Applying for a US Visa in Canada

Earlier this week, I went to apply for a U.S visa. Fortunately, I was able to pass the interview and I was approved. As promised, I will be sharing the details as to what I did during my visa interview, what the requirements are in applying for a US visa and some tips that may help you pass the consul interview.

I applied for my visa here in Vancouver, British Columbia. I just moved here as a worker a few weeks back and since it’s my first two weeks in the job, I am not yet that occupied, hence, I decided to apply and book an appointment for my US Visa Interview. Fortunately, I was able to get a spot for my personal interview two weeks after I submitted my DS-160 form online.

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The US Visa is one of the most straight-forward visa application processes ever and also one of the hardest Visas to obtain, especially if you are a holder of a third-world country passport. To be honest with you, this is not my first time to apply for it, I have been denied when I first applied. They didn’t give me a specific reason as to why they have denied why application but they just gave me a general reason that they cannot provide me a visa as of the moment. When I applied, I was residing in the United Arab Emirates, earning a decent amount and have traveled to several countries in Europe already, and I have both a valid Schengen and UK Visa.

Also read: HOW TO APPLY FOR A SCHENGEN VISA FOR PHILIPPINE-PASSPORT HOLDERS.

I guess they just deny people who are young, single and don’t have that much justification of deep-rootedness to his or her country of origin or country of residence. Or maybe if they know that you will re-apply then they will just deny you if you’ve failed to meet their requirements during the interview, but yeah, these are just my theories.

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The difference when I applied for the first time and this time is that they now ask you to provide your social media handles when you’re filling your DS-160 form online. Which I think is great as you can prove that you have been to places if you’re like me who posts a lot of travel photos on my social media.

Steps: There are only three major steps when applying for a US Visa

Complete the DS-160 form

The DS-160 form is basically pretty much about your personal information. Make sure to have all the necessary information ready like your parents’ date of birth, contact person in the States, etc.

You can access the DS-160 form here.

Schedule an appointment online

After completing the DS-160 form, schedule an appointment online through the US government online portal for Canada. Make sure to have your payment method ready, as of the moment they accept payment through bank transfer, credit card or Interac eTransfer.

You can book your appointment through here.

Documents Required:

-Printed Confirmation Page with Eligible Barcode

-Printed Accomplished DS-160 Form

-Passport with more than six-months validity

-1pc 2×2 Photo (If you have used the same photo on the DS-160 form which you have submitted online, they won’t ask for the hardcopy,  they will only ask for a photo if you brought a different one from the ones you’ve submitted) 

-Proof of residence (Work permit, study permit or PR Card)

-Bank Statements and any other documents which you think will help in your application. Please note that a flight ticket is not required, they actually encourage people to obtain the visa first before booking any flights. 

Prepare for the interview

Once you have submitted your DS-160 online and have booked your appointment, prepare for the interview. When I say prepare for the interview, I mean prepare yourself to answer for possible questions that they will be asking like: ‘What is your purpose of visit to the United States?’, ‘Who are you visiting in the United States?’, ‘Why the United States of all countries?’ , ‘What is your job?’, ‘How much are you earning?’ And many more.

On the day of the interview, please note they will not allow any big bags, purse or anything bulky which is not necessary for the interview. Also, mobile phones and other devices which can record or transmit data is prohibited inside the consulate or embassy. So I highly suggest that you go there light, or if you are going with someone, you can leave the things with them while you go for your interview.

During my Interview

Me: Good morning, how are you?
Consul: Not so bad, thanks for asking.
me: that’s great (smiled)
Consul: What is your purpose of visit to the United States?
me: I wanted to visit my friend
Consul: you sure it’s your friend and not your girlfriend?
Me: She is a childhood friend, we grew up together back in the Philippines
Consul: Do you have any Families in the States?
Me: Nah
consul: any families here in Canada?
me: Nah
Consul: how long have you been in your job?
me: several weeks, I started last January
consul: what? You just arrived here?!
me: yeah, but I decided to apply now since It’s not so busy in my job as of the moment because of the season
Consul: (looks at me then looked at the computer while typing a lot)
-brief silence-
Me: Is everything ok?
consul: Show me your permit.
Me: ‘handed my permit over’
Consul: ok I’m approving you, that’s it
Me: thank you, enjoy the rest of your d… (consul left the counter
)

The interview lasted only for less than five minutes but it seemed forever. All throughout the interview, I was just being myself, and yeah, I just spoke to the consul as if he is a good friend.

