The idea of getting a UK Tourist visa in the Philippines seemed quite intimidating at first, but it was actually pretty straightforward. Here are some basic things to know about it.
I’m back from my short stay in the UK and I had a blast! Many people have come up to me asking how I managed to get my tourist visa and what my experience was in getting it, so I figured to write about it here.
It is very common for Filipinos to get intimidated by the idea of getting a visa. The visa application process has always been bitterly viewed as a vicious and discriminating process, mostly because grounds for approval are not specific. I will have to admit, it does SUCK so much that people from other countries get to walk into our beautiful country without going through this painstaking process, while we have to put our travel fate onto the hands of some mysterious immigration gods. Then again, what annoys me more, is that this is the outcome of other Filipinos’ abuse of their travel privileges by overstaying, finding illegal employment, etc. So now, people who are genuinely just trying to travel for experience’s sake are equally given a hard time. Oh well. Such is life.
Anyway, I decided to visit London last year and had to go through the UK Tourist Visa application process. Here are some good things to know if you are looking to apply for your UK visa for the first time. These are some questions that I’ve received from friends who are planning to visit the UK (which includes Great Britain, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) for travel purposes. The answers below may not necessarily apply to people who are looking to work, study, marry, or migrate to these countries. Once again, I beg you, please do not get a Tourist visa for any other reason than to experience and tour the UK. Don’t be a douche to the rest of the Philippine traveling community. You can learn more about the types of UK visas you can get from their site.
Where do I start?
When trying to get a UK tourist visa, or any visa from any other country for that matter, you need to first set your travel plans. Explore your considerations for traveling. For example, I wanted to celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend and family, so we decided that it would be best for me to come in late November all through January. It is really important to first have a general idea of your travel and accommodation plans before even compiling any paperwork. How many leaves are you allowed? Are you looking to experience the cold months? Who will you be visiting there? Having a solid idea of what you want out of the trip will help you organize your itinerary and requirements easier.
Note: You can’t apply for your UK tourist visa more than 3 months before you intend to fly out. I suggest applying 2 months before to allow for appeals should you need it.
Did they ask for a lot of things?
YES. Here is my checklist for UK Visa requirements. It is important to organize and compile your requirements thoroughly because of the next question below…
Should I use a visa service?
Hmm… You know what? I thought the process was pretty straightforward, so I don’t think you’ll need to pay extortionate fees to Visa processing centers. I don’t understand what they can really do for you, to be honest. Even submitting the papers was so easy, that I can’t imagine hiring a third party would make things any easier.
I want to fake my bank statements. Do you think they’ll catch it?
I don’t know if they would, but I know you SHOULDN’T. Just don’t do it! Falsifying ANY document can get you banned from applying for a visa for 10 years! Don’t risk it.
Was there an interview?
No. You will just need to submit an online application and then compile your documents and pass it at their satellite visa processing office. The online application focuses on the details of your travel plans and your validity to travel, while the face to face document submission is all about making sure that you have all the documents to back up your online application. This means that your application relies heavily on how complete and organized your documentary requirements are, since you are not going to be talking to any immigration officers. The staff in the VFS Office will only decline your application if it is missing anything from the checklist.
How long should I say would I stay in the UK?
You will be given a 6 month visa regardless of how long your travel plans are, but I suggest that you really think your intended vacation time through based on two things – your allowed leaves and your budget. Be reminded that when applying for a visa, you need to be able to demonstrate two things – that you can’t and will not overstay and that you can afford the cost of staying in the UK for the amount of time that you choose. That means that you need to have proof from your place of employment or business that you have pending obligations and responsibilities in the Philippines. I also would really suggest that you have a breakdown of your expected expenses throughout the trip so that the amount of time that you say you’ll be spending there actually makes sense.
How come you stayed there for so long?
Okay, calm down! It wasn’t THAT long. I had meant to be there for 2 months but ended up staying there for a total of 5 and half months. Yes, I milked my visa for its worth, but there was nothing wrong with that. I actually emailed their visa service and asked about circumstances of staying beyond your intended timeframe. It is fine as long as you are able to support yourself and as long as you leave before your visa expires. Sometimes, you just find yourself able to extend your trip. That’s fine as long as you stay within your visa allowance. You can apply for an extension if you feel like staying there for longer.
How much money should I have in my bank?
To be completely upfront, I think it’s relative to your itinerary. I initially wanted to stay 1-2 months, but thought I might even sport for three, so I had about PhP200,000+ in my account. It does not make sense to say that you want to visit the UK to see friends for a full three months on a 50,000 peso budget, especially if your sponsors/friends don’t have sufficient funds to support you. For example, I suggest that if accommodation is available to you through friends or family, expressly state that accommodation is covered and try to budget an allowance of 30-50£ or ₱2100-3500 per day. Make sure that your travel budget and your itinerary are complementary to each other. It even helps for you to have a spreadsheet of your itinerary with corresponding cost values to show that you can support yourself. You have to remember that you are not allowed to get access to public funds, so you can’t take employment if you run out of cash.
What’s good to take note of when passing the docs to VFS?
Remember that these people don’t have an influence on your visa application, but if you come with incomplete requirements, you will be sent back another day. Also, remember to come 30 mins before your schedule. If you come in sooner than that, you will not be allowed to enter. They are pretty strict with the time that you are allowed to enter the premises, so keep that in mind. You can schedule your submission from Monday to Friday between 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You could also pick the prime time service from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., Monday to Thursday, but will require an additional fee. I suggest that you just get your passport and documents sent back to your for the additional fee of Php 300+ so you won’t have to come back to collect it yourself.
How long did the whole process take you?
I spent an overall time of preparing for this process was 2-3 months because I had to fix my business’ paperwork. However, passing the visa application in itself took 1-2 hours, and the waiting game for the decision took 10 – 15 days. Mine came in on the 15th day.
Are there any signs to look out for to know if you’ve passed or not?
Stop killing yourself with anxiety. Some sites say that if you get some text message on the 11th day, you’ve most likely been granted the visa, but this is just not true! You’ll know when you get your stuff back. Best just remind yourself that there’s nothing you can do but wait, at this point. Just relax and keep your fingers crossed!
Around the time I was applying, this news that the British embassy has made applying for a UK tourist visa from Philippines much easier came out. It really helped lessen the pressure. When you really, really want something you will be an emotional rollercoaster. Just remember to keep being optimistic and to put conscious effort into compiling everything you need. When applying for any other tourist visa, it will be demanding of your time and efforts, but trust me, it will be worth it later. Good luck!
THIS IS NOT OFFICIAL ADVICE, THIS IS JUST A MEANS FOR ME TO SHARE MY EXPERIENCES, SO PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND TRUST YOUR OWN INSTINCTS.