How to Talk About Visas in English
A visa is an official authorization to enter a country and different countries have different standards for granting a visa.
Now, if you've ever been interested in studying abroad, or just traveling for fun, you already know what a visa is; but you might agree with me, the vocabulary used in visa letters and forms is far from straight forward. With my English language skills back in 2008, it took me a couple of minutes to realize ‘You’ve been granted leave to remain in the UK’ meant my visa was approved!
So here’s a fictional story that follows a visa application process, so I can share useful phrases and what they mean in 'plain English'.
Let’s say you need to apply for one of many types of visa - including tourist, student, skilled worker, etc. - because you’re a national from overseas (you have a different nationality) and your country isn't a visa-waiver country (people from countries included in Visa Waiver Programs might be able to enter a country as visitors for pleasure or business without first getting a visa).
You pay your visa fees (price of the process to apply for the visa) and submit your application. That makes you an applicant (person who’s expressed interest in the visa) and you’ll have a case number for that. In many cases you’ll also need to submit your biometrics (biologically unique information used to identify individuals) during the application process.
The Home Office or Immigration Department (that country’s governmental entity that processes visas) will assess whether you qualify for the visa (are apt for entering the country) you've applied for. Depending on your type of visa, the criteria to get it might include: English – or any other - language sufficiency (whether you have enough skills in that language), minimum income requirement (minimum amount of money they expect you to earn), or even an approved or certified sponsor (business, school or entity who supports your application and/or stay in the country).
If you comply with all the requirements (meet the standards) then you’re eligible and it’s likely that you’ll be granted (approved for) the permit to visit or live in that country. Well done you!
Most common visas are valid for a limited period of time (have an expiration date), but they could also be indefinite (doesn't expire as long as your circumstances stay the same).
But if you are ineligible (you don’t match the criteria), they’ll probably refuse or deny (as opposed to approve) your visa. In which case you go and make yourself eligible, or change your plans to make your life easier.
Let’s assume you've got that visa and you’re already visiting, studying or living in that country of your dreams. Suddenly your plans changed, you fall in love or any other extraordinary thing happens…
Then you’ll need to extend your visa (apply for more time under the same type of visa) or, if your circumstances have changed, change your status and apply for a new visa type.
In my case, when I finished my studies, I was offered a job in the UK and that company became my sponsor. I submitted the required documentation and additional information before I was able to change my status from student to skilled worker.
As for you, the story will end exactly how you want it to, but we'd like that to involve getting a visa and coming to study in one of our more than 40 Kaplan English Schools around the world! For further visa inquiries (questions regarding visas), or country specific information have a look at our Visa Information section.
Please share with us your own visa story on our Facebook page or in the comments section below!