One thing I always advise people who are going to a visa interview is to be ‘brutally honest’. Once caught lying, they will instantly reject your application and in worst cases, they will ban you from re-applying. If you are true to your intentions, then there is nothing to worry about.

On the day of your interview, you need to dress to impress but not overdress. Though I went on my interview with a basic tee and a jogger and I think I was able to slay it, so, haha. Also, manifest good thoughts, it helps a lot. You know what they say, we get what we attract.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

New to the Blog? Click here to get to know me more!

Top Reasons Why I Love Sydney and Why You Should Too!

My most special travel moment was in Sydney, Australia. I went there alone. I went there for a purpose. I’ve been looking for a place where I can settle down and Australia definitely gave me that reassurance. Specifically, Sydney. It gave the vibe of both countries that I love; The Philippines and Singapore.

Sydney is pretty much comparable to Singapore when it comes to the lifestyle and the cost of living. But work-life balance is definitely more achievable in Australia because they discourage over time, and promote wellness and family time.

Also, they have natural resources which is similar to what the Philippines has. Although they have more wild animals that you can get to interact with. I have ticked all my boxes there. Carry a koala, pet a kangaroo and feed an alpaca! And surprisingly, I’ve had the best coffee in Australia, which is now my favorite, the soy cappuccino.

I’ve also done the Bondi to Coogee walk. A clifftop coastal walk that features stunning views, beaches, rock pools, cliffs, and bays. I had an amazing and relaxing time! I had a lot of memorable moments, my firsts experiences. That was probably the most memorable one. I’d love to come back and do it again.

So, the walk extends for six km in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, prepare your hiking outfit. After the walk, my friends and I took an uber and went to a café called Doyles on the wharf, in Watson’s bay. And oh my god, I had the best coffee and fish n’ chips there ever! A must try! I remember I spilled my coffee on the café’s carpeted floor and they replaced it for free. It was quite embarrassing but the people there were so nice. The people there are so warm.

The first time I went to Australia was early spring, September 2018, and then I came back this year April 2019, which was autumn. I have been wanting to experience the summer there and swim in the famous Bondi beach. I will definitely go back to it.

They say that part of living in Australia is dealing with insects of all kinds but I’ve been there twice, I’ve been to Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide but I haven’t dealt with any insect so far.

Also, some people said that they have experienced racism there but I believe that racism is everywhere. There are good and bad people everywhere. So there’s nothing to be scared of. When you go there, just be yourself, have fun and don’t do anything stupid.

This Travel Story is written by Gladys Dimagiba. You can follow more of her adventure on her instagram @gladysdima 
All Photos in this article are from Gladys’ personal archive.

Gladys is a thriving Filipina banker in Singapore who loves to wander around the world. Some of her unforgettable travel moments include her visits in Indonesia and Australia.

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How To Apply For A Schengen Visa for Philippine-passport holders.

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How to apply for a Schengen Visa (Step by Step Procedure, Documents required and Tips on how to successfully obtain a Schengen Visa)

Applying for a visa can be one of the most-tedious task to do, especially with visas for highly-industrialized countries. Aside from the inch-thick documents we need to collect & submit and the time it takes for it to be processed, there is also a certain amount we need to pay. And above all these, there is still no guarantee that our application will be approved.

Anyway, in this article, I’ll be discussing mainly about the different procedures and documents required  in obtaining a Schengen Visa.

First, what is a  Schengen Visa? Well basically, a Schengen visa is a short stay visa allowing its holder to circulate in the Schengen area. The Schengen area covers 26 countries (“Schengen States”) without border controls between them.

