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I am planning to visit London for 6 days from the US. I have given my biometrics and when I was preparing to mail my documents to the UK visa processing center in the US, I used this link from the UK government website to cross-check the documents to be sent to the processing center.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visitor-visa-guide-to-supporting-documents (Guide to supporting documents).

Something that really surprised me was in Section 4 (documents that should NOT be sent along with the package) was hotel bookings and flights bookings.

Section 4: documents you should not send unless specifically requested

This page provides guidance on the types of documents that are not required to consider your application.

  • hotel bookings

  • flight bookings

Typically I have always been asked to provide my travel plans, accommodation plans and proof of them. This is the first time that travel plans and accommodation plans are not asked to be sent. What might be the reason behind it? This really confuses me. Any help in clearing my confusion would be greatly welcome.

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The short answer is that the UK has determined that hotel and flight bookings really aren't very useful for considering whether to issue a visa. Years ago, they did ask for these documents, and stopped doing so.

Both of them can be easily made and easily cancelled. One can make flight reservations without even paying for them! Such unpaid reservations will be cancelled within 24 hours, but that's sufficient to provide some "documentation" which ultimately proves nothing.

And, hotel and flight bookings, even if paid, don't say anything about the traveller's intention to leave the country, which is vitally important in considering whether to issue a visa. It is, after all, easy to simply not board a return flight.

Finally, travellers' plans can change, and if that happens, the hotel and flight bookings are useless for the purpose of visa issuance.

It's also been pointed out that not following the directions in applying for a visa makes that application appear weaker than it otherwise would appear, and it would be less likely to be approved.

Some countries still ask for these, but they may have other reasons for doing so, such as propping up a tourism industry, bureaucratic inertia, or whatever.

Note, though, that you may need to present your hotel and flight information at immigration when you enter the country. This is where the information is most useful.

  • 3
    Though, in reality, the hotel and flight information is no more useful to a point-of-entry immigration officer than to somebody deciding whether to give a visa. Especially since one-way tickets are often more expensive than returns, having a return ticket doesn't really prove a lot. – David Richerby May 23 '18 at 18:22
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    @DavidRicherby: having a paid-for return ticket doesn't prove anything about intention to leave, but it does at least prove something about having the capacity to leave. Assuming they can get to the airport, of course: if rail travel keeps on going up maybe they'll be asking to see return tickets to the airport too ;-) Hotel information also doesn't prove anything about intention to leave, but indicates something about the traveler's capacity to stay off the streets. – Steve Jessop May 24 '18 at 16:45
  • @SteveJessop True, though they're supposed to have already evaluated that capacity during the visa application process. – David Richerby May 24 '18 at 16:46
  • @DavidRicherby: yeah, but if they aren't asking to see flights at the point you're applying for the visa any more, then all the more reason to do so at point of entry, since all the visa acceptance did was assess that you're low-risk provided you also satisfy the entry conditions. If they consider there's a risk that you either won't be able to afford the return flight or else discover too late that there's no availability. I don't know whether immigration officers actually consider this a serious risk, though, or if it's just a proxy for having your trip/life in some semblance of order. – Steve Jessop May 24 '18 at 16:49
  • @SteveJessop The capacity is evaluated by asking about financial circumstances, though I agree that there's the possibility of no tickets being available. – David Richerby May 24 '18 at 17:01
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On top of the reasons Michael Hampton listed, the UK does not want people to purchase non-refundable tickets or hotel reservations and then find they've wasted large amounts of money if they are denied a visa, so they specifically advise against this, e.g.:

We take this opportunity to remind applicants that UKVI does not require a flight booking or tickets to be submitted with a visa application. Our online guidance clearly advises customers not to make payments or travel reservations until a visa decision has been received.

See also our previous question, UK.gov says do not attach “flight/hotel booking”, but then my auto-generated checklist asks me to tick whether I am attaching this document. The system does allow you to provide an indication of your travel plans, even without confirmed bookings. That answer quotes the guidance used by UKVI staff:

For visa applications, visitors are not required to provide an itinerary, but you should normally expect the applicant to have some plans for their stay, and provide information about this on the application form.

At the border, you should expect the applicant to be able to answer questions on what they plan to do

In other words, even without firm bookings, they still expect applicants to have some idea what they plan to do and how long they plan to do it for (five days of the usual tourist things in London or two months staying at the mother-in-laws house in Wales or four days at a conference in Edinburgh, etc...) and will assess the application accordingly.

  • The quote or the article it points to does not provide evidence for the claim the UK does not want people to purchase non-refundable tickets or hotel reservations and then find they've wasted large amounts of money. Am I missing sometning? – Jan Doggen May 23 '18 at 10:14
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    @JanDoggen the quote immediately following seemed like it said that to me. Your thesis that "concern for the applicant's finances" is not a motivation for VIUK and its agents, is less believable to me. – Harper May 23 '18 at 22:33
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    @JanDoggen You're right that it doesn't explicitly say "don't waste your money," but what other motive is there to advise people "not to make payments" besides cautioning that those payments may be wasted? – Zach Lipton May 23 '18 at 22:47
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    Advising people not to book flights and hotels before they have a visa probably saves the authorities from gettting thousands of letters "but I already paid for flight and hotel and can't get the money back, please let me in!". And it benefits airlines / hotels who don't have to cope with cancellations and refunds. – gnasher729 Sep 8 '18 at 16:03

protected by phoog Apr 16 at 17:40

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