There is not enough space in the visa application form itself to completely cover all aspects of your story. To make up for this, you can attach a cover letter to explain your circumstances to the Entry Clearance Officer in detail.
Your cover letter will make or break your case. The cover letter being absent from my first two visa attempts played a big role in my visa rejections, since I never explained my story.
Length of the Cover Letter
There’s no restriction on this, as is evident from the response of the Entry Clearance Officer below. Explain every small bit of detail. Remember that you can never provide too much information. However, missing out on detail can lead to your visa being rejected.
For my third visa attempt, I was interviewed, by the Entry Clearance Officer, via Skype. At the end of my interview, I apologized for writing such a lengthy cover letter and for attaching so many documents, making my application very lengthy. This was the response of the Entry Clearance Officer interviewing me, “Oh! No! No! You have nothing to apologize for. It’s totally okay. It is my job to go through your cover letter and your application, no matter how lengthy it is. You don’t have to apologize at all. It is my job.”
Contents of The Cover Letter
Introduce yourself. Mention the visa for which you’re applying and the reason. Also mention where you work in your home country. It doesn’t hurt to mention your GMC Reference number, just to show your seriousness and that you’re a genuine candidate.
2. Explain Your Visa Choice
Explain in detail why you’re applying for this particular visa.
3. Explain Why You’re Taking the PLAB Exam
It may seem less important to you. But to your Entry Clearance Officer, this is always very important.
4. Explain Why You Want to Move to the UK
Again, this may seem less important to you. But to the Entry Clearance Officer, it’s very important.
5. Brief Career Outlook
Explain what you’ve done so far in your career since you graduated from medical school. The purpose of this is to show the Entry Clearance Officer that you’re serious about your career and based on your track record, you’re going to stay focused on your exam and not be involved in any wrongdoings.
It’s best if you’re working as a doctor in your home country. Because
i) It adds to your ties back home.
ii) It shows that you’re serious about your career.
iii) It adds to your financial stability.
iv) It doesn’t make a good impression if you’re jobless and you talk about taking an exam in the UK to work in the UK.
7. Domestic Circumstances
Mention where and with whom you live. Tell them about your family. Mention each and every single member of your immediate family. Also mention what each member of your family is doing. Remember to attach documentary evidences to show their relationship with you and to prove that they’re legal residents and earning legally.
This will help in establishing good home ties. If your family is career oriented, that’ll also help a lot. You can write that you have a family history of career oriented people and you’ll just follow the family tradition.
8. Address Previous Refusals (If relevant to your case)
Explain why your visa was refused in the past.
A) If It was refused because of your mistake(s)
i) Explain why you made mistakes in your previous applications.
ii) Apologize for all your mistakes.
iii) Explain how you’ve rectified your mistakes.
B) If your visa was refused because of a mistake from their end
Explain to them, in a very humble way, why you think you deserved to get a visa and why their objection was unfair.
9. Explain Plans for the Current Trip
A. Length of Stay
It’s best to plan for a short stay. My stay was only for 4 days in my third and successful attempt. No matter what the length of your stay is, explain what you’re going to do on each and every single one of those days, in as much detail as you can. Go through my cover letter to see how I explained my stay for each day.
Length of stay from previous applications (If relevant to your case)
Also mention the length of stay from your previous applications. Explain why you had a longer stay in your previous application and why you’ve shortened it now. You can write that you wanted to prepare for your exam in the UK, while getting used to the atmosphere and the surroundings. However, due to your previous rejections, you’ve decided to work extra hard and complete all preparations for your exam in your home country this time, which will not be easy for you. But you’re doing this because you want to pass this exam and you’ll only travel to the UK to take your exam this time and you’ll return back the day after your exam.
B. Exam Confirmation
Mention the fact that you’ve already paid your exam fee.
C. No Objection Certificate from Employer
It is very important to be employed, as it shows a reason to leave the UK at the end of your trip. Take a leave of absence from work for a week or two. It’s ideal if this leave is unpaid, since paid leave reduces your probability of going back to your home country.
Even if you have friends or family in the UK, it’s best to write that you will stay at a hotel in Manchester. The cheapest hotel that I always found was Hatters Manchester via booking.com. If you book it early, it’ll cost you 40 GBP for 4 days. If there is any cheaper accommodation, kindly let me know and I will add it to my blog.
It’s best to book a hotel, instead of staying with your friends or family, because:
i) It shows that you’re traveling only for your exam and not for socializing.
ii) It shows that you’re focused on your exam.
iii) Living with friends or family shows a slight chance of overstaying.
E. Airline Booking
Make a provisional airline booking which should include a return ticket. Mention that you will make a confirmed airline booking once you get your visa.
It’s important to book a return ticket, with a short duration between the traveling dates, to show your intention of traveling back to your home country as soon as possible after your exam.
Once you reach the UK, you can easily change the return ticket to come back to your home country at a different date, by paying a penalty fee.
You have to convince the ECO that you have enough money for your trip. The more money you have, the better, provided you can prove, that you have legally earned it or that you legally own it. In case somebody is sponsoring you, you have to prove that they have legally earned it or that they legally own it. Please go through my post Finances for PLAB 2 Visa to have a better idea of finances.
G. Total Cost of Trip
Regardless of your bank balance, try to keep the total cost of your trip as low as possible. Breakdown the total cost of your trip.
It is ideal if the total cost of your trip is between 10 to 20% of your total bank balance. Because one of their objections can be, “How come you’re willing to spend half or a quarter of all your savings on a single trip?”.
By the time you apply for your visa, you already would’ve paid for your exam. There will be three components to your cost of trip
i) Airplane ticket
This should be around 400-600 GBP.
It should be 10-20 GBP per night.
iii) Living Expenses
This should also be 10-20 GBP per day.
The total depends on the length of your trip. If you play it well, the total can be less than 600 GBP.
Summary of Cover Letter
Conclude your cover letter by summarizing your story. You can add any points that you were not able to mention above. Remember that you have to convince the ECO on three grounds:
i) That you would not overstay in the UK.
ii) That you have enough money for this trip.
iii) That you’re a genuine candidate.
There can be multiple approaches towards writing a cover letter. This article only covers the approach taken by me. You can find people who might disagree with some of my views. I will not advise you to follow me or anyone else blindly. The best thing to do would be to research yourself, by checking official websites and consulting others on Facebook.