VFS Global and the British Embassy in Manila has today imposed further restrictions specifically on NVQ students applying for visas to take up study places on courses in the UK.
The multi-national Zurich based Indian owned company is failing to cope with increased demand from Filipino students and has now placed the following announcement on its website:
The UK Border Agency International Group (UKBAIG) has recently decided to limit the number of NVQ Student applications it will accept at the British Embassy in Manila. In accordance with this decision, instructions have been given to our Commercial Partner, VFS, who operate the Manila Visa Application Centre, to put these restrictions into immediate effect. Our reason for doing so is the overwhelming increase in the number of visa applications that we have received over the past year. The volume rose to over 47,000 applications in 2008, which was an increase of 22% from the previous year. In order to ensure that all applicants are fairly dealt with we have had to make some temporary adjustments to our intake arrangements which are the subject of constant review by managers. An increase in Manila‘s staffing has been agreed for 2009 but it will take time for the new staff to arrive. It should be noted that this operational decision by the UKBA(IG) in no way reflects on the VFS’ ability to cope with applications. UKBA(IG) has the highest confidence in VFS, as our Commercial Partner, to manage their business with the utmost efficiency.
Earlier this month, VFS Global singled out NVQ students limiting access to the processing centre to appointment only visits. Last week, with applicants unable to be seen until April, further curbs were imposed as appointments slots were restricted to just ten per day.
This further is a huge disappointment to hundreds of potential students holding confirmed places with UK colleges, and has caused chaos in Manila.
Cynthia Barker, Centre Manager for London based Majestic College and former British Council officer, has received dozens of emails from students complaining about the visa service and feels VFS should be doing more to accommodate demand for British training.
“My role at the British Council in London was to promote Britain abroad including promoting English and British education.
“In the current economic climate Britain needs to attract more investment into the country and this proves how successful the education sector is in promoting itself abroad, so why are VFS Global and the British Embassy blocking the flow students?
“British education and culture is highly respected overseas and the economy thrives on the millions of pounds brought in by students and visitors to this country. VFS is hurting the UK.”
One student visa applicant who called the centre “hotline” was told that they are “not accepting any appointments as of the moment, as they are already fully booked until April”. She was also informed about the points system and that they were trying to “trim down the applications and cannot accommodate anymore applicants at the moment”.
VFS Global said that 47,000 Filipinos applied to come to the UK last year. We do not know exactly how many of those applicants actually obtained visas and arrived here, although figures show that the British Embassy in Manila declines around 20% of visa applications. However, if all 47,000 applicants had been granted visas, travelled to the UK spent just £2000 each, this would have boosted the British economy by just under £100 million pounds.
Overseas students are worth £8 billion to Britain and are directly responsible for thousands of British jobs in the educational sector. The last thing the country needs is the UK Border Agency and VFS Global blocking the flow of students and direct investment into the UK.
With the British Embassy in Manila now a regional hub, the Government must ensure they are adequately resourced to do the job effectively.
Tier 4, for students, of the points-based system is due start at the end of March. In light of these developments is it not clear that the UK Border Agency and Embassies are not yet ready for tier 4?
Visa sections are no doubt inundated with pre-tier 4 applications and need time to clear the backlog before the new system kicks in. The UK Border Agency should consider delaying the commencement of Tier 4 for until May or June. Rumours are already coming out of VFS Global that this plan could be in the pipeline.
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