One look at the yelp ratings for the New York British Consulate General and you’ll find yourself pacing the floor, furiously biting your nails. I wish I could tell you that all of those UK visa horror stories are highly unlikely… but that would be lying.
Applying for the Tier 4 UK student visa through the UKCISA website is fairly easy and if you are a national of a low risk country (Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, USA) you will go through a much more lenient process. It’s the waiting period after completing your online application that will have you banging your head against a wall. Nevertheless, we’ll start at square one.
- Work your way down this checklist and complete your online application on the UK visa website. If you get stuck on any of the questions, use this https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxford/field/field_document/Guide%20to%20online%20application%20form_0.pdf as a guide and remember that there’s no need to stress over details.
- If you’re in a rush, there are a couple of costly yet effective options to ensure you receive your visa on time:
- Priority Service – ($192) Your application will be placed at the front of the queue for assessing ahead of non-priority applications (recommended if you only have approximately 2 months or less until you fly out)
- Super Priority Service – ($960) Enables customers to receive a decision within 24 hours. Available to eligible customers who can attend their appointment in person at the British Consulate General in New York.
- As a part of your online application process, you will be required to make a biometrics appointment. Do not put this off for any reason. I repeat, do not put this off for any reason. Try to book the appointment for the next available date and time because until you attend this appointment, you will not be able to mail in your documents. Why, you ask? When you get your biometrics taken, you will take your appointment receipt with you to have it stamped and that stamp will serve as proof of attendance. As for the actual appointment, all you have to do is get your picture taken and fingerprints collected. It literally takes a minute.
- At the end of your appointment, you will receive a piece of paper explaining the documents you need to provide and where you need to mail these documents. Follow the directions on this sheet and run to the nearest post office with all of your paperwork. If you purchased priority service, write “Priority Service” on the envelope multiple times so they know to put it at the front of the queue.
- Wait. And wait. And wait some more.
Documents I provided:
- Passport picture with full name handwritten on the back
- IHS reference number (email printout)
- Copy of the CAS
- Birth Certificate (translated into English)
- Current & all previous passports
- Prepaid return shipping waybill
- Receipt for priority service
My visa Timeline:
- July 13th, 2015 – Online application completed, all payments made online. Priority Service purchased.
- August 3rd, 2015 – Biometrics appointment attended after a 3 week vacation (bad move).
- August 4th, 2015 – Passport mugshot… I mean photo, taken at Walgreens (your photo must be recent – taken within the last month)
- August 5th, 2015 – All documents mailed using the overnight shipping method. “Priority Service” written in black sharpie all over the envelope.
- August 6th, 2015 – Package arrives at the New York British Consulate General in the morning.
- August 10th, 2015 – 2 emails from NEYOZVisaInfo@fco.gov.uk
- August 17th, 2015 – Visa issued
- August 18th, 2015 – Visa has been printed and documents are ready to be dispatched
- August 20th, 2015 – Visa arrives in the mail. *happy dance*
If you have any issues or want to check on the status of your application, I would recommend using the UKVI email services here https://www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-outside-uk. You also have the option of calling them but they will charge you £1.37 per minute and the email services works just fine (they usually reply within 24 hours).
All in all, my story has a happy ending. I received my visa in time (thank you priority service) and there were no issues with the approval process. However, I can’t say that it was a pleasant experience. In those 20-something days I experienced more stress than ever before in my 18 years of existence.
and plan ahead.