The Practicals of a UK Visa
Welcome to the nuts and bolts section for applying for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa and the basic set up I went through at my destination. I am making this section because I have received numerous questions on the visa process and I just love talking about it!
That Paperwork though…
I highly recommend using SWAP Working Holidays for completing the visa application. They are a non-for profit organization approved by the Canadian government that assist Canadians in working and volunteering abroad in mostly Commonwealth countries. They help answer any immigration and visa questions, walk you through the entire process and have an outbound partner at the destination.
The first step is to read the essential qualifiers of a working holiday on the SWAP webpage. As I choose the UK, they consist of: age (under 30), marital status (not married) and base line financial resources (have a minimum of $3000 CAD). The visa is also valid for two years and can only be given once in your life time.
For the UK visa, SWAP broke down the application into five steps. They are:
Submit your application
Choose biometrics (Visa ID) date and confirm payments (health surcharge and UK Visa Fee, which is in addition to the SWAP program fee)
Get your bank letter to prove that you meet the minimum requirement
Attend you biometrics appointment
Arrive in the UK and collect you Biometrics Residency Permit (BRP)
Once in the UK, you get access to their outbound partner, Britbound. I cannot stress enough how helpful their staff and resources are! They are a source to go to for any questions, provide an optional arrival orientation, arrange a bank account appointment, recommend short term accommodation upon arrival (for me it was one week in a decent hostel in Central London, St Christopher’s Inn), provide a UK SIM card, help with the application for a National Insurance Number application (equivalent to Canada’s SIN), and more.
Bank Account Woes
One situation that I needed help from Britbound was the difficulty I faced with opening a bank account. At my first appointment, one bank actually refused to open an account for me because I had no proof of a permanent address. They did not care that I had a valid UK work visa, passport, and most importantly proof of financial resources to support myself in the UK. Britbound had initially suggested to use a hostel address as your residence and their address as the correspondence for your bank account. This is perfectly legal, but this bank was not impressed.
I am not sure how this bank expects newcomers to get started… Fortunately for me, Britbound was able to help me get an appointment with another bank that was more than happy to open an account for me. The banks seem to be getting stricter on the rules to open an account for newcomers. Other people on the same visa as me that came earlier told me that they did not face the same difficulties. Regardless of the obstacles, I was successfully able to open a bank account and I am sure everyone else with the visa and Britbound's help will be able to do so.
Give me Money!
Moving on to employment. I went the recruitment agency route with a variety of temporary jobs. To me it seemed like the fastest and easiest way to get a job, which proved to both good and bad. I was told by several recruitment agencies and other people on the same visa as me that I would be limited to temporary work due to the time limit on my visa. Therefore, I was faced with constantly having to search for jobs when working and when one ended. This was very stressful and time consuming and became one of many reasons why I decided to come home. Even though I did apply to jobs without an agency’s help and was interviewed, the recruitment agency route was the only way I got paid. I tried numerous agencies, however my favourite one was Office Angels because their staff was very helpful, communicated clearly with you, has a variety of clients, and always sent you a pay stub via the post. I do know of a fellow Canadian on the same visa that got a permanent job quiet quickly and continued with it throughout her visa. Experiences do vary, so anything can happen!
Renting a flat was another big girl move for me. As I had never rented or lived on my own, this step was very important to me in so many ways. I knew that I wanted to rent a one bedroom flat, have easy access to the city centre either by bus or by foot, and have grocery stores and basic amenities around me. It took me two and a half weeks of constantly searching for flats and emailing prospective landlords before I found one I liked. I viewed a total of three flats before I got to this point. Once I signed the tenancy agreement, I had to take care of some fun things such as buying basic household items (I enjoyed this way too much, especially in a foreign country) and not so fun things such as registering and paying Council Tax, among some other things.