Hello beautiful people! How have you been since we last connected? Good? I hope so, I’ve been good thank you, life kinda got in the way and I haven’t had a minute to sit down and do one of my absolute favourite things: unload my thoughts on all of you . Anyway, I know I told yall about my move to the UK, but I realised that I didn’t tell you how it came about and how I got the visa to be able to work in the UK, how rude of me! So, I’m going rectify that right now and let you in on the entire process.
Now, before we even go anywhere, here’s a disclaimer: I’m in no way an immigration expert, This is just how I did it, I’m not saying it’s the only way to do it and I’m definitely not saying what worked for me will work for you, heck, I’m not even sure if the way I did it is still relevant with the way things change so quickly, it’s possible that the process and requirements have changed, so please do your own research, I’m just sharing my experience and my experience alone! Mmkay? Okay cool. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty details. Buckle up, get comfortable, and maybe get a drink/snack because this is about to be information overload.
How I Got The Job
I was fortunate and blessed enough that the opportunity found me. I got a direct message on LinkedIn from a recruitment agency based in the UK. They told me my profile was a match for a role for which they were recruiting, for a global firm and if I am interested to hear more about it, they’d like to give me a call, so of course I agreed, I had nothing to lose so I figured, why not? During the telephonic conversation, they wanted to know about my experience, if I’d be willing to relocate (and where in the UK would I want to relocate to) and they told me more about the role and the firm. What worked in my favour was the fact that I had my first job at that very same firm based in South Africa, so of course they also wanted to know why I left the one in SA (just to make sure there’s no beef and I’m not a disgruntled former employee I guess ).
The recruitment agency basically played the ‘middle man’ between my now employer and I. They set up the interviews, helped me prepare for the interviews, and gave me the feedback from the interviews. I had 2 interviews, the first one was about my technical skills and experience, the industries I’ve worked in etc. It ended up being a phone call instead of a video call due to technical issues. The second one was a video call, and there were some technical questions there as well, but it was mostly about my goals, what I hoped to achieve should I be successful and get the job, the kind of work environment I was looking for, etc.
My first interview was at the beginning of November 2019, the final one at the end of November 2019. The agency told me that I’ll probably get the final decision some time in January due to a lot of people going on holiday in December, which I didn’t mind because I also had my own holiday plans, and I had a job, so I wasn’t in a rush. I got the offer mid January 2020 and once I accepted the offer, it was now time for the visa process to start.
The Visa Process
This was by far the most stressful part of my moving process. As far as I know, there are 7 types (don’t quote me on this) of UK Visas, namely; Work Visas, Business Visas, Study Visas, Visitor Visas, Family Visas, Settlement Visas & Transit Visas. I am not going to get into the differences between the Visas, if you’re interested to know more, you are more than welcome to visit the UK Gov website at your leisure.
Because your girl doesn’t have any ancestral ties or any family in the UK, and I wasn’t coming here as a business owner/visitor/student, nor was I just passing through (transit visa), the only Visa that I could apply for, to be able to live and work here is the Work Visa (Duh Refiloe), specifically the Tier 2 Work Visa (yes there’s different types of work visas – I know, it’s a lot ). To qualify for a Tier 2/Skilled Worker Visa, I needed to have an offer of employment from a UK based sponsor, and a certificate of sponsorship (my employer provided this). Not all companies offer Visa sponsorship, so it’s best to check this before you apply for vacancies if, like me, you require sponsorship (there’s a list of companies with sponsorship licences on the UK Gov website).
I also needed to prove my knowledge of the English language, this can be done via a written test, or you can provide evidence that your qualification was taught in English (if the qualification you hold qualifies as proof, there’s criteria on this as well), which is what I did, I had to email the University of Pretoria (UP) and ask for confirmation that I attended my lectures in English. The hoops I had to jump through just to get that letter wow! Because during my time at UP, there were also Afrikaans classes (apparently they’ve been discontinued, progress!), so they were telling me that there was no way for them to know that I, Refiloe Palesa Chaka, a black girl from QwaQwa, never attended the Afrikaans lectures , anyway, I had to go to the police station and get an affidavit, declaring under oath, that I never attended the Afrikaans lectures, and only then, was UP able to provide me with the letter I needed.
