If you’re a Lancs student going abroad next year, here’s everything you need to know about visas
Undoubtedly the most complicated process ever
Picture this: it’s the end of June, you’ve just finished your second year exams, you’ve got your placement sorted, you’re chilling in Williamson Park for the last time in a while – you’re ready to go… or so you think. Little do you know that you’ve not even scratched the surface of all the things that need working out. If you’re in the throes of preparing to leave Lancaster’s warm embrace and embark on a DELC-inspired journey, here’s a guide to help with the visa process.
Now, it seems like an obvious part of the visa process, right? However, the catch is in the sheer number of documents you need. Here’s what I had to bring:
- visa application form
- Passport style photograph
- Scan of Passport
- Scan of GHIC (or other health insurance)
- Proof of funds (i.e. the SFE letter)
- Acceptance letter from the uni with all modules, signed by both Lancs and the host uni
- ACRO Police Certificate
- Medical Certificate of Good Health
- Proof of UK residential address
- Pre-paid envelope with your address written on it
Honestly, preparing all these docs makes a three-deadline week at Lancaster seem like child’s play.
Legalisation and Translation
One of the most significant hidden parts of the visa application is that if you’re applying for a long-stay visa in countries such as Spain and France, your ACRO Police check and Fit to Travel medical certificate have to be legalised and translated.
To get them legalised, all you have to do is sign up to an Apostille service of some sort, pay for how many documents you need legalised, and send them off to the address given with the necessary information. Note: these documents have to be in their original form, not photocopies.
For translation, I waited until my documents had come back from the legalisation service before contacting a translator and emailing them scans for them to translate.
This part of the process is one of the more simple parts, so simple you could even do it whilst preing before heading to Greens on a Friday night.
Unfortunately, getting your visa is not cheap. Without even factoring in travel to and from the consulate, I spent over £400 on the documents and the application itself. I’ll lay out the rough amounts:
- ACRO – £50/£95 (depending on if you get it fast-tracked)
- Medical certificate – £35
- Apostille service – £100+
- Translation – £60 (differs between translators)
- Envelope – £7
- Visa – £100/£174 (depending on the length of the visa)
Luckily, Sugar’s 3-4-6 deal will allow for you to save enough money to afford it all and you’ll still be able to get drunk – win-win! All hail the VKs.
Unfortunately, the visa itself is not the only application you have to worry about. I was particularly unfortunate in this area, as after being told that my EHIC would not be accepted I had to apply for a GHIC – a process which took a month in the end.
You need to factor in wait times with all things like this: the ACRO certificate, the medical certificate, it all takes time and effort – so when you come round to doing it, grab yourself a Greggs and prepare for some of the most stressful weeks of your life so far. Lancaster Medical Practice was pretty prompt with the whole thing though, so if you’re registered there, you should be fine.
Many of us Lancastrians found this area difficult this year, because it really wasn’t clear what we had to do. What I’ve learned, though, is that even if you’re working – you can still put that you’re studying (since you are still gaining credits from Lancs for the year ) for the maintenance loan. For proof, I uploaded my enrolment certificate (found on the Student Portal), and SFE accepted this. Reminder: if your maintenance loan is your main source of funds for the year, when you receive the letter, keep it safe so you can present it at your visa appointment.
Just when you thought you were done, you finally get your visa approved and after three weeks it arrives in that recognisable grey little envelope you took with you, so, you check your visa out and it says 90 days. “Hang on”, you think to yourself, “that can’t be right, I paid for a year-round one.”. Well, fellow Lancsers, I hate to tell you, but it is.
For Spain, if you’ve applied for a long-stay visa, it doesn’t actually become long-stay until you’re in Spain and you have to get your TIE card sorted within the first month of living there – that, however, is a different story, for another article.
The visa process is one of the longest, most stressful experiences of your life, but hang on in there because it’s all worth it in the end: when you’re relaxing on a beach in sunny Barcelona while your friends are stuck inside avoiding torrential rain in Lancs. Although, I have to say, I do miss the ducks.
Alongside this article, please make sure you do your own research and check your relevant government website.