The UK visa process in Toronto changed literally the day after I applied, so nothing I say can be taken as gospel. That said, here are my observations on things that are unlikely to change:
1. For those that know psychometrics – the application form was almost definitely designed by an ISTJ. For those that don’t know psychometrics – it needs a brain-hurting level of detail about everything.
Do not attempt to fill this form out in ten minutes or even half an hour. I recommend looking through the form once, gathering all the stuff you need, and then filling it out in one sitting later. (Do you know your investment details well? Your parents’ DOB’s, birth towns? Your UK relatives’ home phone numbers? Exactly.)
2. You’ll need to have the Wikipedia entry on Commonwealth countries open, as well as your passport. The form asks you to list every CW country you've visited in the last five years, with dates. And then the non-CW ones. I won’t get into how pointless I thought this was.
(This was actually the only question I answered. The husband filled out the rest of the form for me, reminding me again what a great decision it was to marry him. The last time I went to the UK, my dad filled it all out. I am extraordinarily spoiled.)
3. As with the Schengen visa, check the site for the list of documents you’ll need. Book free-cancellation hotels & flights, plan on insurance, and check your bank balance, because the UK needs a whole lot more than most Schengen countries.
4. Speaking as someone who’s paid a lot of money for visas over the years, the UK one’s shockingly expensive. They also cross-sell like it’s Domino’s – you can pay extra to schedule an appointment before your office hours, or to expedite processing time, or to have the visa shipped back to you. Or all three.
On the bright side, you can pay by card. Most people don’t carry around hundreds of dollars in cash, anyway.
5. Again, keep in mind any other travel plans you have before scheduling an appointment. You can’t do international travel without a passport, and you’ll need to check with airlines if other proofs are accepted for domestic travel. You could just pay to expedite the process if you need your passport back sooner.
6. The visa office does not conduct an interview, or even go through your documents, so triple check them before you get to the office. If you leave out anything, you’re going to have to pay that exorbitant sum twice.
7. You’ll be fingerprinted at the appointment. Note the date because you’ll have to note it in future applications. You’ll also be photographed, so dress for posterity.
8. The UK visa typically took between 10-20 days to process. I don’t know if that will change, given VFS Global’s in charge now, but their new site isn't fully updated yet.
Frankly, I wish I was travelling to Ireland as well as London and Scotland on this trip, because I can’t imagine going through the UK visa process again. Sadly, there just isn't time, so I’ll probably have to do this all again in a couple of years. Who could watch PS I Love You and resist Ireland?
(PS: The movie is, unusually, much better than the book. Gerard Butler, we love you.)