The NVQ visa crisis in Manila is getting worse by the day as hundreds of students try to submit their UK visa applications before tier 4 comes into effect next month.
Last week, VFS Global, the visa processing agency for the British Embassy in Manila, issued a statement warning NVQ students that their visa applications would only be accepted with an appointment, which they were unable to offer before 27 March 2009.
Student Visa applicants were complaining on Friday because the earliest available appointment to submit paper documents was more than six weeks away. One working day later VFS were telling NVQ visa applicants that they are fully booked for the whole of March and April.
Visa consultants, specialising in helping students go to the UK to study, are facing similar problems in getting their clients’ applications processed by VFS.
One agent in Manila has been “pulling her hair out” on the telephone for most of the day in an attempt to get an appointment with VFS for her student visa clients. The experienced US, Canada and UK visa consultant, who prefers not to be named, was told by the call centre that there were “no appointments open for the whole of March and April”.
The centre staff did, however, confirm that “once the application has been lodged within February, even if the appointment is weeks or months away, the embassy might give consideration so as not to be affected of tier 4”.
Staff also reminded her that tier 4 has not taken effect and that as of the moment, is “indefinite”.
The centre agent added that it was only the last week that a special NVQ student visa category had been put in place, which now means they have limited applications to just ten a day.
She was then told to call back the next day, as “a lot of people have complained already, and this is why they did not give me an appointment by May”.
For a major ‘regional hub’ embassy post such as Manila, restricting NVQ student application appointments to just ten per day is clearly unacceptable.
With the British Embassy in Manila now handling UK visa applications for Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, and tier 4 of the points based system due to start at the end of March, serious questions have to be asked about the visa section’s ability to cope with demand.
The Manila branch of VFS Global is not a small concern and should have put in place adequate resources to deal with the increasing demand for British based training.
The Zurich based company has been awarded worldwide contracts worth £195 million by the UK Border Agency to provide visa outsourcing services to large embassies in seven geographical locations (see below “About VFS Global”).
VFS staff deal with the initial screening of the paper based part of the visa application process that was previously carried out by in-house embassy staff. Much of the data entry is of course now done on line by the applicant, so in theory embassy staff should have less work to do on each application.
Last week Cynthia Barker, Centre Manager for NVQ provider Majestic College, said that students should continue to complete their VAF forms on-line in the usual way, as this should be recorded as the ‘date’ of application.
“Our legal advisers feel that as long as applicants have lodged their VAF visa applications on-line before the end of March, the ‘application date’ should be set before tier 4 kicks in.”
Cynthia added that Majestic College operates a flexible “rolling programme” and their offer letter states that “students can reserve a place at a later date”.
Overseas students are worth an estimated £8 billion to the United Kingdom, and in a recessionary Britain, students provide much needed “export” earnings.
The “10 a day” bottleneck created by under resourced VFS Global in Manila, and their failure to cope with the demand for a British education, will hurt the educational sector and could have damaging consequences for the UK economy.
If you would like to comment on the visa service provided by VFS in Manila you can do so by visiting their website:
About VFS Global
Part of the Zurich based Kuoni Travel Group, VFS Global was established in 2001, in Mumbai (India), as a specialist partner for diplomatic missions worldwide. VFS Global serves diplomatic missions by managing all the administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to the entire lifecycle of a visa application process, enabling diplomatic missions to focus entirely on the key tasks of assessment and interview.
Source VFS website www.vfsglobal.com