About bags and gadgets. I don’t think that they are too strict on this one, in fact, I think they are very lax. My mom was able to bring her handbag with her, while my dad was also able to bring a small bag. I actually saw a woman using a headphones inside while we were waiting to be called for our turn to get our biometrics. But this is just my experience, as I have read in other blogs that sometimes they really are quite strict in implementing their ‘no bag and no gadgets’ policy, and that there are even times when they require you to leave your things at a locker (which you have to pay for) outside.
- You can apply for your visa as early as 3 months before your trip, but not earlier than that. Visa decisions usually take 3 weeks. In my experience, we had our VFS appointment on March 15, and we heard of their decision on March 28.
- There are also priority services which will guarantee that you can get your passport back early. However, this service is very pricey and this does not guarantee that they will approve your visa application.
- VFS UK also offers a lot of other services like VIP room (I don’t really know why they have this because there didn’t seem to be much difference than when waiting at the usual waiting area but I guess some people like to feel the ~VIP-ness~ lolol), the fact that you can hold your visa while waiting for their decision (this is for a fee, because the norm here is that you will have to leave your visa with them.), etc. However, the most important service that I think you should avail of is their SMS/email notification services. If I remember correctly, this costs around 150 pesos. If you applied as a family, you don’t need to avail of this service for all the members of your family – just getting this service for one person is enough already as if a decision has been made with one member, then that means that the visa application of the other members have been decided on to. Lol, at least this is how we thought of it – and it worked lol. We save 300 pesos! 😀
- About walk-in applicants, they do accept them, but for a fee. Also, they accept a limited number of walk-in applicants in a day (I think how many walk-in applicants they accept changes depending on the mood of the higher-ups there but idk lol) – so why risk it? Just book an appointment on their website and make your life easier.
- Dress for the occasion. That is, don’t overdress but don’t be overly casual either! You don’t actually need to be so formal or anything. I think it’s best to dress like you’re going to the office, but with a more chill vibe lol.
- I also would like to stress that, yes, you need to attach a photo on your application – one that adheres to the guidelines set for the UK Standard Visa application! I think that this is very important and one that a lot of people seem to forget.
- Also, I think that though it isn’t listed on the official document requirements, it’s better if you bring an itinerary with you – of the places you plan to go to and see once you’re in the UK, of the hotel/hostel you plan on staying when you’re there and such.
Anyway, if you have any questions or queries, feel free to comment, and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my capabilities! 😀