Friday, 19 September 2014

Applying for a UK Visa?

I've decided to write this post mostly because we're in the middle of applying for visas, and boy there have been times I've wished someone else prepared this post for me!

As a South African, getting to into the UK (or pretty much any other part of the world, for that matter) is a process paved with red tape. There is simply no easy or cheap way around it so it's best one be prepared beforehand!

The Prerequisites
Before we even start, let me just remind you of the new law requirements when travelling to and from South Africa with children. In addition to a passport, you need to have an unabridged birth certificate for each child, and if the child is not travelling with one or both parents, an affidavit from the absent parent/s giving permission for the child to travel with you (yes, even if you are one of the parents).

It's also useful to know that as soon as a child is 2 years old (be they a big two, small two, nursing two - whatever) they need to be booked their own seat on all flights (yes, even if they're going to sit on your lap the entire journey). In most cases these seats are approximately 75% of the full price, however, in some instances, especially local flights operated by budget airlines, you may have to fork out the full fee.

The Process
Currently there is only one service provider for UK visa application processing, so you have to go to and start off registering with them (this doesn't last forever, but is pretty handy if you plan to apply for visas multiple times over a few years). Once you've done this, you can log in and start the application process.

You are able to apply for yourself as well as others - in separate applications. Make certain you look at the types of visas available, and ensure that you are applying for the correct one (there is some assistance provided on the website). Then systematically fill in each section of the application carefully as it can get tricky (e.g. some of the finance questions are asked to be answered in GBP, not R) especially when you're tired and/or on your third application! The page tab turns green when all the necessary fields have been completed, and you are able to save and quit at any time during the application.

Once you have checked (and double checked) all sections, you can submit your application online (once you do this you will no longer be able to edit) and follow the necessary links to make payment. When you've submitted and paid, you'll be able to make an appointment at which you'll have all your biometric data recorded, and you'll submit your passport, photos, application and all the supporting evidence in person.
NB! As of 1 July, all children (previously it was just 5 and older) are required to attend this appointment in person, and be submit to biometric data submission. Brace yourself! This is quite a story, and your child needs to be awake and cooperative. Good luck.

Following this appointment, you have to register with the Teleperformance Centre ( where you can track your application. You may or may not be called for an interview at the British High Commission. In Pretoria. (I only know of one person who was unfortunate enough to have to do this). If not, you usually get a response in 3 - 4 weeks (they say to allow for 6 - 8), and collect your passport again.

The Paperwork
While the success of an application is never really guaranteed, the following supporting documents, some mandatory, others optional, are ones I would recommend - they've certainly helped us:

From the applicant:
  • Identity documents - including unabridged birth certificate for minors
  • Marriage certificate
  • Proof of residence - home ownership or lease agreement
  • Proof of employment and salary
  • Proof of school enrolment
  • Bank statements - 3 months
  • Any savings / additional income sources
  • Flight booking /provisional itinerary
  • Accommodation arrangement

From friends or relatives in the UK:
  • Letter of invitation
  • Identity documents
  • Visa or permanent residency permits - or bio date page of passport
  • Proof of residence - home ownership or lease agreement
  • Proof of employment
  • Proof of finances

From home:
  • Letters indicating your involvement or presence required at any up coming event/occasion for which you'd have to return to SA

Sending best wishes with your applications, and hoping for a favourable result for us all!

 Unabridged birth certificates are applied for through the Department of Home Affairs at a cost of R79, and are meant to be processed in 8 weeks, however, at the time of publishing this post, the Minister of Home Affairs announced that the introduction of the new children travel laws would be delayed from 1 October 2014 to 1 June 2015 due to some objections and a rumoured backlog of applications not yet processed.


  1. What a palava! Maybe you should publish this and make some money- well written and easy to read .

  2. And in spite of all my warnings and worrying - we received our visas in one week. Happiness!