How to Apply for a UK Tourist Visa
This guide is for applying for a U.K. Tourist Visa at the VFS Manila branch for Philippine Passports. This article is based on my visa application experience as of Jan. 20, 2016. :)
Many Filipinos know that in order for us to travel to every first-world country, we need to apply for a tourist visa. I don't see visas as a bad thing because this is a way for the government to keep track of who's going in and out of their country, but it is ridiculously unfair to third-world country passport holders. We usually end up spending more than we should, just for the sake of being able to travel. Sadly, this is the harsh reality we have to accept.
My 2016 U.K. Visa would be the sixth time I applied for a tourist visa to any country within the past three years and my second time to apply for a U.K. Visa. Given this, applying should be a piece of cake, right? The answer is no. The moment I found out a decision have been made, I got so anxious that I canceled all of my events and appointments on the day the passport is scheduled for delivery That way, if I get denied, I can cry in the comforts of my home. Lol.
Anyway, this is going to be a lengthy post because I received so many visa questions in my previous U.K. Visa post that I want my post to be really thorough. It's divided into sections: from answering the application form to the day of submission. This article only serves as a guide, and I hope you'll find it helpful when you apply, but please be reminded that whatever is written here does not guarantee visa approval.
Know the type of visa you're applying for
There are many types of Tourist Visas for the U.K., I kid you not. Make sure you’re applying for the correct type of visa by taking this short quiz. At the end of the quiz, click and read the links corresponding to your type of visa.
The website has all the information you need.
Filling up the Application Form
Register an account HERE. This website is where your entire visa application will be kept. You can edit and save your application until you're ready to book your preferred schedule of appointment, pay the fee (my application cost USD131), and print the form.
I submitted my application on January 20, exactly three months before my trip, but started filling up my application a week before. This gave me ample time to sort out the details. Bear in mind that U.K. Visa Application Form is the most complex form I've ever had to fill up with.
Always save your progress
Fill up your form with all your details. If you’re unsure, skip the question and answer them again later. Always, always save your progress because our internet in this country sucks. (You know it’s true!)
The application form is divided into sections. If you’re done answering the questions thoroughly, the tabs on the right will turn from black to green.
Income and Expenditure
* This is a sample breakdown of my travel expenses in the U.K. DO NOT COPY THIS. You need to create an analysis of your own expenses, based on your itinerary. *
The Income and Expenditure section is probably the most confusing part of the application form. I don’t know if it’s only confusing because Filipinos are more familiar with the American English, or it’s really confusing??? Luckily, the Internet is at your disposal! A quick Google search will lead you to several forums that will help you decipher the questions.
Do you have savings, properties or other income, for example from stocks and shares?
I believe that this refers to monthly passive income, like interests from your savings account and investments from stocks and shares.
How much do you spend each month on living costs?
The monthly living expenses in your home country.
What is the cost to you personally of your trip in GBP(£)?
From what I’ve read online, this question refers to the total cost that you expect to spend throughout your journey. The total cost should be able to support your itinerary.
The total amount of money you have for this trip
The total amount you’ve saved up for your journey. Remember: The number on your bank certificate should be able to prove that you can support the amount stated here.
The cost of your living expenses
This refers to your living expenses while in the United Kingdom. I assumed that the living expenses also include the payment of the rent, therefore stating £1,300. Now that I think about it, I hope my breakdown made sense to the consul who reviewed my application.
Be honest and be detailed as possible!
There’s a limit on the text box, and since I intend to stay in the U.K. for four months, so it’s not possible to write the nitty gritty details of my trip. This probably the reason why my visa was issued effective immediately, but more on that later. If you’re going to the U.K. for a month or two, try your best to write a detailed itinerary in your application form.
Confirm Your Application
Before confirming your entire application form, make sure to double check everything. Once all sections are complete, click the ‘Confirm’ button to review all of the answers you have given. You can save this particular web page and print it for reviewing purposes only. When you’re ready, click ’Submit’ and digitally signed the form, the form is considered final, and you can no longer edit it.
Last but not the least, make sure you print the submitted application form before going to the VFS Office. Otherwise, if you don't print the form, they will charge you for P15 per page!
