This is going be a very un-glam post, but useful nonetheless.
Hubby and I came to London before the visa situation was modified into the tier system, so as a result of his new job we need new visas.
The whole process is absolutely ridiculous, as you would expect something like this to be, so here are my tips if you have to renew or apply for a new visa.
(1) Do the paperwork ahead of time. Yes, its scary because you have to send away your passports and pretty much every important document you have, but its worth it. And yes if you’re a family its over 100 pages. The other option is staying in the Home Office for a full day, which trust me, you do not want to do.
(2) Which brings me to Croydon. (Remember the riots?) Of course there are zero convenient offices to deal with visa issues in Central London. So even though you are basically going just for fingerprints and photos, Croydon is probably your closest choice. You can either take a train from Victoria, but if you are traveling with Minis, I would suggest taking an Addie cab. If you do take a cab, allow yourself an hour to get there.
(3) Book the morning appointment, the very first one if you can. This means there will be less back-up during the day, which WILL happen.
(4) Keep your eyes peeled. Apparently the Home Office is trying to rework it so you can go to a post office to do the fingerprints and photos. Until then, its unfortunately a morning in Croydon.
Ashley @ Hop Skip Jump says
I'm about to start this process mid-october. I'm dreading it! The fact that I have to send in my passport freaks me out.
You can actually get a second U.S. passport, which I did when I was applying for my student visa (I was worried that it would take eons, in the end it took like a week but that was because I sent it in to the consulate in LA). A service like VisaHQ in the U.S., which I used, can turn it around in a few days although you will still need to mail them your passport.
I highly recommend getting a second U.S. one if you can (you will have to provide a reason, but they are not terribly strict about it). Earlier this year a close family member died and as my passport was with the Home Office, I was not able to go home for the funeral.
My other tip is to make absolutely sure you have the bank statements stamped and with all the dates they've asked for. What I have been told is that the bank statements are actually the most important piece of the application.