12 May 2009
UK visa application troubles for South Africans
After having UK visa restrictions enforced this year, South Africans are complaining that they are experiencing inconveniencing UK visa application troubles to boot.
According to iol.co.za, the UK visa application process for South Africans has turned messy over the past few months because of introduced UK visa restrictions, fee hikes and glitches in the Home Office processing centre.
As of the 3 March 2009, South African nationals will have to have a UK visa to enter the country unless they can prove they have entered the country beforehand, either using a passport entry stamp or gaining evidence that they have entered through the iris recognition immigration system (IRIS). This temporary exemption will only be valid until mid-2009.
South Africa was given many months to improve their immigration system after a warning from the UK government that it would introduce visa restrictions if no change occurred.
For two days at the start of April, UK visa applications were put on hold because the biometric system crashed. Now that South Africans need to have a UK visa to transit through, visit, live and work in Britain, many hundreds of UK visa applications were stuck in limbo – some for up to three weeks, which is a far cry from the usual three-day processing time.
Ed Bossley, head of the UK visa application operations in southern Africa, told Consumerwatch that the problem affected almost 400 UK visa applications lodged after 5 April.
"We were unable to process applications lodged during this time and our IT helpdesk in London asked us to 'hold' these applications until such time as the IT problem could be identified and fixed."
Fee hikes were also introduced on the 6 April 2009, meaning that the flat rate for all long-term UK visas (two, five or ten years) is now tiered at £215, £400 and £500 respectively. As a result, UK visa applicants who paid for their UK visa application before this date but had not yet physically lodged their application were subject to the higher fees, causing upset amongst South Africans.
Over 400,000 South Africans land in Britain every year, and in 2007, the numbers of South Africans visiting the UK comprised 168,000 tourists, 132,000 returning after absence abroad, 46,200 business travellers, 52,800 in transit, and 2,890 with work permits plus their 1,190 dependants. The Border Agency also refused over one thousand South Africans from entering the UK.
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.