Eat Fly Love

Adventures in Culture and Travel

09 September, 2014

How long for an U.K. Visa?

It's now day thirteen since the U.K. Border Agency received my student visa application and I still don't know my academic future. Applying for the visa is a monumental hurdle in itself at a cost over $500 just to receive permission to come to the U.K. and be allowed to spend thousands of dollars on education.  Personally, I don't understand first world country's border controls. They seem a bit absurd in my opinion. I truly believe that the creators of Shengen Area had the right idea. The idea of free movement, which is commonplace in mainland Europe provides better safety and economic benefit to citizens. The U.K. appears to be a bit too nostalgic (as does the U.S.) for borders that they believe will protect them from the evil terrorists, and the parasitical over-stayers who steal British jobs. Except, most of these fears are without merit and merely complicate the immigration process for law abiding applicants. I've worked with illegal immigrants and refugees, and believe me, most immigrants will continue to enter the country regardless of what obstacles you put in place.

Starvation at sea, suffocation on the back of semi-trucks, or risking decapitation riding under vehicles, are just a few of the perils that many immigrants endure. Needless to say, as far as the terrorist argument is concerned, we must remember that Osama himself was a college educated billionaire, not some average person. By some accounts Osama was a a CIA asset who went by the name Tim Osman, and was brought into inner White House circles to support America in its efforts against communism through arms deals, and training. By contrast I'm a mother of two, whose most dangerous dealings have been cleaning up the atomic wastes of my two children and my stupid Labrador. If you've ever wanted to see an IED, try feeding your dog too much bacon grease and watch her projectile vomit ten-foot puddles on to your carpet, while your child shoots fecal matter out the top of their diaper. 

So I'm writing this out of frustration, asking how long does it take the New York British Embassy to paste a sticker on my passport? Well, according to the email I was sent the day they received my application, the average waiting time is 11 days. Since it's now thirteen days, I can only suspect that my application is above average (lol). A quick check of the UKBA website, shows the average time for a student visa is now 15 days (I'm not sure if they change it, or if this is a permanent statistical number). 

Is there something wrong with my application, I silently fear? Probably not, but considering I'm at the two week mark, I'm freaking out! Do I purchase my plane ticket and hope I'm not out a $1000? If I get denied, is my life over? Sure I'm to blame for not doing it earlier (I did not have the money at the time), and likely, I'm not alone. It's September, and I imagine they're overwhelmed with student visas. May I suggest however, it's incredible rude to invite someone into your house country, where they will be spending $50,000 on their education, only to be charged $500 to ask to enter it? If I sound pretentious in my judgement of etiquette, just remember that Britain is the home to civility and manners. Despite this, I must affirm my gratefulness for the opportunity, and understand (secretly) that the cost is technically a test of my economic status.

Can Western nations just get over themselves already? Perpetuated nationalism, and fear of the other has already brought on wars (remember WWII?), and continues to do so as I write this today. Let's be (a bit too) frank and honest with each other. What we (U.K. and the U.S.) don't want, is poor people in our countries (we gladly will accept you if you're a famous actor or singer), or people that resent us for being rich countries and would do us harm. That's the plain truth of immigration policy. As harsh as that sounds, our anti-altruism is a popular enough opinion in both countries that we vote politicians into office who legislate these ideals (and fears). Sure we can continue to perpetuate our false facade of being "neutral" or "welcoming to all" (as written on the Statue of Liberty), but by doing so we're undermining the reasons we have these rules in place. If western nations would then simply transfer the amount of effort they invest on immigration from Western nations on to their real threats, they may actually accomplish their goals while maximizing the benefits of foreigners who are willing to spend money in their country.

In essence, I submitted my application, paid my fee, they have my bio metrics and background information on me. I do not have even a speeding ticket to my name, heck, I drive a Geo Metro and have a cat named Sunshine (how many terrorists have cats named Sunshine?) Considering this, why does it take three weeks? It doesn't. Anyone who has traveled extensively knows many country's visas are obtained upon landing and paying (or paying off) an agent at at kiosk in the airport. Americans flying into Egypt pay 15 Egyptian Pounds, and are on their way to spending beaucoup de money in the gift shop.  Sometimes positive immigration has more economic impact than anti-immigration, and that's the part no one will ever tell you.

In reality, there's nothing I can do. I must wait. Wait for the freedoms both our countries claim I possess (FYI, freedom of movement is a Human Right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by both countries). Tonight I must decide to book my flight or wait. The consequences of having my visa denied would be catastrophic. Not only would I have to drop out of school and immediately have to find a job, but I'd be out of thousands of dollars given over to this process. How long for a U.K. visa? I'll let you know when I find out.

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Update, Day 15:
I've still not received an email, or my visa. I did find a contact form on the web for inquiring on the matter here: https://ukvi-international.faq-help.com/

Update: Weekend of Day 15
(September 6)
Booked my flight. Found a round-trip ticket for a $1,000. Knew if I waited any longer it could double in price. American Airlines already was asking for $1500 for the same ticket.

(September 7):
Email was responded to at about 9 PM on Sunday evening. This is what it said:

We understand that you would like to know about the current status of your visa application. I have tracked the status (GWF_Number and date of birth DOB) and found that the application has been processed and a decision was made on  04/09/2014 and it should be with you in the next few days.
Notice they don't say if it has been approved. At least I'll know soon, but I'm biting my nails!

Update: Day 16 12:44 PM:
Received an email, with the title: Your UK Visa has been issued.  Considering we had a U.S. holiday (Labor Day), and assuming the U.K. Embassy celebrated it, this means they slid right under the 15 Business Day quote they posted on the web, though failed the 11 day average they emailed. It likely will still take 1-2 days visa USPS express for the passport to arrive, so total time frame is about 18 business days in my case. I think it's safe to assume four normal weeks is how long it takes for a U.K. Student Visa while living in the U.S., without priority.

Update Day 18:
So, uh, now USPS has lost the package. In what should have been 2-Day delivery has turned into five days. Worst yet, USPS has no idea where it is, and last scan on the tracking number was four hours in Maryland, yesterday. This was almost 24 hours ago. I recommend anyone applying to use a carrier beside USPS, and despite the fact you believe you have plenty of time, having it over-nighted. USPS may have just destroyed my life because of their mis-key.

Final Update, Day 19:
Received a call this morning from the Post-Office. After my Twittering last night, the package magically showed up in my local post-office, and was delivered by the carrier to my home a few hours later. I have my passport and UK visa in hand. Success. Despite everything, thank you UKBA, and USPS.






Conclusion: It takes four weeks to receive a UK Visa for a US student (non-expedited).