How can I avoid getting my UK Visa application rejected?
September 5, 2010 11:47 PM   Subscribe

I am a US graduate student, accepted into a graduate program in the UK. I have been having significant problems getting my UK Visa processed. I'm wondering if this is typical, and if I should be worried about my chances of going to the UK being jeopardized as a result of these difficulties?

The process has taken two months so far and the demands and time constraints given to me by the UKBA have been rather unreasonable, if not logistically impossible. There seems to be nobody to talk to directly about this. Should I be worried?

The biggest problem I'm having at this point is that the UKBA has requested an official sealed transcript from my former school, within 4 days (or else my entire application will be rejected). They have specifically stated that they understand that I have graduated and that my sponsor (my UK university) has my transcripts already. The UKBA has my unofficial transcripts. They want the official sealed ones anyway. Is this typical and how were you able to resolve this type of request in such short notice?
posted by iamkimiam to Travel & Transportation around United Kingdom (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: FYI, I've met all the deadlines thus far and have supplied all documents on time. I'm also in contact with my school to see how they can help. Is there somebody else I should be talking to as well?
posted by iamkimiam at 11:51 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Gosh sorry to hear you're having these problems; coincidentally as I read your post the BBC Breakfast is running a segment on foreign students and visas. Many apparently are using these visas as a "back door", effectively entering the UK not really to study but work or even reside illegally. Since immigration has been politicised here since the last election, I'd bet the present government ordered visa issuance be slowed ("check all the paper work") while they study the problem further. Not terribly good news for you I realise.

Suggest you raise this query over at the UK Yankee forums; I took a quick look to see if anyone else has experienced a slowdown, didn't see anything but it wouldn't hurt to cross post with that crowd.

There are a lot of immigration professionals and other knowledge folks lurking there who happily answer questions. Hope this helps!
posted by Mutant at 12:11 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: The UKBA seems to have cut back hugely on staffing about a year ago. One of my international students had huge problems with them, they also never answer the phone (literally not for hours in my personal experience), they claim to still be bedding in at their new HQ (somewhere in the NE IIRC). I am kind of suspicious they are restricting immigration numbers by being deliberately crap.
posted by biffa at 12:52 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: (I applied for, and received, a Tier 4 visa for grad school in the UK a few weeks ago and am now in the UK myself.)

UK-Yankee is the way to go on this. They're really knowledgeable. Ask in the Visas & Citizenships forum, but check out the Student Lounge as well for some good information on studying here.

I don't think an official transcript is that unusual for UKBA to ask for. I had to include mine with my application -- as I recall, it says on the application to provide proof of your degree, either the actual degree certificate or an official transcript. The transcript was easier, so I did that. I don't believe UKBA will allow you to make any substitutions for this.

If you really want to speed the process up, hire a lawyer. UK-Yankee always recommends Laura Devine. It will be expensive, but if anyone can do it, they can.

However, it sounds like your issue is not so complicated as to require a lawyer. You don't have a complicated immigration history or anything, right?

In my experience, if you give them what they want and you earn the required number of points for the application, they'll grant it. I know a lot about this, unfortunately, just because applying for a Tier 4 visa has been stressing me out for the past few months, so if you have any other specific questions or just need reassurance or anything, feel free to MeMail me.

I know how frustrating this whole process is so I totally sympathize with you. Good luck!
posted by Put the kettle on at 1:37 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is typical - I went through this last year (tier 4). I didn't have any issues and I had my passport back in a week or two, but I had to read the forms a half-dozen times to make sure that everything got included in the packet that was mailed off.

More generally, when you get to the UK, you will find that everything wants official letters - bank account, apartment, utilities, etc.
posted by milkrate at 1:39 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: I'm sure you'll get great advice on Mutant's boards. You might also try, which has a forum specifically for Tier 4.

I suspect biffa and Mutant are right that this is deliberate. Don't take it personally, keep pushing and you'll get there. When we first applied we were turned down on a total technicality, but we appealed and they accepted our appeal. So remember that even a refusal isn't necessarily final.

(My personal experience (Tier 1) accords with milkrate's - they wanted official forms for everything. Most amusingly/frustratingly, I needed an official letter from my university confirming that my undergraduate degree had been taught in English. This was for a degree in English literature. In New Zealand. They've since modified this rule and now assume that NZers (and Americans) can speak English, so score one for sanity).
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:54 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Uk-Yankee is probably the best forum but I have also used UK-Resident in trying to solve my UK immigration questions.