Document I’ve Gathered and Submitted
Here are the things that I submitted for my application:
- 1 Printed Copy of Application Form
- Current Passport (with 6 months validity within travel period)
- Original and Photocopies of Previous Passports and Visas
- Birth Certificate - Optional, but nice to have. They even returned the photocopy!
- Letter of Employment - Must include company contact details, role, salary, and starting date.
- Bank Certificate
- Bank Statements (for the past 6 months)
- Sponsor’s Bank Certificate***
- My Eurotrip Itinerary - Since I'm applying for a Short Term Study Visit, they disregarded my proposed itinerary. If you're studying there for less than 6 months, get a Tourist Visa.
- Airbnb/Hotel Details
- Letter of Offer - This letter is from the private college I'm going to. It serves as proof that studying is my primary purpose of visit.
- Photocopy of OR/CR and Land Titles - Optional, but nice to have. They only returned the photocopy of my land title, though.
- VFS Global Appointment letter - Although no one asked me to present this letter, it's best to still bring a copy because walk-in visa applicants are charged PHP2,000.
*** Requirements from Sponsors may vary, please check the GOV UK Website for more information. In my case, I declared my mother as an additional financial support, on top of my earnings and bank account, to further prove to the U.K. Embassy that I can afford this trip, and if things go wrong, they wouldn't have to worry. I submitted an explanation letter, a photocopy of my sponsor’s passport, and an original copy of her bank certificate.
If you’re not willing to let go of your original documents, please provide a photocopy of your documents. Otherwise, the British High Commission will not return your documents.
On The Day of Appointment
After filling up your application form and pay the corresponding visa fees, you may now schedule your visa appointment online. On the same website, you'll be requested to select which date and time you wish to submit your documents. I chose January 20, at around 7:30 AM.
Visa applicants must lodge their documents at the VFS Global office in Makati. The VFS Global is a processing center that acts as a “middleman” between visa candidates and embassies of many countries. Their job is to accept and check your documents and forward it to the corresponding embassy. To be honest, I prefer submitting my documents to the VFS because they follow a strict and organized process in visa applications.
On January 20, 2016, I arrived at the VFS UK Office in Eco Plaza at exactly 7:20 AM, 10 minutes prior my visa appointment. I went through the usual security checks, and the guards informed me that bags aren’t allowed in the office. By bags, I mean, ALL BAGS! Even my small crossbody, where I kept my wallet and phone, wasn’t allowed inside. Since I’m alone and didn’t bring a car with me, I had to deposit my stuff at a locker for PHP100.
By 7:30 AM, I was standing at the lobby counter. The staff checked my application form and passport, then handed me a document checklist, an SMS Enrollment form, and queue slip. She then instructed me to fill up the form and proceed inside the VFS UK Office.
A big “UKV11” was written my queue slip, and when I entered the UK Office, the VFS officers were already processing UKV8. To be honest, I’m quite impressed how fast the process is, considering that it took me four hours when I first applied in 2013. Anyway, while waiting, I organized my documents according to the checklist and filled up the SMS form.
My number was called around 7:45 AM my papers, and it took us 15 minutes to process and check my documents. Immediately after, I was called to get my biometrics and picture taken. The whole process, including the security control and locker deposit, only took me 40 minutes! Quick, easy, and convenient.
There is NO interview unless the U.K. embassy decides that they want to see you in person.
$131 (PHP6,386.57 at time of payment) Visa Fee + PHP500 for Passport Courier Service + PHP150 for SMS Updates + PHP100 for Locker = PHP 7,136.57
I received my visa on the 27th of January, the sixth working day since I submitted my application. The standard processing time for Tourists Visa is 15 working days.
Sidenote: I assumed that if I apply early, everything else is going to be a breeze. I could book early, save money, make better itineraries, and so on... but I was so wrong! Because I applied for a Short Term Study Visa instead of the Standard Tourist Visa, the U.K. Embassy gave me a 6-month visa that's effective immediately, which means my original itinerary — the one I provided on my application and the one that I've been planning for a couple of months now — is no longer valid. I could apply for a Standard Tourist Visa, but that would mean I would have to shell out another PHP6,000+ for the fees and documents. It's slightly disappointing, but the important thing is that I still got my visa and I'm going to live in my favorite city for a couple of months! :)