VFS Global, the visa processing agency for the British Embassy in Manila has released a statement to all NVQ students warning them that applications will only be accepted with an appointment – an appointment they are unable to give you until 27 March 2009.
Student NVQ have been given its own visa category by VFS Global, which is described as an “Official Partner of the Home Office UK Border Agency.
The following notice (including grammatical errors) was recently posted on the VFS website:
“ATTENTION ALL NVQ STUDENTS
Submission of applications will only be accepted with an appointment. VFS will not accept any NVQ application without an appointment. There will be designated appointments for those applying in this category. If an appointment as been booked outside of the designated slots, VFS will not be able to accept the submission of the application and you will be asked to rebook your appointment.”
Student Visa applicants were complaining this morning that the earliest available appointment to submit paper documents on offer was 25 March – over six weeks away. By lunchtime, the earliest date had already changed to 27 March. And this is before Entry Clearance Officer will even look at the application.
The UK Visa’s ‘Guide to visa application centre processing times’ (December 2008) states that Manila processes 249 student visas per month and deals with 94% of applications within 15 days and 100% within 30 days.
Some agents have complained that it is now taking over two months for the British Embassy in Manila, recently appointed as the ‘regional hub’ dealing with applications for Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, to process a student visa.
The problem for students and colleges is that the visa should be processed and issued before the ‘offer letter’ start date expires. In such circumstances, ECO’s in Manila normally refuse a visa, or Entry Clearance, rather than request a revised offer letter.
Some NVQ colleges, such as Majestic College in London, have flexible start dates where students can join an intake up to four times a month. Despite this, Majestic College Centre Manager, Cynthia Barker says her students and agents are worried about the bottleneck at VFS and have already been calling the college.
“Students are worried that the six week delay for an appointment may take them into the new points based system visa process under tier 4.
“But 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 “rolling programme” and their offer letter states that “students can reserve a place at a later date”.
At the AGM of ARIA (Association of Regulated Immigration Advisers) this week one college owner described Entry Clearance Officers as the “business prevention unit”, and said their negative attitude and treatment of visa applicants were driving students into the hands of Australia, Canada and the US.
The UK Border Agency has today proposed sharp increases for visa fees including a 50% hike in student visa charges.
It is estimated that overseas students are worth £8 billion to the UK economy.