Below are the Schengen States:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia,Finland,France,Germany,Greece,Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Aside from the Schengen States, you can also use your Schengen visa to visit other countries like:

Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia,Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey

Documents Required:

Fully Completed and Signed Visa Application Form

Cover Letter Stating the purpose of the visit.

Original Passport and passport Info Page Copy

Residence Visa Copy (if you are based abroad)

ID Photos (Bring at least 2 copies)

Roundtrip Flight Ticket Reservation

Travel Insurance

Proof of Accommodation(hotel bookings, etc.)

Proof of Financial Means (latest 6-months bank statement)

Employment Certificate if Employed

Day to day Itinerary

Invitation Letter if you’re invited by Someone from the EU

Affidavit of Support if someone else is paying for your expenses

Enrollment Certificate if you’re a student.

Step by step guide in getting a Schengen Visa

Basically, the first step in getting a Schengen Visa is to choose your main country of travel or the country of which you’ll be spending the most time (if you’re planning to travel to several Schengen States) as this will determine which Visa Application Center you will need to go.

For Schengen Visa Applications, it is mostly handled by VFS GLobal, although there are some countries where the Visa application is handled by the country’s embassy itself, there are also those which are handled by a different agency. So it is important to make sure to decide which country is your main country so you can go to that specific Visa Application Center.

Book an Appointment Online. Well after choosing the country, you should set an appointment where you will submit all your documents for your application. As mentioned on the first step, you should book an appointment based on your main country. In my case, I applied for a Schengen Visa for the Netherlands, and VFS Global handles visa application for the Netherlands, therefore, I booked an appointment on the VFS Global Website.

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I highly suggest that applicants should apply for at least 60-90 days before their intended travel dates to have ample time to fix any problems if there will be any.

On your appointment day at the Visa Application Center, representatives will collect and scan your documents, they will also assess what else may be lacking from all the documents you have submitted. After this, once everything is ok, you will then be called for biometrics collection (fingerprints and photo). Once everything is finished, you will then be given a receipt for you to claim your passport once the result of your application is ready. A tracking number is also written in the receipt for you to be able to track the progress of your application online. You can also opt for an SMS message update with an additional fee.

Processing time takes up to 21 days, so I advice that you only contact the Visa Application Center if you haven’t received any result yet after this timeframe. In my case, I received my passport with a Shengen Visa after 8 days.

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Shengen Visa Fees varies from each country of Application, Since I applied for The Netherlands through VFS GLOBAL in the UAE, then here is the breakdown of all the fees that I paid in the local currency:

99 AED around 26 USD – Appointment fee paid at the VFS Global site

260 AED around 70 USD – Shengen Visa Fee to be paid during the day of application

30 AED around 8 USD – Courier Service (Optional) – the passport will be delivered to your desired address.

I hope you find this article helpful. For questions, feel-free to ask it on the comments below and I will try to answer as soon as I’ll be able to read them.

Thank you for reading!

Top Things To Do and See in Helsinki

Few months back, I visited beautiful Helsinki upon my intention to tick it off my bucket-list. Helsinki in Finland has always been a dream destination for me since it’s one of those European Cities which I often heard about while growing up in the Philippines. 

In this article, I will be sharing some of the best things to do and sites to see in Helsinki. But first, I will be sharing a few facts about the city: The city is situated on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland. It has over three-hundred islands interconnected with many bridges therefore, water transport is widespread.  The city has over thousand of places for people to park their boats as well as several marinas where yacht owners park their boats during winter season. 

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Did I also mention that Helsinki currently holds the record for having the lowest average temperature amongst all capital cities in the world? Yeah, and it has around 50-60 days per year where you cannot see the sun shining in the sky. With that being said, Helsinki is basically rainy most of the time and according to google, there are only around one hundred twenty rainy days in the Finnish capital each year.

Well, below are my own compilation of the best things to do and sites to see in beautiful Helsinki! 

