As the British Embassy in Manila suddenly started rejecting paper based VAF3 applications for student visas this month, customers and immigration advisers are asking why no notice was given prior to the change.
Last week visa applicants started reporting that their VAF applications were being turned away by VFS, the official visa handing agents appointed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to process and pre-screen all visa applications.
At the time writing this article the VFS website was still offering the choice of on-line or paper based applications on its website. There was no warning that applicants making the sometimes long journey to Manila to submit documents would be turned away.
One student visa applicant, who prefers not to be named, had travelled for 8 hours on a bus from Pangasinan, only to be turned away empty handed.
The young Caregiver Course Graduate, applying to study for an NVQ 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care, said he was very disappointed that his forms were not accepted, especially as he had been checking the website the day before he made his long journey.
London based Immigration Adviser Bison UK asked UK VAC to consider accepting paper based applications for a limited time as, they pointed out, “the changes were not announced” on the VFS website, and asked if they would “accept paper based applications (not completed on-line) at least until a set date in order to accommodate all the outstanding cases ready for submission”.
But the visa agent rejected their request and said:
“We have provided a sufficient grace period for requiring online applications. We cannot accept any paper applications for Student and Transit Visa.”
The on-line application has over 50 questions and takes around two hours to complete. The document must then be printed off and submitted (as a paper based form) along with the usual supporting documents.
Visa applicants will also need an email address and will be required to make an appointment to submit their documents after completing the on-line form.
VFS has since posted a notice requesting all “Students, Seafarers and their dependents” to fill-up and on-line application”.