A Canadian's Experience Getting a UK Youth Mobility Visa

by - September 08, 2015

Hello sweet friends! 

As some of you might already be aware, in just 16 short days time I am going to be starting a new adventure; packing up and leaving all I know behind and making the big move to the UK. Yes that's right, I'm saying goodbye to the camo and pickup trucks, and a big hello to afternoon tea and British accents! 
For any of you who have already applied, are currently in the process of applying or are thinking about applying for your own visa, you probably know how much of a free for all process it really is. So I figured that I would write about my own experience and give you my bits of advice, and hopefully be able to help a few of you through it!

Before I get into that, I suppose we should start with the basics. For those of you who don't know anything about what the Youth Mobility Visa is I will give you a bit of background info. Essentially the UK Youth Mobility Visa is the UK's version of a "working holiday visa". It allows you to live and work *legally* in the UK for up to two years. You are eligible for this visa if you are:

  • Between the ages of 18 - 30
  • Have the equivalent of £1,890 in your savings account
  • Are from an eligible country
  • List of countries includes, but is not limited to : Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan

Now onto the good stuff. Let me just preface by saying that I so wished that one of my parents was of British nationality because do you know how much easier that would have made this whole thing? I actually called my mum to ask her why she couldn't have married a British man.

First thing I would suggest doing is taking a couple deep breaths and calming yourself down before you start the application process. I myself have a very worry-wart personality and I was freaking the frack out from the moment I decided I was going to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa, all the way up to the point I had actually received my visa, and my passport was back in my hand. So just take some time to cool off before starting the whole process, maybe take a relaxing bath, have a glass of wine, whatever you need to do. Also try not to get too caught up in the whole process and don’t get too worried about every little detail.
I found a great blog post, written by an Expat Canadian travel blogger who had also applied to get a UK youth mobility visa a couple of years ago and I would highly suggest that you guys check out her post. She has so much information and a lot of people have found their way to her blog to comment on their process and ask her questions and she is really good at answering. Obviously, I am going to be telling you all about my experience and how I applied but I think it is well worth a visit to read all she has to say. With that said however, I had only found her blog just shortly AFTER I had submitted and paid for my application, and honestly if I had found the post prior to applying it would have saved me so much stress. I mean honestly, I was physically ill from being so stressed about this, and swear by the end of it I lost three years of my life. (Okay maybe not, but we all know I'm a bit of a drama queen, so I just needed to emphasize my point!)
I had so many issues, and concerns, and I was ripping my hair out trying to get everything sorted, but I’m going to lay everything out on the table for you guys and hopefully I can save you the questions, the stress and the uncertainty that I was feeling during the whole process.
First things first make a list of ALL of the documents you will need, and go over them, checking with the guide that GOV.UK provides. But I will tell you here everything that I needed or took to my appointment.
  1. Bank statement or letter signed by bank.
  • In my case I used a couple of different things, because I wasn’t sure that one was enough. Essentially you need an official bank statement with your name, the date, your account number and your balance and your address. Alternatively you can provide a letter from your bank on official letterhead that has the same information. I went to my bank and asked for a letter from the branch manager confirming that I had x amount of money in my bank account. I had called her the day of and asked if she would include all the information, print it on bank letterhead and sign it. She said yep no problem and I was good to go. Unfortunately she forgot to include my account number, and my address, so I also got the bank to print my bank statement and stamp it. *keep in mind that your bank may charge you for this letter, I was told that I was going to be charged, but my branch manager was busy when I went to pick up the letter so I think she forgot to tell them to charge my account*BONUS*. The bank statement I got stamped had all the information my letter left out, but it didn’t have any of my recent history, only the balance, so I went online and printed out my recent bank statement, and highlighted my account number and my current balance, and stuck that in with everything else just to be sure. I decided I’d rather send them stuff they don’t need, than not send them enough proof.

  1. 1 British passport sized photo
  • *Some people said you needed two, some people said only one. My application only required one, but when you get them taken you get two so just bring the other one with you just to be safe*
  • You should be aware that Canadian passport photos and UK passport photos are different dimensions. I decided to look for a photo shop in my city that specialized in international passport/visa photos and got them done there. It was a bit pricer than if I had just gone to Shoppers Drugmart or Walmart, but it comforted me to know that they were the exact dimensions that the application asked for. If any of you are in the Ottawa area, I went to Sooters and two photos cost me about $18 including tax. A bit steep but what are you going to do. Plus I felt a bit better knowing I was supporting an independent studio so that helped.