Helsinki Cathedral 

Located in the center of the Senate Square, this Finnish Cathedral boasts a Neoclassic style architecture. It is one of the most photographed churches in Europe and it is also  considered to be the symbol of Helsinki. You know what they say, you haven’t been to Helsinki at all when you didn’t have any photograph with the Helsinki Cathedral in the background. 

Uspenski Cathedral 

Often referred to as the ‘Red Church’. It is is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, Finland as well as being the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland, dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. Definitely a site to behold when visiting Helsinki. 

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Helsinki Design District 

Located in the city-center, Helsinki’s design district is the city’s high-street. You can find different fashion brands both international and local within the areas of this district. Definitely a must-go place for fashion enthusiasts.

Helsinki Zoo

My favorite place in Helsinki. The Helsinki Zoo is one of the most unique zoos I’ve ever been to, as the zoo is actually an island itself. It houses quite a range of species and it has an indoor establishments as well for tropical animals. A great place for those who love animals. There are two main ways to reach this place, either through a ferry-ride or through bus-ride. Just note that the ferry-ride option is not available all year-round, only during the warmer months when the water is not frozen. However, bus-ride option is available all year-round. 

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Teatro Nazionale Finlandese( Finnish National Theatre) 

If you love theatre plays, then this definitely is the place for you to visit. Located  just a few meters from the Main Railway Station, the Finnish National Theatre is worth visiting. It is one of Helsinki’s icons as it is the oldest performing theatre in the city. 

Allas Sea Pool

If you simply want to relax with a great view, then this is the place for you. Allas Sea Pool is located just a few-minutes walk from Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral, so when you’re exploring those places, make sure to also include Allas Sea Pool.

Sibelius Monument  

Located just 15 minutes from the city center, this monument is a must visit, especially if you are a music enthusiast. This monument was built by Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen in honor of Jean Sibelius, a Finnish Composer. 

Have you been to Helsinki? How was your experience?! Tell us through the comment section below! 

Exploring Kawasan, a Handy Guide on how to get there.

Kawasan falls is one of my favorite places here on earth. It is located in Badian which is a small town in the province of Cebu in the southern part of the Philippines. In spite being one of the most famous tourist spots in the Philippines which led it to gain its  name as the most picturesque waterfall in the country and one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, It has become one of my favorites simply because of its magnificent beauty that captivates my soul whenever I visit it. Definitely a playground for travel photographers and film makers.

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Although you can visit it anytime of the year, the best months to visit Kawasan Falls is during the dry season which is from Mid-February till May.

How to get there:

There are actually a few ways on how to get there, but I will be discussing here the easiest and cheapest way to get there.

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 1. By Bus(Cebu City to Badian)

From Cebu City, bus departs almost every hour from the Southern Bus terminal, It takes approximately between 3.5- 4 hours ride via bus and costs around $4-$6. Be sure that the bus from Cebu is going to Bato via Barili and not Oslob. But if you’re not pretty sure where to stop, you can always ask the bus conductor to drop you off in front of the Matutinao Church in Badian. And from Matutinao Church, you can journey for around 15-20 minutes walk to the the waterfall following the Kawasan River which trails to the waterfall.

2. By Taxi/ Uber

Taxi/Grab by far is the most convenient way to get there, but also one of the most expensive. So if you intend to go there by Taxi or Grab, make sure to have a few thousand peso bills with you. Like around 5k pesos.

3. Hitchhiking

I think this is the best option for those who are on a really tight budget. Especially if you are journeying from town to town. I tried hitchhiking from Oslob to Badian, it’s not always guaranteed that there will always be someone who will stop and give you a ride, but it surely is worth trying. Not only you make new friends along the process, but you are also able to save some serious amount.

So once you get there, just relax and enjoy, take as much photos as you can and make sure to always look after your belongings to avoid getting stolen from. Be a responsible tourist to help preserve the beauty of Kawasan. 

If you have some questions, feel free to drop a comment!

