It’s no secret that I have an upcoming trip to the U.K. Some may think that I’m bragging, but to be honest, I’m just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY EXCITED!!!!!!! My family, boyfriend, and close friends know this. As an Anglophile, I’ve always dreamed of going to the U.K. Heck, I’ve dreamed about this trip since I was seven years old! Yes, almost 20 years in the making!!! I’ve even expressed my Anglophilia on this blog many times, two of which are this post, AND this post where I wrote the following words:
Honestly, I want to go to only two European countries: ITALY and of course — being your resident Anglophile and all that — THE UNITED KINGDOM. 😉 If I’m able to go to the rest, I won’t complain! But I’ll just consider those as my “bonus.” For me, Italy and the U.K. are my “all or nothing” when it comes to traveling to the EU (yep, even the Eiffel Tower takes only third place!). But, and a BIG BUT at that, I told my sister that if we’re going to those aforementioned countries, we have to go to Florence, Milan, Pisa, Verona, Venice, and Rome ; England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Uh-huh, syempre the whole Italian and English package dapat noh!!! 😛
Based on that alone, you already pretty much have an idea where I’m planning my next great adventure! Haha! But yep, I wrote that way back in 2012. Come to think of it, this blog itself is U.K.-inspired! Where else did you think I got the idea of “Lady”? The British Aristocracy, of course! *ahem, ahem* So to be honest, if you think that I’m being mayabang or something (hahaha, a friend of mine could relate!), it’s none of my business. My true friends know that I’m NOT, anyway (marami rin siguro sa kanila ang nauna nang nakapunta dun, so they can relate!). In fact, I know that they’re truly, madly, deeply happy for me!!! Mwahahahahaha 😛
Rambling aside, let’s get down to business. If you’re a Filipino and you’re planning to go to a country outside of Southeast Asia (SEA), chances are, you’re required to have a visa. As of this year (2016), Filipinos can travel to only 61 countries visa-free (and some of those countries don’t even have direct flights from Manila, so you might still need to apply for a non-visa-free country’s transit visa! nyek!). Someday, I’ll be able to blog more about my firsthand experience on the visa processes of other countries. I’ll get there — WE will get there — someday… For now, I can only give you my firsthand experience on applying for a U.K. Tourist Visa in my hometown, Manila, Philippines! 😀
FIRST, complete your documents (original and photocopies). I’ll divide this into two categories: the required and the others.
The required documents are only three actually:
- application form (more on this later)
- valid passport (for at least 6 months from date of travel to the U.K.)
- 2 photos (45mm high by 35mm wide, with cream or grey background) — your local Kodakan probably knows this already, so don’t worry!
The others, or what you call your supporting documents. ALL SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED TO BE PHOTOCOPIED. Basically, these are the things that will help you “convince” a consular officer that you have strong ties to the Philippines (a.k.a. hindi ka magtatago sa Inglatera dahil may babalikan ka sa Pilipinas!) and that you have enough funds for your trip. Since the British Embassy in Manila is document-dependent when it comes to their visa applications (unlike other embassies that require personal appearance/interview), I believe it’s crucial that you really don’t lack any of the following:
- proof of previous travel (i.e., passport stamps)
- bank statements or payslips (for the last 6 months)
- certificate of employment (or proof of business/self-employment, whichever applies to you)
- booking details/itinerary (it’s not really advisable to book your airfare/accommodation without having a visa first, so make sure that your bookings are not yet final to the point that you can’t refund them anymore)
- others (any other document that you think might be helpful to your visa application)
SECOND, accomplish the application form. In order to do so, you need to create an account first from this site. Once you already have an account, log in and then start filling it out. It’s really not that complicated. The only heads-up I can give you is to remember your travel history for the last decade! Yes, for the last 10 years! So start backtracking those old passports and their stamps as early as possible…
THIRD, pay for the non-refundable visa fee. The short-stay visit visa is GBP85 or around PHP6,300 (as of February-March 2016). That’s usually valid for six months. The other visa types are priced differently, so better check the U.K. Government’s official site about visas for more info on those. Also, you might be needing a credit card for this. I don’t think they have a bank deposit option (or maybe I just overlooked that one).
FOURTH, book an appointment (through VFS Global). Once you accomplish the form and pay for the visa, you will also see the option there for booking an appointment. However, know that the appointment you’re making is for submitting your documents to VFS Global. VFS Global is “hired” by British Embassy Manila (and other embassies) to collect documents of visa applicants so that applicants don’t need to go to the Embassy itself.
FIFTH, appear at VFS on your appointment date (and have your photo taken and fingerprints scanned). Our appointment was the earliest (7AM), so this was pretty fast. From the time the doors opened until they closed as we exited the building, it took us around 30 minutes max! The only heads-up I can give you are about the TRAVEL TIME and ADDITIONAL FEES. (And oh, the photo they will take using their webcam is the one that will be used on your visa! The 2 copies you will submit are for your application form only. I didn’t know this before, so obvious naman sa visa photo ko noh?! Hahaha! So yeah, make sure you look your best during that time! Anyway…)
VFS Global’s office is in Makati, so plan your routes ahead especially if you’re going to be stuck in the “morning rush hour.”
The additional fees, on the other hand, are optional and only offered for more convenience, so it’s up to you if you’ll avail them. You’ll be asked if you want your passport (and original documents) delivered to you for PHP500, and if you want to receive text updates of your visa status for PHP150. To be honest, I paid for both (a total of PHP650), but I haven’t received any text update — not even one! Hay! So yeah, the only convenience there was the delivery of my passport (with the visa, of course!), right at my doorstep! (But if you don’t want to pay a fee for the courier delivery, you can also opt to pick up your passport at VFS Global. Just coordinate with them).
SIXTH, wait for your passport (hopefully, with the visa!). The normal processing time is 15 business days, but I received mine just after 10 days from the time of our appointment date. YAY!!!
SEVENTH AND LAST (but definitely not the least), ENJOY YOUR U.K. TRIP! But that’s another blog entry altogether! So until then! Hahaha!
Have you tried applying for a U.K. visa in Manila or elsewhere? How was it?
Let me know what you think! 🙂