Before I start, I should mention that I’m not an expert on immigration of visa application. The process for a Youth Mobility Visa is nuanced and even the staff at the application office will tell you, it’s every man or woman for him or her self.
The first time I applied for a Tier 5 – Youth Mobility Visa for the UK was in 2013, and despite being declined, I found the process simple.
I applied for the same Tier 5 – Youth Mobility Visa for the UK again in 2017, and though I was accept, the process was significantly more complicated.
The process in 2017 is a virtually paperless procedure, with the entire application accessible online. Despite the elimination of paperwork, there was plenty of legwork required to get that sweet stamp in my passport.
Step 1 – Check Yourself
First I had to check if I was eligible for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa for the UK. In order to apply you have to:
– Be 18 – 30 years of age.
– Have no children who live with you or who you’re financially responsible for.
– Be from Canada, Australia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, or Taiwan.
– Have £1,890 in the bank.
Check, check, check!
Step 2 – Sign up
Next I created an account at the UK’s Visa application site here (https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/home/welcome).
At first glance, the site looks like it was designed to sell fake Nikes, but lo and behold, it is indeed the official portal for UK Visas & Immigration.
Step 3 – Do the digital paperwork
The online forms require answers to fairly straightforward questions such as your place of birth, parents’ names, passport number, and so on. But it’s easy to get derailed if you’re missing any information.
You are asked to provide where you’ll be staying once you arrive in the UK, in order for your “Biometric Residence Permit” to be delivered. However, if you’re just beginning the application process for a Visa, you more than likely have no idea where you’ll be staying because you’re waiting to get approved.
But you can’t move forward with the application until all the boxes are checked. So just write Platform 9 3/4 or something.
I had questions.
To talk to someone at the UK Immigration office there’s a charge of £1.37 per minute to speak via phone. Not wanting to pay phone sex prices to get a few simple answers and no happy ending, I opted to get in touch via e-mail.
The response thankfully quick, yet utterly useless.
“Applicants have the responsibility for filling the application form including the documents they submit, as you have to provide your personal information and we do not really know your circumstances at all, so we are unable to advise,” the Immigration office who deals with immigrants and visa applicants as a full-time job expertly replied.
Equipped with those words of wisdom, I provided the address of a hostel at random in London that seemed fairly centrally located. The Biometric Residence Permit will get sent, pending approval, to the closest post office to the address you provide regardless of whether or not you stay there.
It’s the thought that counts. Getting to choose where I’ll have to pick up my papers is a luxury, but without a working knowledge of London, and now living in a different town completely, it’s a bit of a burden.
Also, if you’ve lost a passport, or have been declined for a visa like I have, you will have to provide reference numbers for said documents. In these boxes I simply wrote “unknown”, which proved sufficient. It’s definitely not worth it to lie on these forms. The British government runs MI6 and employs a certain secret agent with a preference for martinis and a film career spanning decades.
Step 4 – The Easiest Part of the Application
There’s absolutely no confusion when it comes to getting this part of the application completed: fork over cash.
There are two fees paid as separate transactions in GBP. The fluctuating exchange rate makes the rate more or less depending on when you pay. The first fee, for “Immigration Healthcare Surcharge” or IHS, cost $518 CAD, which allows the use of the National Health Service (NHS) while in the UK.
The second fee, for $419 CAD, was the price tag to apply for a UK Visa.
Step 5 – Appointment at a Visa Application Centre
You’d think in this age of technology the online form would grant us as little human interaction as possible, but the the UK visa requires you to attend an in-person meet & greet to make sure you’re not a weirdo.
Not really, but the the UK needs your fingerprints and a mugshot in case you try to kidnap the Queen or something.
After completing all that digital paperwork, you are required to print it out, and deliver it to the local UK Visa Application Centre.
“Huh?” is right.
The appointment is free in many Canadian cities but luckily I was living in Edmonton, where I was required to pay a small fee. At this point I was just feeling grateful that they hadn’t asked me to hand over a vital organ or the rights to my first child.
This second to last step requires that you bring the collection of scavenger hunt items you’ve collected together. Including:
– A valid passport (preferably yours).
– The printed Visa application (that you did online to avoid wasting paper).
– Your appointment confirmation (also printed out).
– Proof that you have £1,890 in the bank (I’m not sure if this amount is consistent, so be sure to check out the visa4uk website [“VISA 4 U, K?”).
I provided both a bank statement from my savings account and a form stating my entire net worth (not much – but enough). Because I am thoroughly paranoid, I had the teller stamp both pages, to ensure authenticity. If you decide to print out a bank statement from online banking, make sure you do this, because they won’t accept statements that are not stamped, or at least, that’s what I’ve gathered from my research. It’s possible to submit statements from shared accounts, as long as your name is on the account.
Do make sure that your application is 100% ready to be submitted when you attend your appointment because the immigration employees will not answer any questions and are not authorized to give you any advice. The appointment is pretty straightforward, you (unsure if you have all the necessary documents) hand your bundle of paperwork to an immigration official (who doesn’t know or care if you have the right paperwork) who then puts it in an envelope and mails it to someone else who will determine if you filled out your forms correctly.
Yes. You just completed an online form, printed it, dragged it downtown, so that it could just be mailed somewhere else. Bureaucracy at it’s best.
There are going to be a few moments of panic when the official asks you to provide marriage certificates, death certificates, paperwork for children you don’t have, proof of your family’s citizenship in the UK, etc. But granted you aren’t married, dead, or reading this article thinking it’s not about the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, it should all be okay.
I said goodbye to my passport and supporting documents and headed into a small utility closet where another immigration agent scanned my fingerprints and snapped a mugshot.
And that was that. Four to six weeks later, they said, I’d know if I was moving to the UK or not.
I expected to hold my breath for weeks waiting for a response, but my application approval was surprisingly fast.
Like, really fast.
I applied on a Monday, and by the next day I had received an email saying that my application had made it to New York, which is where they process Canadian applicants.
By Wednesday, I received another email saying they were preparing my application to be
reviewed, and on Friday I received a final email saying I’d been approved. Hurrah!
When you break down the process it doesn’t seem too confusing, but my biggest struggle was the uncertainty. I found all of the websites I read were inconsistent, or didn’t provide clear information. There weren’t many places to look for advice on the process, so I hope my experience is helpful to anyone looking to apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.
In the end, it was all worth it for that pretty little stamp in my passport – I will be heading to the UK in a few days after a stopover in Iceland. Now, if only I had a step-by-step guide on how to pack for an entire year abroad.