Visit Buscalan, A Travel Guide On How To Get There

Ever thought of taking a trip to a destination where you can disconnect from the modern world to reconnect with yourself? Or simply just wanting to have a life-changing experience on a budget? Then worry no more, the best destination for you is ‘Buscalan’!

Buscalan is a small village situated on the mountains of Tinglayan in the Province of Kalinga in the Northern part of the Philippines. It is famous for being a ‘tattoo haven’ as well as being the home of the legendary tattooist Whang-od Oggay.

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I remember the first time I visited Buscalan, I was 16 and went there alone! I don’t know what’s gotten into me but it surely is the start of my wanderlust story. Since then, I haven’t kept track as to how many times I’ve been there already. Well, basically, I’ve been captivated by its breathtaking landscapes and its rich culture resulting in my many countless returns. Definitely a place that would surely make you wanna’ come-back for more.  

Apo Whang-od Oggay

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Top Things to do in Buscalan

-Interact with the locals, go around the village and discover their way of life.

-Go and work your way towards the rice terraces early in the morning to watch the sunrise, or in the afternoon to catch the sunset.

-Go and have a dip at their waterfall situated at the base of the mountain just below the village.  

-Try their local coffee, this is a must whenever you visit the village!

-Try their local food, a must if you wanna have an unforgettable experience in Buscalan!

-Get inked by the legendary traditional tattooists of the village!

In this post, I will be sharing some helpful DIY travel tips on how to get there.

The most frequently asked question by every first time traveler is of course, how to get there. Well, there are actually a few ways on how to get there, purely depends on where you will be coming from.

Below are the most commonly taken route:

Manila->Tabuk City->Bugnay, Tinglayan

For this route, take the Victory Liner bus which departs from Victory Sampaloc Terminal in Manila. Buses to Tabuk usually departs during the evening, around 7:00 pm till 9:45pm. The journey roughly takes around 12-14 hours, depends on the traffic. For complete bus schedules and fare, visit the Victory Liner Website. 

Then from Tabuk City, take the mini bus or jeeps going to Bontoc which usually departs from Tabuk City between 4:00am- 8:00am. The journey takes around 3-3.5 hours. Just don’t forget to tell the driver or the conductor to drop you off at ‘Mar-u’ in Bugnay, Tinglayan. Then from ‘Mar-u’, you can ask the locals where the starting point is going to Buscalan and you can then work your way towards the village, either through walking or hiring a motorcycle for php100($2) per way. The walk usually takes around 1.5-2 hours, depends on how fast you are. Motorcycles will drive you all the way to the last vehicle-accessible point in Buscalan then you can work your way towards the village which would take around 30 minutes walking.

Tip: When you ride the jeep/bus going to Bontoc from Tabuk, make sure to ride on top of the jeepney/bus to enjoy an unforgettable experience and a spectacular view!

There is also another way if you want to skip the long bus-ride. You can take a plane from Manila going to Tuguegarao City and from Tuguegarao City, you can ride a van going to Tabuk City and follow the same route as above. But for this option, you need to spend a night in Tabuk City and catch the bus to Bontoc in the morning of the following day.

Manila ->Bontoc Mt. Province->Buscalan

For this route, take the Coda Bus lines which depart from Quezon City, Manila en-route to Sagada, Mountain Province. Just don’t forget to tell the driver or the conductor to drop you off at Bontoc. Journey takes around 9 hours to Bontoc from Manila.

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For Coda Bus Line Schedules and fares, visit their website for the latest fares.

Then from Bontoc, you can then ride the Jeep going to the last vehicle-accessible point in Buscalan and you can then work your way towards the village which would take around 45 to 60-minute walk, depends on how fast you are.

Manila->Baguio City->Bontoc, Mt. Province->Buscalan

This route is the best option if you need or want to have a stop-over at the Summer Capital of the Philippines.  I suggest that if you take this route, then spend at least one night in Baguio then take the buses going to Bontoc either via D’Rising Sun or GL Trans in the morning on the following day.

