Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Visa Application

This visa application process has many steps.  After I knew I had all the information I needed I had to log into the UK Visas and Immigration site and start the process there.  I had to create an account and submit my application electronically.  Vernon was online with me in a Google Hangout and we were screen sharing so he could help me with whatever information I needed, and it was a good thing he was there.  This application took us nearly 3 hours to complete. Not sure if that is the norm or if we did a lot of talking or what but we were online with this application for quite some time.  This is not something to rush through so if you are going to do this, make sure you have plenty of time set aside and access to your sponsor or family member for any questions.  You can save the application without processing it so if you need to save it unfinished you can do that too.  It's also good to save as you go. I made the mistake of not saving which I think is one of the reasons it took us so long to get this done.  We also had to pay for our application during this time.  In US dollars it cost us $1,513.  That amount will most likely change as the currency exchange fluctuates.

After I completed the online application I had to pick a location and date to get my biometrics done.  I chose Milwaukee because I planned on being in the area in a few weeks and it would give me time to get my supporting documents together.   It is very important to print and keep these three items: 1. Your completed application. You will need it for your biometrics appointment.  2. Your biometrics appointment letter. You can't get past security without it. 3. Proof of application payment.  I don't remember if they looked at it at my biometrics appointment but you will need to send it along with your application and supporting documents.  When it came time for my appointment I arrived at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Milwaukee. (USCIS) The security was the same as at an airport. I read that phones and beverages are not allowed so I just left it all in the car.  <<<Me parked with a view of the building I have to go to.  I got there early which was REALLY REALLY smart.  When I got there I had plenty of places to park, there was no one there except one family, but maybe 10 minutes after I arrived the people started pouring in.  I showed security my US Passport (photo ID) and my appointment letter and they x-rayed my purse and went through it.  After security I was asked to stand in front of another door and wait for someone to help me.  They looked at my letter, application and photo ID, wrote something on my application and told me to have a seat and wait until my number is called.  After a short wait, my number was called, I went into another room and a very friendly woman had me clean my hands with sanitizer. She took my photo, then had me stand in front of this glass plate where she wiped my fingertips and placed my fingers on the glass.  My fingerprints appeared before my eyes on the screen in front of me. It was very cool! No ink, no mess! Everyone from security to the fingerprint lab was very professional and friendly and kept people moving along. My appointment was for 11am, but I got there before 10:30 and I was out of there before 11.

Finally, I had to get my supporting documents together.  I didn't put in as much time before the appointment as I should have, and then took a road trip to see my daughter the weekend after my appointment which left me only with a few days to make my copies and put all my paperwork together.  I miscalculated how  much time I would actually need to do this.  I had access to a large table where I could spread out and worked every night for 3 nights until midnight, During this time I got really sick, landing me in bed over the weekend that I was supposed to finish putting this stuff together.  I finally got it finished 2 days later than I would have liked, but I was still within the 2 week deadline after my biometrics appointment.  Remember to be mindful of the deadlines.  The paperwork ended up being 11 pounds and I spent over $100 to have it overnighted.  I also included a box and shipping label for returning my originals.  It was hectic, stressful and very emotional when that package was taken from my sight but now it's just time to sit back and wait until I hear from the UK whether my visa application is accepted or not.  They say 8-12 weeks so we'll see how it goes.