Also, yes, this is typical of the UKBA. I had the easiest route imaginable - EU residency AND a job in hand - but still found myself in a situation (and posted to ask mefi about it)where I was afraid to leave the country because it was logistically impossible that the forms they needed could be completed on time. The UKBA is extremely bureaucratic and there is almost no room for error in dealings with them.

All that said, they do have contact info. Here is their contact directory. I emailed them when they had passed a deadline they needed to meet. I didn't get a reply to my email but two days later my caseworker called me on my cell phone(!) and responded to my questions. So, I guess it did work.
posted by vacapinta at 2:03 AM on September 6, 2010

I can't answer your question as I'm UK born, but I do know that yes, there have been huge crackdowns on study as a route of entry for immigrants these days. Several fake colleges have been set up and charged huge fees for 'students' to get into the country. Sadly this means that all genuine applicants have to go through stringent checks too.

Passport and driving license are the most common forms of ID needed here - I don't have the latter and the former is expired - I am renewing my passport if only because getting it accepted as ID for anything is a huge pain in the arse.
posted by mippy at 4:29 AM on September 6, 2010

Here is a BBC article that may be relevant. You are already in the pipeline so I would hope this potential change in policy won't affect you.
posted by futz at 6:03 AM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: It's been such a long, crazy ride. I had to fly back to CA so I could stand in line at my former school in San Francisco - with thousands of confused freshman in their first days - and pick up a transcript. Also had to drive to Sacramento to get another document. And my CA bank to get yet another. This part of the journey is done and my fate is in their hands.

Unfortunately I just haven't had time to thoroughly read all the links, but I can't tell you all what a relief it is to have a possible explanation for the way I've been treated. As well as resources for finding out key bits and contacting people. Now that my documents are off in the visa nether again and I can actually stop* and breathe, I will spend some time really taking a look at everything here. I can't thank you all enough for the commiseration and information. This community is truly unbelivable.

*And by 'stop', I mean 'collapse in exhaustion'.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2010

Response by poster: OMG. I mailed the documents to the UKBA yesterday. They received them today. I said goodbye to California for the second time this morning, sent off by MeFites rtha and gingerbeer (who are truly phenomenal humans, I can't tell you enough). Some angel was watching over me as I got a magical boarding pass that transformed my multi-flight trip from SFO to Boston into a singular direct flight. Who knows how or why. I was then able to catch the earlier puddle jumper to Martha's Vineyard, where I'm staying with a friend. It was a 10-seater plane with a spectacular view of the most amazing sunset I've seen in years. I was a picture taking fool. As I get off the plane, I'm chatting up this beautiful English man from London, thinking to myself that this is a good sign. And what do you know? That very second I get an email from the UKBA. My visa has been approved.

I don't know how the world works, but it just does. Best day ever.

posted by iamkimiam at 5:05 PM on September 8, 2010

posted by Infinite Jest at 7:16 AM on September 9, 2010

Coming late to this party, and pleased to discover that the problem is solved. I just thought I'd say welcome to the UK, and apologize on behalf of my country for the crappy face it turns to the world in the shape of the UKBA. Presumably one reason it gets away with being so bad is that UK citizens don't need visas. The UKBA can be as vindictively unhelpful as it likes dealing with foreigners--they don't get to vote, and they're less likely to start a newspaper campaign.

I'd like to make a suggestion, though. When you're settled in the UK, take a moment to make a record of your experiences, and find out who might be able to make use of that information--whether it's your university's international students' office, your local MP (you might be lucky!), Universities UK, or the University and College Union. There's quite widespread disgruntlement with the UKBA in British academia--amongst other things, it turning university staff into unpaid, mostly unwilling, but legally liable enforcers of immigration law. The more evidence that can be gathered of the agency's toxic mix of incompetence and nitpicking severity, the better. It'll help, or the word might be prod, the universities to make their case to the government that the UKBA is currently functioning in such a way that it directly undermines government policy (maintain/increase the UK's share of the global higher ed market).

Sorry my suggestions are a bit vague--I'm actually outside the UK at the moment. But not for much longer, so I want to get thinking about this problem.

And good luck with the course!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 1:54 PM on September 10, 2010

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