My experience applying for a UK visa

Since Carla wrote about visas last week I decided I would write about my own experience applying for a UK visa this week.

When I first read the visa application guide I assumed I needed to have all required documents before submitting my visa application online, which I didn’t, and that assumption caused me to end up making my visa application last minute. I also happened to be in the UK for the summer and I allocated 3 weeks in Guatemala to deal with the visa, my being in the UK also meant I wasn’t able to complete the application before getting to Guatemala since I couldn’t put a date in the future on the list of trips to the UK.

The second problem I had was that on one of the UKVI’s website it said that Guatemala didn’t have an application center, so I had to look into flying to Mexico to have my biometrics taken there. However, there weren’t any visa appointments in Mexico city and the earliest appointment in Guadalajara was towards the end of the second week I was spending in Latin America before my flight back to the UK. Upon seeing this, I started a new application for the Panama visa center to see if I could get any earlier appointments. However, to my surprise, when listing Panama as the application country I got the option to pick Guatemala as the application center, and there was a single appointment for the day after. I still hadn’t gotten my TB certificate so I rushed to get it that day. Later when trying to pay for the visa and IHS fees it seemed like the page was having technical difficulties as the card wouldn’t go through but it also wouldn’t produce an error message. I called the UKVI helpline and they suggested I try a number of operating systems and browsers which I did with no luck. We called the bank several times but they insisted it wasn’t their fault. I had a friend in the UK try to pay the fees for me and her card did go through, making the bank the top suspect again given that she used one of the browser and operating system combinations I had already tried unsuccessfully. When the time came to print out the application I noticed a major mistake: my nationality was listed as Panama rather than Guatemala. I’m guessing this was a result of how little time I had to fill out the application, but regardless of the cause it was a really big problem. I called the Guatemala application center and they said they couldn’t do anything about it and that I had to call the Colombia UKVI helpline. I called repetitively but they didn’t pick up. I was able to get through to them a few hours before my visa appointment and they said I should cancel the application entirely because I was not allowed to make any corrections and my visa would definitely be rejected.

After cancelling the second application I went back to the application for Mexico. We tried paying the fees again and the card did go through without problem, so it was definitely the bank’s fault. When trying to select an appointment date and location there was one appointment in Mexico city 2 days from then, so I took that appointment and booked the earliest flight to Mexico. Once we got to the application center things went relatively smoothly. I had my biometrics taken and was told that since they had a very high number of applications at the time I would get a decision in 3 weeks unless I paid for expedited processing. Given that I already had a flight for the UK departing from Guatemala booked I had to do that or miss my flight. They also said that I could have gotten a document from Guatemala to be allowed to travel back to Guatemala without my passport and have the passport be shipped there by Fedex which would’ve been good to know beforehand.

Once my application was submitted I got periodic emails about the application status but I didn’t get a visa decision until I picked up my passport from the application center in Mexico a bit over a week later (it was approved, which I was very glad to hear after how un-smoothly things had gone). I was able to get refunded for the visa fee for the first application within a month, and was refunded for the IHS fee several months after I paid it (the payment was made in August and the refund was processed a few days ago).

Upon arriving to the UK I was asked for a copy of my CAS, which happened to be the only document I forgot to print and bring with me, but I was able to pull up an electronic copy that they accepted. After waiting a couple of days for jetlag to be less horrible I went to pick up my BRP at the Guildford post office, which only took a few minutes.

I wish you the best with your visa applications! Hopefully you can learn a thing or two from everything that went wrong with mine and not have to deal with that yourselves.