  1. Completed online application form, printed
  • I have to say the application itself gave me a lot of grief. Don’t get me wrong it’s really simple, but I overcomplicate and overthink things and so I didn’t really know what I was doing in this whole section. First of all I started an application on the 27th of July, but then read somewhere that my bank statement needed to be dated 30 days on or within the date you submitted your application, and since my bank statement was going to be dated on the 30th of July (that was the only day I could actually get into the bank before it closed (I think its dumb that Scotia is only open late one day a week, but that’s a rant for another time) I was worried that this was going to have an effect on my application being approved. So I tried calling the office to have some questions answered, only to find out that they are only open during the hours of 4:00am – 12:00pm, so I had to wait until the next day. Unfortunately when I did call during their hours, I found out that I had to pay $1.37 (pounds) per min just to talk with someone and I was not about to spend that money. So I sort of threw caution to the wind and based on my interpretation of the FAQs just started a new application, since I hadn’t actually paid for anything yet. Apparently you can in fact do that, and the incomplete application will eventually be deleted by the system. Also in case any of you are also like me and make that same *mistake* (it wasn't really a mistake as you'll find out in a second), take note that the day you pay for your application is the day that your application is considered to be submitted. So let's say you started your application before you had the money in your bank account, as long as you don't pay for the application and choose your appointment date before you get your dated bank statement, you will be fine!
  • My other issue with the application is that I was dumb and filled out my name as Spenser Trafford, forgetting that on my passport, the thing they check everything against, my middle name is included. ROOKIE MISTAKE SPENSE. Luckily I read on Alyssa’s blog that you can make written changes at your appointment as long as they are legible and initialed, so once I got to my appointment I in a panic explained what I had done wrong and she very calmly said it was okay, I could just add in my name no big deal.

  1. IHS confirmation & receipt
  • Surprise, surprise I had yet another issue when it came to paying for my IHS charge and my application and appointment themselves. This time however, it wasn’t entirely my fault, it was the banks issue. However it was still incredibly annoying and I was in hysterics by the end of it. Essentially, in short, if you are using a visa credit card to pay for these charges, your card has to be registered for Verified by Visa, which I didn’t even know about since I had only just recently gotten my credit card. After I called my bank asking why the heck my purchase was being declined, they told me to go to Scotiabank.ca and register my card. Seemed simple enough I said thanks, hung up and tried to do as they told me. Only issue was verified by Visa was continuously giving me an error message and telling me that they could not process my request at this time. So I tried again a couple of hours later, still no luck. Tried again the next morning, still no luck. I called the bank again during my lunch period and after basically waiting on hold for a good half an hour, they told me that verified by Visa was probably having issues on their end and they weren’t able to help me. The Scotiabank rep was incredibly helpful though, and even though she couldn’t solve my issue I was appreciative of her doing her best! Basically they gave me the number for Verified by visa, but the bank of America owns that and I couldn’t even get through to talk to a rep because I didn’t have an account number. After trying again later that night, and it still not working, I was lucky enough to have my parents agree to let me use their card, since I didn’t want to wait any longer to get this done. My intended date of travel was September 25th and I was super worried I wasn’t going to get my visa and passport back in time.
*So pro tip: make sure that your credit card is indeed registered to make online purchases through whatever site your card uses. In the case of Visa, make sure you are registered for verified by visa well in advance; it will save you a lot of grief I promise!

  1. Appointment confirmation & receipt
  • Make sure you print off your appointment confirmation, it will be emailed to you, because without it they will not allow you to go into your appointment. I also brought with me my IHS reference number, and my application confirmation, both were things I didn't necessarily need, however I felt I may as well throw them in there as well jsut to be sure.

Now onto the appointment process itself. It was quick, and mostly painless. I arrived about 20 minutes early, and was taken into the room right away. My appointment was at 11:50 so I would have figured it would be really busy but I think I arrived JUST before the rush hour if you will, as there were about 5 people waiting in the room once I had left my appointment.
The whole thing was fairly straightforward. I filled out a sheet where I checked off everything I was sending in my package, the brought me into a separate room where I would scan my fingerprints and take yet another unflattering ID photo. I will however say that I was a bit nervous throughout the whole process, I mean there was a lot riding on this whole thing. Nearly $1500 dollars and all the decisions I had made, and things I had done in order to be able to move to the UK and if I messed it up, not only would I not be going to England, I would be out a lot of money. And the people working there were not overly friendly either, I mean they weren't mean, but it just seemed as if they were hating life the whole time I was there. But who knows, maybe they just aren't allowed to smile!
Anyways, the whole appointment took maybe 20 minutes, and after that came the waiting game. I got an email the next day saying my application had arrived in NY and was in line to be reviewed. It said that this week the average processing time for my type of visa was 14 business days. (Pretty freaking good if you ask me). So I waited, checked my email every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to bed. I heard word the next week that my visa had been approved, which lifted such a huge weight off my shoulder let me just tell you. However it took about another week for it to be delivered to my door, so that part was a bit annoying, but all in all the whole process took exactly 14 business days. So they were true to their word!

My Timeline:
Started Application Online: Jul 31st
Booked & Paid for Appointment, Application & IHS : Aug 1st
Had Biometrics Appointment in Ottawa : Aug 11th
Received Email from UKVI in New York That They Had Received My Package: Aug 12th
Received Email from UKVI That My Visa Had Been Approved: Aug 20th
Visa Arrived in My Mailbox: Aug 28th

If you guys have any questions, do not hesitate to comment down below, I will do my absolute best to answer!

Much Love,
Spenser xx

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