Another move to cement Indo-UK relations. British Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced an enhanced visa package for Indian visitors to the UK….. reports Asian Lite News
The improved visa offer was made as part of the Minister’s five-day visit to India and builds on the deepening relationship between the two nations, as strengthened by Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK in November.
“India is one of the UK’s largest visa markets and thanks to our strong cultural and historic ties, both those of Indian heritage and those who visit the
UK continue to make a significant contribution to UK society,” said Mr Brokenshire. “We already have more Visa Application Centres in India than any other country and these further enhancements will continue to improve our service by bolstering our nations’ tourism and trade links.
“The UK welcomes genuine visitors, students and workers, and we are keen to make the visa process as secure and straightforward as possible.”
The visa package is comprised of three main elements and will seek to provide a more convenient and flexible service to one of the UK’s largest visa markets. In the year ending September 2015, 360,000 visit visas were issued to Indian tourists, a 17 per cent increase on the previous year.
As part of the announcement, the Minister revealed the launch of a new Visa Application Centre (VAC) in Lucknow, Utter Pradesh, which is India’s most populous state. This will be the 16th in the country. The VAC network will be expanded further in 2016. Indian nationals will also now have greater access to mobile biometrics services, enabling them, for an extra charge, to apply for a UK visa from home or work.
The Immigration Minister also revealed the expansion of eligibility criteria for premium UK visa products. Previously only visit visa applicants meeting criteria including previous travel to the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or a Schengen country could apply for the Super Priority Visa (SPV), which provides a same-day service for applicants. From 1 March 2016, this service will also be available to first-time visitors and applicants under work routes. The 3 – 5 day priority service will also be expanded to visit, study and work routes, allowing more customers to get their visa decisions faster.
From the end of this month, Indian visit visa applicants will benefit from a new quicker and easier online application form. As well as taking less time to complete, the new online form will make it easier for customers going on holiday or for business to the UK and Europe, to apply for both UK and Schengen visas. Once the UK form has been filled out, customers will be able to download an auto-completed Schengen application form to print and apply with. Initially the form will launch in English but it will be translated into Hindi, Tamil and Gujarati, making it more straightforward for customers across India to apply for their UK visit visas.
As part of his trip the Minister will meet important UK visa customers from the education, travel and business sectors to gain insight into how they use the visa service. He will also hold meetings with ministerial counterparts in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs.