Applying for a tourist visa is not much of a hassle even during peak season as long as you have a stable internet connection and all the supporting documents. I applied as a minor (17 years old) but by the time I will travel to UK, I’d be 18 so I think the embassy considered me of legal age already although I followed the guidelines they gave for minors. For countries like Philippines, you’re required to fill out the application ONLINE. There is no other way. To avoid hassles and lags during the filling out, I suggest using your own computer with a stable internet connection.
FILLING OUT THE ONLINE APPLICATION & BOOKING AN APPOINTMENT
The site requires you to register an account where you can fill out the application. You can review the details as you go along. Everything is not final yet until you confirm it is. After completing the application, you can go ahead pay for your visa (mine was $136.00) and I paid using a credit card. I forgot if there are other ways to pay. After that, you can already book your appointment. You can do this online or by calling VFS. You can choose the time and date of your appointment. They are very strict so be sure to come on time. You may only enter 15 minutes before your appointment time. You may cancel or rebook your appointment. Bring your printed appointment letter too because this will be presented to the guard in front. VFS address is below:
UK Visa Application Centre
Ecoplaza Bldg., Unit 606, 6th Floor
2305 Chino Roces Avenue Extension Manila
The details to be provided (in the application form) if you’re a minor are almost the same as if you’re of legal age. For Part IV (Employment and Income), I just entered my parents’ details since I am not a working student. For this, I submitted copies of my parents’ payslips and proof of employment. A birth certificate would be very helpful in case the embassy needs to verify the names of the parents, etc. I submitted photocopies of land titles, vehicle registrations, and other property titles under my parents.
My parents also had to provide an Affidavit of Support for me because I was 17 when I applied. I had mine notarized. Since I am not going to travel with my parents (I’m travelling with another family member), I had to provide an Affidavit of Consent from my parents (indicating the person I am going to travel with and my relation to him/her), as indicated in the Supporting Documents list. I also had this notarized.
I submitted a Certification of Enrolment that I have requested from my college. I also attached my registration form and official receipt.
In the application form online, you will be asked about your itinerary (date of planned arrival, length of stay, address). They do not advise for you to finalize your bookings but if you’ve already booked, it’s okay. You can still show your travel bookings, hotel accommodation documents. It might help.
I’ve heard from other people about cover letters. I think this is a letter from you telling the embassy about your reason for visit, length of stay, etc. While I did not submit this, I think it would be helpful in supporting your application.
DURING THE APPOINTMENT
Be sure to have all your documents with you (original and photocopy) before you enter the premises. The photocopying service in VFS is very expensive (around P10 per page). My application forms turned out to be missing some pages and I only found out about this when the lady at the front desk informed me. I had to leave and rush to the nearest computer shop to print out the missing pages. It was such a hassle! I suggest you triple-check the night before your appointment. I had mine printed weeks before and did not actually realize it was incomplete.
If you’re a minor, they will allow one parent/guardian to come with you inside but if not, you cannot bring anyone with you. You will also be asked to leave your bags, gadgets, etc outside so I think it is best if you have someone outside to take care of your valuables. The only things allowed inside would be your documents and wallet.
Before entering the premises, you will be given a number. Mine was 100+ and my appointment time was 11AM. I was not accommodated until around 5PM. You may leave the place to have snacks, just make sure you don’t miss your number. It was the longest 6 hours of my life because I had to wait without my gadgets with me. If you don’t like waiting for long hours or if you still have something to attend to, I suggest availing their VIP service (P2500). I did not avail this because I thought it was a waste of money but if I had known that it would take me the whole day to just submit my documents, I would’ve availed. I definitely suggest this if you have extra money and if you don’t like waiting.
Upon submitting your documents, you will be asked if you’d like to avail of their SMS tracking service and courier service. The SMS tracking service allows you to track your visa application status via SMS. They will text you about the details of your application. While it only cost me P110, I think it was such a waste of money because the only update I received via SMS was that my application was already forwarded to the UKVI Decision Making Inscan at VAC, which was a day after I submitted my application (that was the last SMS I received). I only found out that my visa would be despatched via the e-mail that they sent. SMS tracking was not very helpful. The courier service was convenient because instead of picking it up from VFS, you can have it delivered to you instead.
After submitting the documents, I waited for another hour or so for the Biometrics. For some people, they only had to wait for around 15 minutes. I think it depends on the date of your appointment. They asked me my name, birthdate, and the place where I will stay in UK. They also took a picture of me, asked me to look up the CCTV and got my fingerprints. That’s it. After that, I was done. I ended up leaving Ecoplaza at around 6PM.
I think overall, it was a relatively easy process. I got my visa 16 days (12 working days) after I submitted my documents.