The first step: Almost everyone now needs to apply online for a UK tourist or transit visa. You will too need to apply online and to do so you will need to go to https://www.gov.uk/apply-to-come-to-the-uk, an official site run by the UK government.
How far in advance can you apply? The official site suggests that you can apply for a UK tourist visa up to three months in advance. It would be a good idea not to buy your travel tickets before you get your visa. The British embassy also does not require you to book your flights before your visa application has been decided.
How long does it take for the visa decision to come by? Whether a decision on your UK tourist visa would be quick or slow depends on factors such as your personal circumstances, time of year, and the information provided. Visit this UK government site to find out how long it on average takes for a decision to come by. https://www.gov.uk/visa-processing-times
How long the UK travel visa is valid? Generally, the UK travel visa is given for 6 months though it can also be for a shorter time. If you have been issued a 6 monthly tourist visa, it starts from the date of your visa issued by the UK embassy. General UK visits visas can be issued for a single visit or for multiple visits in the given duration.
Once you are ready to fill out the application online, go to https://www.gov.uk/apply-to-come-to-the-uk and follow the instructions. When filling out the application, make sure you have the following information handy; your personal and financial details, your current passport details and details of your sponsor if any.
How much does it cost? At the time of writing the UK visit visa costs £95 or its equivalent amount in local currencies. You can pay by using your credit or debit card. Make sure you print out the receipt for your visa fee payment.
Once you have filled out the visa application form and paid the fee, you will be directed to the VFS site where you would need to make an appointment for your biometrics as well as to upload the supporting documents. VFS is a visa facilitation company that accepts and processes visa applications on behalf of, like many other countries, the UK.
On the VFS site, you will be required to create a user’s account, and once you have done that, you can select a date to make an appointment for your biometrics to be taken. You can also upload the necessary documents in support of your UK visa application.
A word of advice though, the VFS site is not one of the easiest to use, and uploading the documents can be quite frustrating as the site often becomes unresponsive, signs you out, and glitches at times. People have reflected this frustration in their users’ reviews on sites like Trustpilot. However, if you persevere, you would eventually be fine.
When uploading the supporting documents on VFS make sure you have them in either pdf or jpeg format. Any other formats will not be accepted and will fail to upload. Also, try to keep the file size light as any pdf document over 10MB, and jpeg over 1.5MB will not upload. Documents such as your bank statements can always be downloaded from your online banking site in pdf format. Any other documents such as your passport can be scanned as a jpeg. Any other documents that are not in pdf or jpeg format will need to be converted. If you don’t know how to do this, ask someone who can help, google how to do it, or you can opt to pay a fee to VFS on the day of your appointment and they will scan the documents for you.
One more important thing, when uploading documents, make sure you upload documents one at a time. If you try to upload multiple documents at once, the upload may fail. Once uploaded, the files can be viewed or removed before you book your appointment.
Appointment for the biometrics and to submit the application in person: Every applicant would need to submit their biometrics and facial details before a decision is made on your UK visa application. Biometrics is taken on the day of your appointment. You can make the booking online and usually, the appointment slots are available from 1 week to two weeks in advance.
On the day of the appointment, you will need to go to your chosen VFS office and a member of staff will take the biometrics. You will also have the opportunity to submit any documents that have not yet been submitted. It might be a good idea to take all your original documents along with scanned and printed copies of the originals with you. A courier fee will be taken by VFS to send back your passport once a decision has been made on your application.
Once the embassy has made a decision on your visa application, your passport is sent to VFS who then courier it off to you.