I should start off by saying, I really don’t know a lot about Visas other than the one that I applied for, but this is my experience of applying for a UK Visa.
When I first came up with this whole idea of living in another country, my plan was to just go for a year or two, and come back to Canada. I actually took a leave of absence from work so I could simply go to the UK, work for a year or two, and come back to my job in Halifax. However, after going through this whole process I pretty quickly realized that it’s a fair amount of effort to put in, for just a year… So I’m now in the UK for an indefinite period of time. Although it’s not just because it took some effort to get here and I wanted to make the most of the money I invested in moving – I really do love the UK and my job here is just top-notch.
So originally, I began the application for a Youth Mobility Scheme – Tier 5 visa. This one works if you want to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years, are 18-30 years old and from certain countries (Canada is included in this list), and have at least £1890 (around $3300 CAD) in savings. This visa actually seems pretty simple to apply for – you basically just need a current passport, bank statement showing you have at least £1890 in savings, and TB test results. You can apply online, but need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre, then collect your biometric resident permit within 10 days of the date you say you’ll arrive in the UK on your application. You’ll also have to pay a healthcare surcharge, but I’ll get into these details later.
I had actually filled out this whole application, and had it ready to send other than my details of where I would be staying and working in the UK, since at this point, I hadn’t actually accepted a job offer. It was pretty straightforward, really, and I was getting pretty anxious and excited to get to the UK.
Once I accepted the position in Nottingham, HR sent me my contract (and a shit ton of other forms to complete and send back), and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme… My employers actually required me to have a Tier 2 – General Migrant visa. This visa is specifically for people offered a “skilled job” in the UK. For this one, you actually need to be employed by a licensed sponsor to apply, and they will assign you a certificate of sponsorship to prove you’re qualified for the job. There are a couple of options for this one – up to 3 years, or up to 5 years, and up to 3 or 5 years for a shortage occupation. MRI Radiographers are considered a shortage occupation here, so I opted for the 5 year – shortage occupation visa.
My intended start date in the contract was May 28th. More than three months away from when I accepted the job! I thought it was a bit extreme, that it would never take me three months to get everything together… But alas, I was wrong. It took about a month for my employer to get the Certificate of Sponsorship, then roughly a month after I sent the visa application in before I got word that I was approved. So all in all, I was finally ready to go and booked my flight to the UK for May 2, 2017, almost a year after I first started my application for HCPC.
With this visa, I had to pay $1500USD plus the healthcare surcharge, which was $780USD. The healthcare surcharge allows you to use the NHS services, but you’ll still have to pay for certain things like prescriptions, dentist, etc. Again, like the HCPC application… It definitely isn’t cheap. But it has definitely been worth it.
Important things to know about the UK Visa applications… once you send and pay for that application, you’re most likely not going to get that money back. Like I said, I applied and paid for a 5 year visa. However, my Certificate of Sponsorship was only for 3 years – a detail I overlooked when applying. So, I’m here on a 3 year visa, as that’s as long as I’m sponsored for right now. And I won’t be getting refunded for overpaying, as it was my own mistake. So, if you’re applying for a visa… make sure you’re super thorough.
I also had put in an incorrect date on my first visa application. I had filled out the application and was all ready to go, just waiting for my Certificate of Sponsorship information to put in, and at the time I had thought I would be in the UK by the end of February. Like I mentioned earlier, the process took much longer than I expected, so the date of travel to the UK that I had originally put down was much earlier than the actual date I would be traveling. I forgot to go back and change this until after I had sent the application and paid for it, but luckily I caught it in time and actually got the money refunded back to me and re-applied with the correct date.
Once you send in your online application, you have to print it off, book an appointment at a visa application centre, and attend the appointment to have your application sent with supporting documents and your passport. You’ll also have your digital fingerprints and photo taken (biometric information collection) for your Biometric Resident Permit (BRP) that day. Your BRP is your identity card, essentially, for anyone who has permission to be in the UK for longer than six months. Your visa is just a sticker in your passport that is only valid for 30 days – your BRP you pick up once you arrive in the UK. Every time you leave and re-enter the UK, you’ll be asked for your BRP and your digital fingerprints taken when you get to the border.
There’s only a few visa offices in Canada, including Halifax, St. John’s, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Halifax only does appointments on one day of the month, around the middle of the month. I got my Certificate of Sponsorship the day before Halifax’s monthly appointment day, and it was too late to book an appointment for the next day. Rather than waiting another month to send it, I flew to Toronto and submitted it from there. Yeah, I was a bit impatient, I know. But it made for a fun little trip to Toronto on my own!
I went through this whole process about a year ago now, so I’m sure I’ve left some important things out, but I’m happy to try to answer any questions for anyone wondering 🙂