It’s been an interesting journey getting our visas for the UK and Europe (Shenghen). Having been through the process just once we’re in no position to start spewing advice. However I have seen very few accounts of the process from a South African applicant’s perspective so perhaps we can assist in a small way.
As the headline suggests be ready to supply reams of paper. I should’ve done a count but I reckon our pile for the UK application was about 40 pages each, some printed on both sides. We managed to reduce the page count significantly for the Shenghen Visa but it was still over 20 pages.
From our perspective the focus or aim of the two administrations differs if you look at what they request as backup documentation.
It’s clear that the United Kingdom government wants to make very sure that you will be leaving and doing so when promised. They want proof of property owned in your country, children that will be staying behind and that you have a job to come back to. The document checklist supplied can be a little vague with two categories : documents you must include and documents you may include. So we took the route of ‘rather be safe than sorry’ and included everything we could. What is important is proof of travel to and out of the UK and proof of accommodation. Staying with friends or family? Get them to send you a letter confirming that you will be staying with them and include proof of address and a copy of their identification document.
Once you have filled your application online at https://www.gov.uk you are ‘handed over’ to the local agency TLS Contact which are really just paper movers. They literally skim through the documents, make sure you have what you ticked off on the checklist and place it in an envelope to be sent to the embassy. Do not expect any indication of the likelihood of success or failure of your application.
The gov.uk site will give you an indication of how long it will take. In our case it stated 10 working days and it was spot on.
You get the feeling that the European Union countries are very concerned with how much money you have to spend. It was also a startling revelation that gone are the days that you can travel to Europe and go wherever the wind or a cute French lady takes you. As with the UK you need to account for all your cross border travel as well as every overnight accommodation stay.
Nevertheless we found the agent for French and Italian entry, Capago, had very friendly and helpful staff. We didn’t realise that they required cross border travel ticket confirmation so they allowed us to quickly email it to them, they printed it and sent it off to the embassy.
True to their assurance the French Embassy returned our passports with the visas in 48 hours.
All in all us newbies found the experience a lot more stressful than we expected. Were all the documents we included necessary? Did they make or break our application? We’ll never know…. But it’s done and we’re on our way!