UK Immigration – The Toronto VAC Experience

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Today’s post continues my series on UK immigration via Category A spousal route, and here I’ll be talking about what the Toronto Visa Application Centre experience is like. As there were very few Canadian applicants during the time I was applying, I was quite nervous about my VAC appointment because I didn’t know what to expect. Hopefully this will answer any questions you have and quiet one more worry you might have!

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an immigration adviser. I am not any kind of professional. I’m merely giving my own input and experience in UK immigration, and it should be treated as such. However, I hope it eases your confusion and helps you on your journey to Britain. I highly recommend consulting ExpatForum whether or not you have additional questions, as my experience is limited.


As a Commonwealth country, Canada lets you bring your visa documents to your local Visa Application Centre, or VAC. At this centre, officers will go over your application with you, take your photo and fingerprints, and package up your application and send it off with DHL. This ends up eliminating a step that would otherwise have to be done by UKVI, and it also means you have a bit less to worry about since they’re packaging the application up and sending it out themselves.

Toronto’s VAC, VFS Global, is right across from the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor West, on the sixth floor of a small medical building. When you’re completing the online part of your application, you will be booking your appointment with your local/regional VAC, and you’ll be printing out an appointment confirmation sheet.

Be sure to have your documents arranged neatly, but not secured in any way. No staples, no clips. The officer you will talk to will need to go through everything and arrange it all for your ECO.

I made my appointment for two weeks after the date of my online application, just to make sure I received Jon’s financial documents in the mail on time. I arrived a little early, and got in line behind several other applicants in the corridor because nobody was allowed in until 15 minutes before their appointments. One by one, we went through a brief security process before being let into the main office.

When I was waved in, I entered a small room where I signed in with a security guard and was scanned with a hand-held metal detector. I had to make sure all electronic devices were turned off and placed inside my bag, which was then put in a locker in the same room. After this, the guard unlocked the office door for me and let me in. The room was full of advertisements for UK travel, and all of this and the British flags around were an interesting contrast to the iconic Toronto skyline just outside the big windows!

I was quickly approached by a friendly officer who glanced over my appointment sheet and VFS payment printout. She handed me a checklist and asked me to go through all my documents, checking everything off that was relevant to my application and making sure it was all in the order specified. I was slightly ruffled by the fact that this checklist was in a different order than what I was told on Expat Forum, but it only took a few minutes of reorganizing to get it all in the correct places. It was then when I discovered I needed proof that I was allowed to live in Canada, so I had to excuse myself and run back into the security room to get my wallet and my permanent resident card!

Photocopies are one dollar per page and cash/change are not accepted, so be sure to bring your debit or credit card in case you need something copied. Once we got my resident card photocopied, I sat down with the officer as she checked out all my paperwork. She looked at all original documents, and then stamped each corresponding photocopy page with a big red “ORIGINAL SEEN”. Then she fitted the paperwork into a DHL envelope and wrote “PRIORITY” in red across the back of the envelope.  I was given a receipt that I had to sign, and I was told to keep it safe because I would need to show it upon returning to collect my documents when UKVI sent them back.

Next, I was sent to another room where an officer took my big fat envelope from me, electronically took my fingerprints, and then took my photo.  That’s where my appointment ended, about an hour or so after I’d arrived.

***

Upon returning to collect my passport and documents in November, things moved far more quickly. This time, I was allowed to bring my backpack into the main office as long as my devices were switched off, and I was given a number. I sat down and waited to be called, and despite the amount of people there on the same mission as me, I only had to wait about five minutes. An officer called my number and I sat down across from him, handing him my receipt. He pulled out the big DHL envelope and passed it over to me, and told me to go find a seat and have a look through the envelope to make sure nothing of mine was missing. Once I had a look through (and checked out my shiny new visa), I headed out.

 

May your own VAC experience go smoothly and quickly with positive results on your application!

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