I would like to share my work visa acquiring experience in hopes that it may save someone else the trouble I have had.
First of all, go home. Different than a tourist visa which usually can be gained at any embassy or consulate no matter where you are, a work visa must be made from your country of residence.
Then, get rich. In addition to the Certificate of Service you will get from your future employer, you will need to provide the consulate with your current and past passport(s), two passport-sized photos, an application which may ask you to list all of your trips overseas from the past ten years, bank statements proving you have ‘sufficient’ funds (can be over $1000) continuously for the past three months, and fees (depending on the country but the UK is $813 plus an optional though recommended additional $150 priority fee).
Certainly do not buy a non-refundable, non-changeable flight before you get your visa. The process is complex and there is no telling how long it will take.
For a worst case study, here’s what happened to me:
You know how gmail sometimes doesn’t alert you if someone responds to a thread and then you think they are ignoring you but in reality they responded right away? Yeah, well, that happened when HR sent my COS to me in Burkina. Instead of going home to the US as planned, I changed the Europe-States portion of my plane ticket and went straight to the UK. When border control questioned me about coming back into the UK so soon since my last visit, I had to lie and say I was there for an interview.
I had found a temporary place to live through Airbnb, a great site I might ad, and had a few leads on more permanent places. It turned out the place I liked the most was already rented by the time I visited it even though I had corresponded with the owner of the house for a few weeks. Also, when SOAS reopened on January 5th, we found out about the email glitch – the COS was indeed sitting in my inbox. Further, we found out the COS forced me to apply for a visa outside of the UK. Alright, we thought, just go back to Paris, then. We called the consulate there but they said no. Even if I had received the COS in Burkina, I would have had to go to Ghana as there is no UK consulate in Burkina, and then they would probably have refused me too.
So, off to the US. Although the site was down and it took my father in the US to find the right links buried within the UK border control website, I started filling out the online application before leaving and submitted it the night I arrived. Went to the biometrics appointment two days later and overnighted all the documents to the consulate in NYC.
Or so I thought. Even though I carefully reviewed the supporting documents listed on the site, the most important, the return shipping packaging, was not listed because it was something that had been recently changed (you’d think for $813 they could include return shipping). I also wanted to get priority handling but the option was unavailable.
A week and a half later, I get an email from the consulate saying they could not even begin to process my application until they received a return shipping label. I also realized that I had to send my bank account statements for the last three months but I had been locked out of my bank account online and at the ATM ever since Burkina and unable to unlock it because I had no active home address nor phone number since leaving IU. I was able to amend this situation from home, so I printed out my bank statements and fedexed them along with the return packaging and the priority fees which I later found.
Now, it is impossible to speak directly or even email the consulate. You have to pay three dollars a minute to talk to a liaison who may or may not actually relay your message. I waited for a week and a half, hearing nothing from the consulate, despite continued attempts to contact them. My father suggested I ask my senator for assistance. I did so and they faxed a letter to the consulate. Then, they called! Turns out, despite the FedEx confirmation, the consulate denied ever having received the documents.
They told me to get a return shipping label online. I tried via the FedEx site but couldn’t do it quickly so I went to the store. They acted like I asked them to ship me the moon. No idea what I was talking about even though I showed them the site and the request from the consulate. They then tried to look do it from their computer, which froze so I went back home. I got a shipping label from UPS and emailed it to a special email given to me just for this purpose. They called to say they received it and would begin processing my visa tomorrow. I also faxed $50 worth of bank statements, receipts for the priority service (which I already faxed as well as sent), and the previous FedEx receipts.
Then I got an email (to which I could not respond) that I needed to send original bank statements even though the website says that printouts from an online account are acceptable. They said I had 7 days. Nice of them to make a deadline for me at this point. So I called my bank, and they sent over a copy of my statements. I again FedExed this to the consulate.
Now the fun begins because even though I received the tracking information that the package was delivered Monday morning, I heard nothing from the consulate. I had been emailing the WorldBridge service on a daily basis to try to get information but my requests were in vain as they finally blamed the blizzard which happened later that week. I also faxed supplemental copies and after a week sent additional copies of the bank statements.
Nothing for two weeks. My aunt who has lived in NYC her entire life offered to go personally to the consulate. I was hesitant because I didn’t think they would talk to her. Desperate as we were, I asked her to go there and see if I could come personally and either withdraw my application or at least talk to someone. MIRACULOUSLY the guard not only talked to her but called up to the offices. They said they didn’t have my return packaging. Can you believe it?! So Florry went directly, bought a shipping label, and gave it to the guard who took it upstairs. 30 minutes later, the email arrived saying the visa was issued and was in the mail. It arrived on Monday and I flew out Thursday, started work Monday, that was two weeks ago and I am still in awe of the whole thing.