Since international travel has resumed, securing a UK visa for Indians is a troublesome endeavour plagued by processing delays, limited appointments, and a lack of communication on status updates. However, there is a fast-track route that applicants can opt for that will result in a decision within just one working day — but at a heftier price.
Responding to the current India-wide visa backlog, a spokesperson from the British High Commission in India gave assurances that they are working hard to shorten the processing time. “Indian students make up one of the UK’s largest groups of international students and Indian professionals are the top nationality in the skilled work category,” the spokesperson told Live Mint in an interview.
“This is why the UK has its largest network of visa application centres globally right here in India and why we are continuing to offer the Priority and Super Priority visit visa service here – despite it being paused elsewhere,” he added. Despite the reassurance, no specific time frame has been given regarding the processing times for all other visa application backlogs.
The Super Priority Visa service offered by VFS (Visa Facilitation Service) Global remains open for Indian citizens vying for a UK visa. According to VFS Global, this express service enables applicants to receive a decision on their visa by the end of the next working day after their appointment at the visa application centre.
This fast-track service seems to apply only to the Standard Visitor visa, which allows the holder entry into the UK for the purposes of tourism, business, and study in courses not exceeding six months, in addition to other permitted activities. Meanwhile, the Priority Visa service promises a turnaround time of five working days at most, provided that all information given during the application is complete and accurate.
The express UK visa services for Indian nationals are currently only available for the Standard Visitor visa category. Source: Sam Panthaky/AFP
For many Indians still awaiting their approval stamps to travel abroad, the wait has been crushing and costly. Delayed visas with no updates on application status have resulted in non-refundable flight and hotel cancellations that add to their mounting frustrations.
“Very disheartening that [there’s] no clarity on our visa application. Biometric done on 12 April. Flights from India to the UK were cancelled but hotel bookings and other flights in the itinerary were non-refundable. imagine the cost borne by us,” writes Twitter user Bhawna Singh, who has yet to receive her visa after a two-month wait.
Very disheartening that no clarity on our visa application . Biometric done on 12 April. Flights from India to UK canceled but hotel bookings and other flights in the itinerary were non refundable imagine the cost borne by us.@UKinIndia @ukhomeoffice @VFSGlobal @GOVUK
— Bhawna Singh (@tanwarz) June 11, 2022
The exasperation is echoed by Raktim Baruah, another applicant who filed for a visa in April: “Applied for a UK tourist visa in April and till now nothing. It’s really wrong to hold our Passports for this long w/o any updates. We deserve to know details. Terrible experience!” he tweeted.
According to a Twitter post from the British High Commission in India, priority is currently given to the Ukraine Visa Scheme applications to aid the resettlement of displaced Ukrainians due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
The Priority Visa service doesn’t seem to be helping much at this point. In a report by BOOM, visa applicants have expressed dismay over the extended waiting period, which has reportedly exceeded five working days, in addition to difficulty in booking visa appointments in the first place.
“I was told the (VFS Global) website has not been updated,” Tina Mohandas, a music academic, told the news site. Mohandas had planned to travel to the UK for her graduation and join her friends in Berlin afterwards, which would also require her to obtain a Schengen visa.
She was informed that the waiting time for Priority Service had been changed to seven days upon her arrival at VFS Global. “I may have not spent the extra money if I had known,” she remarked.
Travellers who applied for the Priority Visa service to expedite their application have reported an increase in waiting times exceeding the standard five-day turnover time. Source: Adrian Dennis/AFP
In a separate report, Condé Nast Traveller India wrote that travel agents have reported a waiting period of eight to 10 weeks for a visitor’s visa to the UK.
The problem is expected to compound in July and August once UK student visa applications peak during that time. The High Commission advised Indian students entering British universities in the fall period to submit their visa applications as early as possible so they may enter the UK in time when classes begin.
The number of Indian international students in the UK have nearly doubled compared to the previous year, with 108,000 study visas issued as of March 2022, The Hindu reports. This translates into a whopping 93% increase compared to 2021.
Nigel Adams, the UK’s Minister of State in the Cabinet Office, also confirmed to the news portal that Indian nationals presently top the skilled worker visa category in Britain, with 80,000 visas issued to professionals as of March 2022.