UK Tier 2 Visa – oh what a mess

Target country: United Kingdom
Passport country: India
Type of Visa: Employer sponsored Tier-2 General work visa

Experience:
UK Home Office is seriously trying to limit immigration into the country. This means they have tightened up a lot of processes that made it easier to get a Tier 2 or Tier 1 in the past.

I did not have time to apply for my Tier 2 by post, because of essential travel plans. The postal application takes upto 3 months to process.

So I had to go for a ‘premium appointment’. I had a look through the UKBA website, and there were no premium appointments available for the whole year! Crazy! In the past it was possible to call the UKBA and get an appointment over the phone. Now that phone number has been withdrawn. Also, in the past, Lawyers were able to access the appointment system through a separate interface and get premium appointments for an extra fee. That has also been shut down.

So, after much fretting, my lawyer (Fragomen Plc) was able to get me a premium appointment at the Sheffield public enquiry office. I went there on the day with all my paperwork, to find that there was a ‘problem with the computers’. I had to wait all day (6 hours) at the office. Even then, my passport wasn’t returned the same day (as it used to be in the past). The passport and biometric visa card came in the post almost a week later.

All in all, very frustrating and stress inducing.

To top it all off, when I tried to enter the UK at Heathrow for the first time on my new Tier 2 visa, I was ‘detained’ at the border for 15 mins. Apparently they recorded the wrong fingerprints on my biometric card. So now every time I travel to the UK, I will have to wait around for 15 mins while the officers perform additional checks before letting me in.

But here are some photos to inspire you to go live in the UK!
London Central Mosque on a Snowy Afternoon Inverness by Night Cove near Fistral Beach, Newquay

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Ireland visa waiver for Indian Passport Holders

There’s been some buzz on the internet about being able to travel to the Republic of Ireland if you have a UK Visa in your Indian passport. For a while my Wife and I have been quite excited about this, since we both want to see Ireland.

But I checked up the exact wording of the visa waiver programme. It seems that you can only visit Ireland on a UK visa if you have a Tourist or Short term business visa. Bit of a bummer for us. I am here on a work visa and my wife on a dependant visa. Looks like we will need to get an Irish visa!

Here is the link to the exact wording on the Irish embassy website:
http://www.irelandinindia.com/home/index.aspx?id=86830

Update
Three of my friends have recently entered The Republic of Ireland under the visa-waiver programme, on a UK tourist visa. Also, my wife, who is on a UK resident visa (Tier-1 Dependant), had to apply for a tourist visa to Ireland (they gave her a single-entry visa). Note: The visa was issued to her FREE of cost and took 1 week to process.

UK Tier-1 Post Study Visa – Welsh Hospitality!

Note: This is a description of my experience. I do not guarantee this will work for you. Please check with the UK Border Agency before applying. If you have further questions about the process, please comment on this post and ask.

Target Country: UK
Passport: India
Purpose: Work (Post Study)
Processing Office: Cardiff, UK
Documents submitted:
1. Filled out form (See UK Border Agency Website). It is important that the applicant has enough points – this is a point based system.

2. Letter from University stating that I have successfully completed the course (It has to be an approved course from an approved institution). This letter can only be issued once you have graduated. My college had the option of graduating early — those who graduated early, were able to apply for their visas early.

3. Bank statements from last 3 months – showing that I had at least £800 in my account for the last 3 months before applying. A printout with the bank’s stamp on it sufficed. (Note: If applying from outside the UK, you have to show £2800 for a single applicant for 3 months. The amount is higher if you have dependants).

4. Two passport sized photographs, as per the specifications of the Border Agency. Any regular photographer in London should be able to give you these.

5. Current passport

6. My older passport (this had my student visa, but the passport had expired).

7. £800 processing fee (I made a premium application in person for fast processing. Normal postal applications within the UK cost £550 at present).

Process & Experience:
It is possible to get the Tier-1 visa in 1 day. For this you need a premium appointment at one of the UK Border Agency’s offices. These appointments are very difficult to get. You must book one a month in advance. It also helps to ring everyday and hope someone cancels (this is what I did!).

After ringing for 3 days in a row (ringing a premium number, set me back by £20 in total), I got an appointment at the Cardiff office. The catch was that Cardiff cannot print visa labels. While they can approve/reject your application on the same day, they normally send your passport by courier to Sheffield (or another office) for pasting the visa in your passport. I got my passport back 3 days after I applied.

The people on the phone were very friendly and helpful. I have never spoken with more helpful, efficient and polite government employees. After confirming my appointment, an officer from the Cardiff office rang me, and made sure I understood all requirements. He was extremely polite too.

Upon reaching the Cardiff office, I was let in by the security guards (who held on to my phone and other electronics). I recommend carrying a good book, since you may have to sit around for some time. After a 5 min wait, the officer called me, checked my application and asked me to pay. After paying, I went out and sat in a cafe for 1.5 hours. Then I had to return to the office and wait for another 30 mins. Then the lady came and gave me a letter saying that my visa had been approved. And I was free to go.

The passport came 3 days later by courier.

Overall – a very pleasant experience. The people at the Cardiff office were very helpful and friendly. A little more expensive than the normal postal route, but you save almost 6 weeks! So totally worth it.

Manchester & Birmingham

I spent the day yesterday traveling to Manchester and Birmingham. Its always interesting to see the lives of Indian expats in the British Midlands. The most striking experience was a conversation I had with a middle-aged Gujarati gentleman who had emigrated to Britain in the 60s. He, and others like him, have lived a tough life. He spent his early childhood in rural Gujarat. Then one day his father, who was a farmer, decided to take him away to Mombasa (Kenya) – where he received his high-school education. Then to avoid persecution during the nationalist movements of Central Africa in the 60s, this gentleman moved to the Midlands without a penny to his name. He struggled through labour-jobs in racist factories. He became an electrician, though he wasn’t qualified. Through holding many such jobs, he got a house, brought his parents over to England, and raised a happy family, giving his kids all the opportunities and comforts he could only have dreamt of in his childhood. His is an inspiring life. And such are the stories of many immigrants in Britain.

In Manchester, I went to see a premier league football match – my first.
Wayne Rooney winning multiple awards
I even met Denis Irwin and got the chance to hold the Carling cup in my hand. I wish I knew who Denis was and what the Carling cup was. I had to explain to my friends later (after I did my research) that Denis was like the Kapil Dev of football, and the Carling Cup was like the Ranji Trophy. And like a true Indian, I wasn’t satisfied with seeing the Old Trafford football ground. I went and paid homage to the Lancashire County Cricket Club (or the Old Trafford Cricket Ground). I even wanted to end the night at the “Curry Mile” of Manchester, but the horrendous post-match traffic, moving at 5 miles an hour, made sure I didn’t make it 🙂

But it was a fun trip. Went to a nice pub called the Britons Protection. This was rated as one of the best places for a pint in my Lonely Planet guide – and Lonely Planet is always right. If you are ever in Manchester, ensure you go there and try the “Witches Cauldron” (I think I got the name right) beer. And Gay-pride parade is quite a spectacle too!
Maggie Thatcher coming out!