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Hefty processing fee no guarantee for quick UK visas

Thousands of highly skilled workers and students from India and other countries who apply for visa extensions while living in Britain — often spending up to £1,800 (around Rs. 1.5 lakh) for fast-track clearance — are wasting their time.

world Updated: Mar 25, 2013 01:46 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Thousands of highly skilled workers and students from India and other countries who apply for visa extensions while living in Britain — often spending up to £1,800 (around Rs. 1.5 lakh) for fast-track clearance — are wasting their time.

The overwhelming majority of these applications in July-Sept 2012 — the latest period for which accurate figures are available — were not processed in time.

In fact, tens of thousands of them weren’t even entered into government computers, creating a massive backlog for the government agency dealing with immigration, according to figures seen by the HT.

Only 18% of these ‘in-country’ applications were processed in time for Tier-1 applicants — much sought-after highly skilled workers such as scientists and entrepreneurs — down from 26% in the previous quarter. For students, the figure was even lower — 14%, which is a decline from a 28% in the previous quarter.

The figures, contained in a damning report to be published by the British parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, indicate that the backlog has been building up over time.

They paint a shambolic picture of thousands of non-European immigrants — including entrepreneurs, workers with lucrative job offers and international students — who have been left in the lurch by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The report described the delays as “shocking.”

The UKBA’s service, the reported noted, “cannot be serving the government’s aim of keeping the ‘brightest and the best’ in the UK,” indicating that highly skilled immigrants may be leaving Britain just when it needs them most.

“It takes up to six months for the UKBA to process these applications, which means applicants cannot get jobs confirmed or even leave the UK for six months because their passports are with the Agency,” said Committee chairman and Labour MP Keith Vaz.

Although there were delays across the board, and only one class of immigrants saw a rise in the number of applications that were processed in time — Tier 2 applicants, skilled immigrants with a job offer. And the agency was exceeding its targets for processing applications that were filed outside Britain.