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How to Get a Visitor's Visa to the UK.


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Applying for a UK visitor's visa for a foreign friend to go to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be very stressful. I am also certain that it is more difficult for people from some countries than for others. This is because the staff are concerned about the applicant's ability to support him/herself. This is government policy and you must not hold it against the embassy staff - they are only doing their job! It is well worth remembering this if talking to the embassy staff about a UK visitor's visa.

You should take note here that a UK visitor's visa is usable for six months and not only that but the recipient can enter and leave the UK as often as he/she wants within those six months. In any case, in practice, for the first UK visitor's visa at least, restrictions may be imposed. For instance, if you state that you want to go for six weeks, a note may be pinned into the passport advising customs of the 6 week restriction. You must also 'promise' not to try to stay longer than that!

The visa also expressly forbids the applicant access to any 'social benefits' such as social security, health care or pension rights. Be aware that many/most applicants are refused their first attempt, because their submission is 'half-hearted'. If the stated reason is, say, to visit a friend or lover, the you really need to prove an on-going, long-term relationship of at least six months.

Now we will look into proving this relationship. Prospective visitors from poorer countries will usually need a sponsor. This sponsor will have to provide overwhelming evidence of a 'long-standing continuous relationship'. After all, they don't want your visitor doing a disappearing act just before their UK visitor's visa expires! As evidence, you can provide, for example: photos, restaurant menus, phone cars and bills, travel tickets, ATM receipts etc. You have to persuade the embassy staff, but they are receptive.

You could then obtain the application form (VAF) either by writing to or visiting the nearest British Embassy or Consulate or downloading it from the Internet. Most embassy sites provide excellent advice on what is required or recommended to put in the envelope with your UK visitor's visa application form, but it will include: two colour, passport-size photos; the application fee (about 50) in local currency; the applicant's passport; proof of the applicant's address; proof of a continuing relationship of at least six months; the sponsor's letter; proof of the sponsor's means of support; proof of the sponsor's accommodation and possibly, the sponsor's passport to prove entry stamps.

Therefore, it is necessary to realize that the sponsor plays a critical role if you want to make your first application for a UK visitor's visa a successful one. He/she must be prepared to cover your financial requirements during your stay in the United Kingdom and he/she must prove it with a letter and bank statements.

This means that the sponsor has to provide a letter from his/her employer proving continued, stable employment and/or a bank book, proving that he/she has enough money to provide what he/she has pledged on the UK visitor's visa application form; and proof of accommodation in the form of paid council tax bills, property deeds or a letter from the mortgage provider. Proof of marital status does not seem to be an issue for the sponsor or the applicant, although the question is asked of the latter. Some applicants are refused for apparently strange reasons such as:

"Mr. / Mrs. Miss Applicant for a UK visitor's visa has not previously used a passport" - easy, just go over the nearest border.

"Mr. / Mrs. / Miss Applicant for a UK visitor's visa has not proven strong enough social or economic ties to his/her country of origin" - they are saying they don't trust you to go home after your visit. In this case, try to prove these ties with a letter from your employer, a letter from your bank, a letter from a 'trusted person' like a doctor, lawyer and proof of ownership of any real estate.

Approach the application for a UK visitor's visa with caution; do not rush. It is better to get it right first time. Think about why you want to go to Great Britain; determine a 'good reason' and remember it - you will probably be asked. Be a solicitor for a day and support everything you say with irrefutable, written evidence.

Practice telling your story to a friend so that you are not stuck for an answer, but do not learn it word perfect. Remember that the applicant for the UK visa will be alone at the interview which may be held in English or the person's native language. The UK visitor's visa is normally ready for collection the next day (but not a Friday).

Hint: apply for more time than you need as the UK visitor's visa runs from the day it is granted, but you may not be able to get a flight straight away. You will probably also be required to return to the issuing embassy if you arrive back to have the UK visitor's visa cancelled; after all, it is a multiple entry, 180-day visa that could be used to return to the UK without the sponsor's knowledge, so try not to arrive back on a Friday unless you want a holiday in the capital.

And lastly a warning: don't be tempted to lie - its not worth it. You will be caught out!

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