Buses from Manila to Baguio departs every hour 24/7 via Victory Liner, Genesis, etc. Either from Pasay Bus Terminal, Cubao Bus Terminal or Sampaloc Bus Terminal. Journey from Baguio to Manila takes around 5-6 hours. 

From Baguio City to Bontoc, you can take any of the following below:

D’Rising Sun Buses departs every hour from 5am till 1pm every day from Slaughter House Compound in Magsaysay Avenue, Baguio City.  

GL Lizardo Buses, departs 8AM, 10am and 2:30pm from Dangwa Bus Station at the back of Center Mall in Baguio city.

Journey from Baguio city to Bontoc takes around 6-hours and fares differ from $5-$6 depends on the couch you availed. Then from Bontoc, you can follow the same steps as above.

If you have questions or clarifications, feel free to drop a comment below.

How to apply for a UK Visa for Philippine Passport Holders

Recently, I have applied for a Short-term UK Visa in Abu Dhabi upon my intention to visit my friend who lives in the UK. Before my application, I have read tons of websites and blogs. Upon checking, I just let a big sigh upon seeing all the list of requirements that you need to acquire and submit. I know it’s hard to be Filipino sometimes!

So one month before my application, I started to collect all the documents needed. I started with requesting a Certificate of Employment from my employer then requesting a Bank Statement from my Bank. Upon completing all my documents, I went to the UKVI website to book an appointment and paid 141.00USD online and received a confirmation booking for their office in Khalidiya. You need to print the confirmation letter before going to the application center, otherwise they won’t let you in the Visa Application Center without it.

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

So on my appointment day, I went to the VFS Global Office which is located on the 25th floor of Shining Towers in Khalidiya, went for security checks then submitted all my documents to the agent. Upon verifying all of it I paid an extra 10aed for SMS and Email Tracking, he then asked me to proceed to the biometrics room for my photograph and fingerprints collection. The whole process only took about 14-minutes or less, so quick! They then informed me that the visa processing time will take up to 3 weeks.

To be honest, I was so nervous that my visa might get denied because I’ve read some blog posts from applicants who have been denied because they only have stayed here in the UAE for not so long, and since I’m only 20 years old and has only been staying here in the UAE for a year, the fear of getting denied is real! But after 8 working days, I received my passport anxiously praying and hoping to see a UK Visa stamped on it while browsing all my passport pages, Thank God! They gave me a multiple visa valid for six months! One of the happiest days of my freaking life! See you next year UK!

You should not worry about your application as long as you’ve provided all the required documents and that you’re completely honest with your intention of visiting the UK.  In my scenario, I got a letter of invitation from my friend who lives in the UK. It’s stated in the letter that I will be staying at his place most of the time and that he will make sure that I will exit from the UK before the Visa expires. And I also stated in my cover letter that I will only go there purely for tourism purposes and that I have no intention of looking for a job in the UK.

I hope this experience will help a lot of you, especially Filipino expats here in the UAE who are applying for a UK Visa for the first time.

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Documents required

Letter of sponsorship from sponsor/s

Cover Letter Addressed to the Embassy of UK in Abu Dhabi

Passport copy of sponsor/s

Statement of Account of sponsor/s

Six month pay slip of sponsor/s

Itinerary plans with Budget

Your Passport Copy

Residence Visa Copy

Employment Certificate showing your annual income and Approved Leave dates

Bank Statements For The Last Six Months

Application form, duly dated and signed 

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Frequently asked questions:

I’m in the UAE as a tourist, can I apply for a UK visa in any of the emirate?

-No, unfortunately most of the UK Visa application center only accepts applicant with a visa enabling the applicant to stay in a country/ territory for more than six months and in this case, UAE tourist visa is only valid for 3 months max.

Will the UKVI Accepts Scanned copy of the documents of my sponsor/s?

-Yes! They do, so you don’t need to ask your sponsor to courier all the original documents.

Should I have a confirmed return flight tickets before applying?

-No, not necessarily.

Thanks for reading!