The British High Commission will open a Visa Application Centre (VAC) in Kochi to facilitate travellers from the state.
From June 9, travellers to Britain would apply to the VAC in Kochi for all categories of British visas. They earlier had to apply directly at the British deputy high
commission in Chennai.
Besides Kerala, the VAC would also benefit people in the region, including nearby Coimbatore.
All applications to the Kochi office would be forwarded to Chennai for approval. In case the application is approved, the stamped passport would be returned to the VAC by courier or sent to the applicant's address. All customers would have to pay a service charge of Rs.300.
Welcoming the move, Kuruvilla Mathew of Qatar Airways said the VAC would be a boon for the people of Kerala.
Mathew told IANS: "Till now, people from the state wanting to travel to Britain would have to go Chennai and queue up. There are a good number of Keralites travelling to Britain these days."
The Kochi VAC, like the other application centres, is run by a private company, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS), part of the Kuoni travel group.
VFS is responsible only for accepting applications and providing advice and guidance where necessary. All applications would be assessed in Chennai. However, Chennai would accept direct applications in cases of emergencies.
This improved service has been developed as part of the British high commission's continued commitment to make visa services more accessible.
In February this year, similar VACs were opened in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. With the opening of the new centre in Kochi, every state in south India now has a VAC.
The visa office in Chennai issued a total of 46,298 visas in 2002 (up from the 26,120 issued in 1999). It also issued 4,825 student visas in 2002 (up from 949 student visas in 1999).
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