Once I got the letter, I had to apply for the English proficiency certificate via the UK NARIC – Visas and Nationality Service by sending said letter from UP and a copy of my degree certificate. Once my application was submitted, the process took about 2 weeks. At the time, they didn’t provide the assessment from the application via email, so I had to wait for the assessment via actual mail, and if you know anything about the SA Postal Service, you know I never got that letter, to this day, I still don’t know where it ended up . I had to reapply for the assessment to be reprinted and sent to me again, but this time, I used a UK address (I know a guy) since it was coming from the UK, I figured it wouldn’t take as long and I was right, plus, due to the pandemic and delays, they were now also sending an electronic copy of the assessment via email, which meant I got it instantly, as opposed to the months I waited for the first assessment. Keep in mind, all this costs money, which I’ll get into later.
Because I was coming to the UK for more than 6 months and I was a resident of a listed country, I needed to have a tuberculosis (TB) test as well. This isn’t a regular TB test you can get at your GP or a clinic, this is a chest x-ray that can only be performed at specific centres (last I checked there was 1 in Pretoria, Durban & Cape Town), and of course this also isn’t free , nothing is. If the test shows that you do not have TB (which I didn’t, yay), you’ll be given a certificate that very same day, which is valid for 6 months from the date of the x-ray, this certificate should still be valid when you submit your visa application.
Now that I had the TB certificate, English proficiency certificate, and my certificate of sponsorship, only then could I apply for the visa. I applied online, and uploaded my supporting documents online as well (you have the option to take your documents with you to your biometrics appointment, but that’s not a free service so I opted to upload mine myself). Once you have applied and paid for the visa, you also have to pay something called IHS (Immigration Health Surcharge). The IHS allows immigrants/expats the ability to use the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, and pay the same prices (if there’s any charge at all) as citizens. I won’t get into the details about the NHS and how it works, that’s a separate post altogether. Once that was done, I had to setup a biometrics appointment for my fingerprints and picture to be taken at a visa application centre.
The appointment was pretty straight forward, I went there with my appointment confirmation (which I had to print out, very odd in this digital age), and my passport. I got there, they checked my application and confirmation, then they took my fingerprints and picture, and I had to leave my passport behind – something to note, you obviously can’t travel outside of the country while you wait for the outcome of your visa application because they take your passport. I got my feedback in exactly 10 working days, which was the max time back then (the UK Gov website stated within 10 working days), but I am not sure that’s still the case. The way the response is so dramatic, they’ll just send you an email telling you that your passport is ready for collection, they won’t say whether you got the visa or not . The entire drive from Pretoria to the Sandton visa centre to collect my passport was probably the longest drive of my life, you should have seen the aggression with which I tore that little plastic they put the passport in , the nerves had me. But your girl got the visa (Thank God) and now we’re here.
The Cost of the Visa Process
Please note that these were the amounts I paid, they may have changed since 2020, please peruse the many links I included above and you’ll find the current costs.
- English proficiency application fee – £135 (+/- R2700) + £17.40 for the reprint (+/- R350)
- TB Test fee – R2000
- Visa application fee – R13 481
- IHS fee – R26 520
So in total, I paid R45 000 and some change for the entire visa process. I should mention that as part of my offer, my employer was going to reimburse me all of it, including the flight ticket expense. I just had to pay for it myself, then claim it once I start working and I am on the payroll, which is what I did. I should also mentioned that the English proficiency application fee & the visa application fee are non-refundable, whether your application is successful or not, so make sure you do it right the first time, the only thing that’s refundable is the IHS fee if your visa application is unsuccessful (at least it was refundable when I applied, not sure if that’s still the case).
What made the entire thing even more stressful is the fact that, while waiting for the English proficiency certificate in the mail for months (thanks a lot SA Post Office ), my TB test certificate was about to expire and I wasn’t about to go through that again and pay that money again. I was meant to start the job in April, but I ended up only starting in November due to the lockdown and the English certificate delay (my loved ones weren’t mad at this ), but I am grateful that I did not resign my previous job before I got the visa, so even with the delay, I still had a job and a source of income.
I was also fortunate enough that my employer was helpful throughout the entire process. I was assigned an immigration advisor to help me with the whole process, so even though I did the applications myself, I had an expert to check my applications before I submitted them to ensure that I filled them out right. So, if you only take away 3 things from this long post, please let it be these: DO NOT RESIGN your current job until you have that visa in your hands, always keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, you never know what opportunities it’ll bring your way (I got recruited for my previous & current job via LinkedIn), and do your research to ensure you only need to apply once, because it’s a very expensive exercise.
Okay, I am winded now I think I covered everything, but if I didn’t, feel free to shoot any questions my way and I’ll be happy to answer them.
If you made it to the end, you’re a real one and I appreciate the heck outta you! Thanks for reading.
Till next time, which hopefully won’t be too long from now