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 Now that phone number has been withdrawn.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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USA L1 visa application – on an Indian Passport

So, my company is planning to send me to New York for 6 months, on a blanket L1 visa. Application is in process, will keep you updated. But one sticking point so far — I have been with my company for exactly 12 months. And in that period I spent 30 days in the USA during a number of trips. Apparently, I cannot count those 30 days towards my 1 year with the company. So I have to wait for a month, before I can apply!

Update!
As usual the US embassy were super efficient. The appointment tool roughly 2 hours. My L2 visa (and my wife’s L2 Spouse visa) was approved on the spot. We got our passports by courier on the 4th business day after our appointment (appointment was on a Monday, got the passports on the Friday).
Only slight headache was that the embassy’s credit card machine wasn’t working. We Indians need to pay a ‘fraud protection’ fee of $500. So I had to go out of the embassy and get cash (equivalent in Pounds).

Visa Country: USA
Visa Type: L1 Intracompany Transfer and L2 Spouse
Embassy: USA Embassy in London, UK

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.