UK visa application procedures

UK Visa Procedures

This post explains the main procedures for UK visa applications.

Prepare yourself

It cannot be stressed enough that this is perhaps the most important step of the application process. Before submitting any application, carefully review what application form you should use (paper or electronic), what the application fees are and how you should pay them, and what documentation should be included with your application. You can find this information on the UKBA website.

Check where you should submit your application and how you need to make an appointment. Sometimes your appointment will be at the British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. Increasingly, however, you will need to submit your application at one of UKBA’s commercial partners (WorldBridge, VFS or Gerry’s). It is important to note that the staff of these commercial partners plays no part in the visa decision process. They simply take in the application and forward this to UKBA visa officers for decision. You will find more information about this on the UKBA website.

What happens at the time of my appointment?

At the time of your appointment, you will need to:

– Pay the processing fees (in countries where on-line payments have not been introduced yet)

– Submit Biometrics (your fingerprints as well as a digital photograph will be taken)

– Submit your application form, passport, recent photograph and any supporting documents

What happens after my appointment?

UKBA or Commercial Partner staff will advise you how your documents and the decision will be returned to you. In some cases, this can be done by courier/post, in other cases you may have to collect in person.

You can find more information about the application process on the UKBA website.

Applications submitted in the USA

The application process in the USA is slightly different in that, in the US, applicants will need to submit their biometrical data at an Application Support Center run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and will then need to forward their applications to the visa section in New York (by mail, courier, or using an agent). In addition, US applicants may avail themselves of priority services (PBS and settlement). In summary, these are the steps that applicants in the USA need to follow:

To apply for a visa, you must:

  • Prepare!!!! Check what type of application you wish to submit and what documents UKBA recommends you submit ( for that type of application;
  • complete and submit a visa application form online (;
  • pay your visa application fee online and be able to show proof of online payment (which will be shown on your online application form);
  • pay your return courier service fee online, if you want your documents to be mailed back to you;
  • book an appointment online to attend an Application Support Center run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to enrol your biometric information (unless you are exempt from this requirement); and
  • submit a signed and dated printout of your completed application form, your supporting documents, your photograph, a stamped biometric receipt and your original passport or travel document to the UK Border Agency New York by mail or registered travel agent.

Please note that you must complete, submit and pay for your application online. UKBA New York does not accept handwritten application forms.

You can find the online application form under ‘Do it online‘ on the right side of the UKBA New York page (

You must make your online payment using Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card. UKBA New York does not accept any other type of credit card, such as American Express.

You will need to print out, sign and date your completed online application form. If you do not have access to a printer when you apply, you will be able to log in and print out the form later.

When you have completed your online application and online visa payment, you will receive an email message containing your application number (also known as a ‘GWF reference’). Please make a note of this number. You will also be prompted to book an appointment (using their online calendar) to enrol your biometric information at an Application Support Center. You can find the Application Support Centers in your area by visiting the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, but you cannot book your appointment using the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

When you have selected an appointment time using UKBA’s online calendar, you will receive annother email confirming the time and date of your biometric appointment at an Application Support Center. Please print this confirmation receipt and bring it to your appointment, with your original valid passport or travel document and a printed copy of your online application form.

You must enrol your biometric information when you attend your appointment, but you cannot enrol your fingerprints if your fingertips are cut or damaged, or if you have put any form of temporary decoration (such as henna or mehendi) on them. You must be sure that the injury will heal or the decoration will fade before the date of your appointment.

If you are part of a family or group, each member of the family or group must make an individual appointment. For example, if you are a family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 children, you must make 4 individual appointments.

Return courier service

As well as paying your visa application fee online, you must pay a ‘return courier service’ fee online unless:

  • you have arranged for a visa agent to submit your application on your behalf; or
  • you are using the drop box facility in Washington DC.

The $12 courier fee (correct as at 28/07/2012) allows UKBA New York to return your documents to you when they have made a decision on your visa application.

Application Support Center and submitting documents

To complete the application process, you must attend your appointment to enrol your biometric information (unless you are exempt from this requirement) at one of the Application Support Centers run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. To find out what will happen at the Application Support Center, see the Application Support Center page.

You must also send your application to our processing centre in New York. You should not mail any part of your visa application to the UK Border Agency until you have attended the Application Support Center, enrolled your biometric information and obtained a stamped receipt. To find out what you need to send and how to send it, see the New York visa processing hub page.

Additional Services in the USA

Several optional additional services are available to certain visa applicants in the USA, for example, a priority service for settlement applications and a premium service for Tier 4 student applicants. These extra services are optional, and an extra fee is payable for these services. If you wish to use any of these additional services, you must purchase these via the website of UKBA’s commercial partner in the USA; WorldBridge. You must purchase these additional services after completing your on-line application form, paying the on-line visa processing fees and submitting your Biometric data but BEFORE you forward your documents to UKBA New York. You will find more information about the optional services available in the USA here:

Remember, immigration law is complex and subject to continuous change. The information provided here may be out of date, or just based on personal experience/knowledge. The use of these pages is therefore entirely at your own risk. Before applying for any type of visas, you should always seek information from the authorities direct via their official websites. You will find some useful website details on our Links page.

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