Hello all! Welcome back to the blog. I’ve just finished applying for my UK Student Visa so I can go to London. Part of me wanted to document this experience fully on the blog. Luckily for me, I did this last year, when I thought I was going to move in the fall. There are still so many things I wish I knew before applying. Whether you’re looking at the UK or other international programs, there are many things to consider about the process, especially when it comes to visas. Visas and housing will be one of the hardest pieces. So today, I want to focus on the visa process. I want to highlight three things I wish I knew before applying for my visa.
First, the cost. My lord, applying for a UK student visa is a big chunk of change. One of the reasons for this is to ensure that people have the money to afford to come to the university. My visa was £348 for the visa alone, which is about $480. Additionally, there is a mandatory NHS Fee was about £705 (aka $973), but you have full access to all of what the NHS has to offer. All in all, the entire cost is well over $1400. For people who have to take out loans or don’t have jobs or families who can easily pay, they don’t have access to going to school abroad. My other visa to France wasn’t nearly as expensive. I stayed on a temporary long-stay visa and it was 50 € (about $63). Visas need to be accessible in order to get a robust and diverse body of candidates. If that’s not the goal to get that diversity, then I understand the costs. If you’re looking to go soon, then start saving up. That’s about what the cost will be for the foreseeable. Remember that you’ll be paying in Pounds not dollars, so watch the exchange rate as well!
Getting My Biometrics Done
Second, getting those appointments are hard! To apply for a visa, you have to provide biometric information to the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) agency. In order to take your biometrics taken, you must go to a USCIS center or one of the VFS Premium Application Centres. I chose the USCIS center because it’s cheaper (for the same services to be honest), and those appointments are like 5 minutes. The catch is there are only 1-2 per center a day at some centers. In Atlanta, they were booked out until mid-August, when I started looking in early June! Meaning, if you are in a big city hub, it’s impossible to find an appointment near you in a 1-2 month span.
Keep in mind these take 15 days to return and you can’t apply for an appointment until you get your CAS number (the number provided by your university) and finish your application. So you might need to look to other, smaller cities to process your visa and get ready to travel. When you’re looking into options, be sure to decide on USCIS vs. VFS early on, as once you make a choice, if you want to change your mind you have to cancel your application and ask UKVI for a refund, which can take 10-15 days.
The Waiting Game
Finally, the process is meticulous, but also quite antiquated. Regardless of which processing center you get your biometrics done at, you will have to mail it in yourself to the processing center and it takes 15 days to process. If anything is off, they’ll pause and send your application back, pause it to ask for revisions or additional documentation, or even deny you. Your application has to be perfect, don’t lie, and add as many details as you can.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am so happy that I can afford this luxury, but not everyone can. One of the things I wanted to do here was to be open and honest about the process because it is hard and stressful. I’ll be opening up about additional things I didn’t know or the process more. If you are looking at applying, welcome to the club! I’m excited to have you on the journey with me and hit me up! There are many amazing Facebook groups like US to UK Tier 4 Visa. Just to be transparent and to answer questions anyone might have about moving abroad or applying to school abroad. I hope you enjoyed it and if you have questions, feel free to ask them below!