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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Ethiopia

30th August 2013

The secret to getting a visa

Many people raise visa issues with me. They think I have a conjurer’s wand and can magic one up if they can only convince me of their case. Actually there is almost nothing I can do to assist even if I wished to do so. These days we do not even issue visas from the British Embassy in Addis Ababa. Would-be travellers have to apply via a Visa Application Centre (VAC) in Addis, but the visa is physically issued in Nairobi where the decision-making also takes place.

I said I could do almost nothing. But I can give you some honest advice on how to get that visa. First of all, apply in good time (most travellers should aim to give us 15 working days to process it) – I have lost track of the number of people who apply the day before they are due to travel. Too late! There is nothing that can be done in such cases. Then read the guidelines thoroughly; submit absolutely all of the documentation required, covering all of your personal and financial circumstances, how you will be financing your trip to the UK, etc; tell the truth on your application form; visit the VAC; and wait a short while. Don’t waste your time trying to lobby me or others, since it won’t make a blind bit of difference. And if anyone tells you that they can guarantee you a visa for an additional fee, then save your money. They can’t!

We want more Ethiopians to visit the UK, not least for education and to do business. And if you follow the advice above then, in the vast majority of cases, you can be among them. All applications are judged fairly, rigorously, transparently and on their merits. Not on whether you know the British Ambassador…..

3 comments on “The secret to getting a visa

  1. “tell the truth on your application form”?
    That is an interesting advice Ambassador.

    If applicants follow your advice, not-a-few of them would write on the form: “I am seeking visa to UK, so that I can get an economic asylum on the pretext of political asylum.”

    On a serious note, I think your advice “if anyone tells you that they can guarantee you a visa for an additional fee, then save your money” could have gone a bit further.

    Rumors of such informal connections about western embassies are not new in Addis Ababa streets. Whether founded or baseless.

    You could have invited people to tip you whenever they get wind of such claims.

  2. Dear Sir,

    I totally agree with you, following the guidelines and giving the right time are the two most important things.Unfortunately, most of the people dn’t understand why they have to wait and why things are done in Nairobi.
    My experience was very different. I was in Addis last summer for the adoption of our daughter. I applied online for my daughter’s visa to come back home here in Edinburgh and I got an appointment the following week.-So far, so good- When I went for my appointment, I was told by the two men, members of staff at the Visa Office that I had filled up the wrong form… I was very surprised,( even more surprised when they told me it was free!!) I asked a few questions, I mentioned I had followed advices from other families adopting a child and after a while, I reluctantly gave up and thought they knew better than me, I trusted them, after all it was their job. So I rushed to the Business room at the Sheraton, filled up everything again, printed the new application they asked me to do and they kindly accepted me to return it the same afternoon with all the supportive documents, all that accompanied by my 6 years old son and our 8 months old adopted daughter.What a day it was…Well, over a week later, a lady from Nairobi phoned my husband who was here in Scotland at home to say I had filled up the wrong form!?! I was right from the start, I had filled up the right form and your staff at the Visa office were completely wrong. Mistake was done, no point to argue and above all no time to waste, after all, it was the fifth week I was in Addis on my own with two kids, at that point, we were badly wanting to go home to Scotland. I emailed the lady in Nairobi, gave her the reference number of the first application made online, explained the staff refused this first application and got me to fill up another one. She was brilliant, she started processing it on a Tuesday and on Friday morning the Visa was in Addis. on Friday night , the three of us were in the plane to London. I sent a Thank you email , this lady was professional, efficient and very understanding of my situation. I understand you have to check lots of things to give a Visa but in the case of adoption (babies/ children), why is it so long with The British Embassy when others countries only take 48h, sometimes same day…It was so hard to see couples from France, Germany, Spain…arriving well after me, and leaving well before me!
    At the end it was fine, those 6 weeks were perfect for my daughter, my son and myself to bond. It was a slow move for our little Genet. I am a strong woman, I regularly visit Ethiopia so I was surrounded by friends, I am privileged to have the finances and I know Addis but I can understand couples who struggle to cope to do all the papers for their adoption, to wait and wait without knowing how long it will take.
    “Delilawit” at the Embassy was lovely and tried to help. Unfortunately, it seems that nobody really knows the right process to follow for the adoption. I guess not many British people adopt, compare to France or the US but it would be great to improve the process, to have one person at the Embassy who knows the right process and who would help families. Actually, on this side also( here in the UK), it would be great to improve the service too…
    Still, Ethiopia is in my heart forever, our little Genet is the most precious, beautiful, smart little girl and we are a happy family. I am coming back in November, just to visit my friends in Mekelle and to visit Gondar, where Genet was found abandoned. I follow all your news on Facebook and I think Britain is very supportive of Ethiopia. So at the end, I am not complaining at all, it is just a suggestion and it would make a big difference to have someone to guide us a little bit.

    1. Sorry to be so slow to respond.

      Getting visa guidance right for UK nationals is imperative and an area where, with the help of our Regional Visa Centre in Nairobi, we can improve. Feedback about incorrect guidance has given us the chance to work on this with them and it is gratefully received.

      The UK has moved to outsourcing for many of its Visa Sections, the constant pressures to save money linked to advances in technology have led to a global move in this direction. Other countries are following suit, but as long as there are Visa Sections at their Embassies here processing is likely to be quicker. The challenge we must meet is keeping processing times as short as possible and managing expectations so our customers know the timescales they should be expecting. This must be coupled with getting the guidance right so that applications are submitted on the right forms.

      Couples from the UK face challenges throughout the complex local adoption process. It is really important that adoption applications are lodged with Local Authorities before travelling to Ethiopia to adopt. If this step is missed, then it causes all sorts of problems and the time taken to complete the settlement visa will be prolonged. The Home Office produces guidance on Inter-country adoption and settlement visas which can be found by following these links:



      We are directly involved with certain aspects of the adoption process here, from notarising documents to receiving yearly welfare reports: we are very familiar with these aspects. But where there are more specialised local procedures involved, we have to leave to the Ethiopian authorities and local legal advisers (though we are very happy to offer guidance where we can).

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