30 July 2009

More UK visa problems for Pakistanis

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A prominent Pakistani rock musician has told the BBC that his month-long wait for a UK visa has ruined a business trip.

Mekaal Hasan said he had been forced to cancel his air tickets and may have to re-schedule his visit, and his plight is common.

Thousands of people in Pakistan are believed to have been hit by delays in receiving UK visas, with many having to wait weeks. Recently a charity cricket team made up of Pakistani lawyers almost missed the annual international Lawyers Cricket World Cup because of UK visa processing problems.

The UK Border Agency has not commented on claims that this is due to visas now being processed in the Middle East, although the agency has confirmed that many Pakistanis' UK visa applications are now being dealt with in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Hasan believes increased security measures and the fact that applications are now processed in the United Arab Emirates are the main reason why there have been so many delays.

He says that he was not informed that a process that usually took no more than 15 working days now takes longer than a month.

"I submitted mine on 29 June, exactly a month ago and there's still no news. A couple of friends have been waiting for three months now - one of them is a student on a scholarship to an art school in London," he told the BBC.

Mr Hasan's visit to London was "primarily to catch up with friends" but the well-known Pakistani musician was also due to hold talks with the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.

"I hope to chalk out plans for a proposed tour in 2010 where my music and band would have featured at the International Guitar Festival due to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. But now all that has been thrown into doubt."

Mr Hasan says that the delay has also impinged on his plans to visit Europe for meetings with other musicians and family contacts.

A statement on a website linked to the UK Border Service concedes that there is a backlog of settlement visa applications that it is "working hard to reduce" following an office move.

The statement said that UK visa applications should only take 25 working days.


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