As a daily ritual, I got on Facebook in the morning while still in bed, and Mark Zuckerberg greeted me with Facebook Memories. The app showed me photos I took nine years ago when I visited Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge. These photos brought back great memories of when I visited the United Kingdom (UK) for the first time and how I landed there.
I want to share every bit of the journey with you; from visa application to the stadium.
I made my visa application in November 2010 but travelled in January 2011. Those days, not many people were applying for UK Visas because visa applicants usually wait to receive invitation letters from friends and relatives in the UK before applying. A few people like myself knew it was OK and still OK to apply for a visa with a hotel reservation if you have no one in the country you are visiting. Hotels are there primarily to serve tourists.
I was a Tour Guide then, and it’s one of the professions you can quickly get visas with without so many questions. I’m a Travel Consultant now and also into other businesses which call for so many questions today, but I can’t stop working just because I want to travel easily. As a Tour Guide, my travel documents were straightforward:
- Completed Visa Application Form
- Passport Photos
- Business Registration Documents
- Bookings of tours I have handled in the past and those that were coming up.
- Western Union receipts of payments by my tourists
- Bank Statement of GHS9,000
- Hotel Reservation
- Flight Reservation
- Tour Itinerary
Unlike most applicants, I met at the Visa Application Center, my documents were few. When I saw others with loads of documents, I thought I was going to throw some money away. I could see in the face of the VFS employee who attended to me that my application wasn’t going to be successful. I remember her weighing the documents in her hand to a colleague with an expression that I have presented the least documents.
I got a text message in three days that the application is ready. I picked it up and Hallelujah, visa is granted.
It was somehow easier those days because our country’s economy was very good. The GHS9000 in my bank account was almost GBP4,000. Today, GBP4000 is approximately GHS30,000. My job then as a Tour Guide played a good role in the success of the visa application. Tour Guides are busy people who always have tours to handle. Documents I presented to the embassy cleared showed that I had several tours to handle after my trip. This was enough to convince the Entry Clearance Officer. Payment receipts of funds I received from tourists also confirmed that I’m really in business. As a Tour Guide, touring other places also enhances your knowledge in the field.
Applying with a hotel reservation wasn’t also something common. I remember when I applied for a visa to the Netherlands, the Ghanaian employee who ‘interviewed’ me asked if hotel reservation works. She got me scared and even wanted to withdraw my application. I got back in a few days only to see the visa issued.
I left Ghana on the night of January 28, 2011, to London via Amsterdam on KLM. I had no troubles at the Kotoka International Airport but had a lot of questions to answer at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. Officials at the airport wanted to be sure that I stand a good chance of getting entry into the UK before they allow me to proceed. They checked my visa many times, checked the hotel and asked how much money I was carrying. They got satisfied and let me.
Arriving at London Heathrow Airport also presented another hurdle for my trip. When it got to my turn, I was asked many questions. Most of the questions were centred on my job and income. I was asked how long I have been doing Tour Guiding, how I get tourists, how much I make, and if the trip was sponsored by myself. The kind of questions I was asked showed that they had doubts about a Tour Guide making enough money to embark on a vacation.
When I was cleared to enter the country, I went to my hotel and then left the same day to Stamford Bridge. Micheal Essien was at his peak at Chelsea FC and visiting Stamford Bridge was a big deal.
I got to the stadium, bought tickets for the Stadium Tour. I didn’t purchase tickets in advance, but you are urged to do so today and include in your visa application.
I got to the UK at the right time. I got there at a time Chelsea FC had won the Premier League and FA Cup. So all the trophies were on display at the Stamford Bridge for visitors to take photos with at a small fee.
I miss the UK for only two things; Shopping and Chicken & Chips.
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