I sincerely miss the days when “visa” only meant a credit card to me.
I ended my previous post on a positive note regarding the replacement of my passport through the U.S. Embassy. Wish I could say the same for my follow-up experience at the UK Border Agency…(DISCLAIMER: I did not just turn this into a U.S. vs. U.K. thing–government offices run inefficiently everywhere, truly something that unites the world–what I’m contrasting here is the Passport vs. Visa replacement process).
Anyway, because in losing the passport, the visa sticker inside that passport was obviously lost (I use “lost” loosely…it had actually been stolen) and needing replacement as well. What you need to do in this instance is apply to TRANSFER YOUR VISA TO A NEW PASSPORT. You then have 2 choices:
1) Apply by mail for something around £160, which requires that you make a separate biometrics appointment and also enclose your passport with the application, which you would then expect to not see again for at LEAST another 3 months.
I said, “Nuh-uuhh!” to that with several international travel plans already in the pipeline. So, then, I opted for:
2) Apply in person for £515 (ouch), have the biometrics done and walk out with your passport (not visa, mind you) same day. They will then issue you a separate visa card similar to a driver’s license.
So I scheduled an appointment over the phone, and when I arrived at the Croyden public equiry office at the appointed time, I again met with a long line before actually entering the building via security. The process from that point was then waiting in a line inside to walk up to the first window where they accept your application, going upstairs to another window where they gladly accept your payment of their outrageous and unjustified fee, then to another part of that floor where you wait (in a chair, at least) for your biometrics, then back to your chair until summoned to yet another window to verify further details. Folks, all I can say is that I’m grateful my parents happened to be visiting at the time and keeping me company at the Home Office, because this process lasted SIX HOURS from start to finish.
THEN the card didn’t arrive in the promised 5-10 working days. When I followed up, they said to give it another 2 weeks, as the visas were backlogged. Fortunately, it didn’t require that much more additional time–my visa card with an utterly hideous photo of me arrived safe and sound.
Sorry, I meant for this to be more informational than a personal rant…hope it’s of some help to at least anticipate a potential situation. At any rate, the 2-part moral of this 2-part story is: DON’T LOSE YOUR PASSPORT/VISA and KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR POSSESSIONS WHILST IN PUBLIC. Whatever your experience, London Relocation Ltd. understands.