Working visa applications are scary. Paperwork is scary. Legal documents in general are scary.
For my move to England, I registered with SWAP Working Holidays to look after me. Although it’s for a price, I’m incredibly thankful I chose them. I applied for a Tier 5 visa, which is essentially a youth visa for 18-30 year olds that allows you to live, study and/or work in the UK for two years. The great thing about SWAP is they also provide similar visas for countries all over the world. A pretty basic visa, but it still comes with its share of paperwork.
If you’re considering this path, here are some basic steps to anticipate with SWAP and the Tier 5 visa process in general:
Registering & Picking Your Date
Once I decided the move was going to happen, I registered with SWAP online. It’s a basic questionnaire with one difficulty: you must provide the date you wish to enter the country in order to complete this step. For England, you need to arrive in the country on that date or 30 days afterwards otherwise your visa is cancelled. When picking your entry date, keep in mind that the entire process takes time and you need to be approved before your timeframe to enter the country is up. A real juggling act, to be honest.
Filling Out Your Application
Once registered, SWAP acts as your visa-guide. They will send you step-by-step instructions on completing your visa as you move through the application process. Very helpful for those who are anxious like me! First, they’ll send you an overview of the steps for the entire process and send you your application that you need to fill out. Once you’re done the application, you send it to your local travel office (they’ll tell you which one) and it gets forwarded to SWAP to be uploaded to UK Immigration.
Financial Letter, Payment & Biometrics Appointment
Next, you contact your bank about getting an official letter regarding the funds you hold currently. As part of the visa, you need to show you have a certain amount of money to support yourself while abroad. You also need to pay for the visa itself, coverage under the National Health Service and book a Biometrics Appointment during this step. This was specifically for UK but I’m sure other countries may have something similar.
Preparing For Your Appointment
Before your appointment, SWAP will send you a checklist of all the materials you need to bring, such as that bank letter, your printed application, new passport photos, your current and expired passports, etc. Understand that it’s not something you can put together the night before so please give yourself time! You can also send your bank letter to SWAP who will check it over to make sure immigration will accept it, but you need to give them at least 24 hours before your appointment.
Attending your Biometrics Appointment
Here comes the appointment! For me, I was terrified. It’s not something I’ve ever done before so I didn’t know what to expect. Here I met with an immigration clerk who needed all my documents in a particular order and scolded me when I didn’t check certain boxes correctly. It’s OK. I just hope you get someone a little more friendly than I did. After the paperwork was put together, the clerk took a passport-style photo of me, recorded all of my fingerprints, got my digital signature and even took a photo of me holding the envelope my application and passport would be sent off in. Heavy-duty stuff. Once the consulate receives your mailed application, they will notify you through email.
Yea or Nay?
Once the consulate reaches a decision, they’ll notify you through email. But the process isn’t finished yet! Now it’s a waiting game until they actually mail back your passport with your new temporary visa attached inside. SWAP, and more sites online, say it can take 3-4 weeks before receiving approval and your passport back. For me, it took four days. Since the visa attached inside your passport is only temporary, you’ll need to collect your official Biometrics Permit within 10 days of arriving in the country.
Now it’s time to start booking your flight!