1. Check your passport
You will need a current passport – no surprises there.
What isn’t so clear on the gov.uk website is how long it should be valid for.
Work-wise it shouldn’t be a problem if your passport expires while you’re in the UK. It is simply a matter of filling out a renewal form online and heading to your nearest embassy to collect it.
But what you really don’t want to miss out on is travel!
To enter a lot of European countries your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure date.
If you’re cutting it fine with the expiry date, it may be worth your while to apply for a new passport before you leave. If this is the case, in Australia allow at least 3 weeks for your new one to arrive.
2. Head to the Visa Application website
You’ll find it at https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/.
This is where you’ll complete the online application form. You will need to register to create yourself a log in, then once you have the account you can start your application, saving and exiting as many times as you like to get all the info together.
It’s all very self explanatory, but things you will need to know include:
- Current and previous passport details: I didn’t keep my childhood passport. If you’re like me, you just need to indicate that you had a previous passport, but it is now lost. No problem.
- Date of planned arrival in the UK: select the date you intend to land at the airport to commence work in the country. Remember that you can enter the UK as a tourist before this date, head off on holiday for a bit, then re-enter the border on the date you nominate here. If your application is successful, you will be given a temporary visa commencing from the date you nominate, and valid for 30 days, so if you don’t know the exact date you will be entering the country you have a month-long window to work with.
- Address and contact details of where you will be staying in the UK: 6 months out this can be a real pain. If you have friends or family in the UK, perfect, use their details. If you’re planning to wing it and stay in a hostel/hotel/AirBnB when you arrive, just pick somewhere you could stay and enter those details for now. The main reason for providing an address here is so your Biometric Residence Permit (more on that later) can be delivered to a post office close to your location, making it easier for you to collect.
- Travel history: you will need to list any countries you have visited in the last 10 years, the dates you were there, and the reason for your trip. This can feel a bit arduous, but use Facebook and Instagram photos to take a little trip down memory lane and remind you of the dates.
- Family details: You will need to know your parents names, dates of birth, and places of birth (get ready for their life story…)
Once complete, the system will generate a PDF document summarising all of your application information which you then need to print, sign, and attach your mugshot/passport photo to.
3. Make your payments
You will have to pay your immigration health surcharge (the £300 for the NHS I mentioned here) and your application fee before you can move on to the next steps.
At first it can hurt a bit seeing all that money leave your bank account, until you remember what you’re paying for – Europe baby!
4. Book an appointment at a Visa Application Centre to submit your application
I attended my appointment in Sydney, but the processes are slightly different in each Australian capital city depending on who runs the application centre.
VFS Global is the third party company contracted to process UK visa applications in Australia. They have offices in each capital city except for Adelaide and Hobart – if applying from South Australia or Tassie you will still complete the online application form, but attend an appointment at the local Department of Home Affairs Office instead.
At this appointment you will submit your application and provide your “biometric information” – a fancy name for your finger prints and a photo.
You will need to bring:
- Your printed appointment letter
- Your printed and signed application form with a passport photo attached – make sure it meets all the usual passport-y requirements
- Your passport
- Your supporting documents
- Nationality and date of birth: your passport should suffice
- Finances: a bank statement/letter from your bank dates no eariler than a month before your appointment. Read the requirements carefully for this one, it needs the company letterhead and a signature of an official of the organisation. I was able to print a letter using my online banking service, but I can’t guarantee this will be possible for you.
Don’t stress too much about this step. They aren’t going to grill you about why you want to enter the UK or ask any tricky questions. All they want to do is collect all your information and send it with your passport to the visa processing centre (in the Philippines of all places!)
It literally takes less than 30 minutes.
You will be given the option to pay to receive text message updates and to have your passport couriered back to your postal address (otherwise you can return to the visa processing centre to pick it up when it’s ready).
5. Wait patiently…
You will receive a few emails stating where your application is up to in the process, but they won’t tell you the outcome of the application (I think they just like to make it a surprise…)
I waited about 2 weeks to have my passport delivered back, and opened it to find a nice shiny temporary visa inside – never been so happy to see such a terrible photo of myself!
Your temporary visa will show the dates you’re able to enter the UK – the start date you nominated on your application form, and the end date 30 days later.
Make sure you book your flights accordingly to enter the country and go through border control/customs between these dates.
The border control officer will need to stamp this page of your passport so you are able to collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which is your real residence permit for the 2 years you’re in the UK. You will pick this up from the post office closest to the address you provided on your application form. All of this is explained in the letter you receive along with your passport, so don’t stress.
Just to be clear, you can enter the UK before this date as a tourist. However, you will need to leave and re-enter through customs between the recorded dates to have your temporary visa stamped by border control, and therefore be able to pick up your BRP – make sense?
Don’t make the mistake I did by arriving a day early and being held up by the officer for questioning (not the best start to my solo European adventure…)
And that’s it! Not scary at all. Just make sure you get the supporting documents right and you shouldn’t have a problem.
Once you’ve got that temporary visa in your passport, there’s nothing stopping you. Book those flights – you’re on your way to the UK!
> Next Step: Booking flights
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