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Apologise for UK visa delays; don’t commit air tickets until you get visa: Alex Ellis

NEW DELHI: Indians planning a trip to the UK should not book their air tickets before getting the visas, given the massive delays visa processing being witnessed by several countries like Schengen States, US, Canada and the UK. Britain’s High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis on Friday “apologised” for the visa delays and advised people against buying air tickets till they get their visas. The UK is expecting an “unprecedented” number of Indian students to join its colleges this fall and Ellis says the HC is “doing everything we can” to ensure they get their visas on time. “A lot of you have been in touch about visa delays. Many apologies, as I know this is causing a lot of problems… I want to apologise to everyone who has been affected by this and the distress which it gives you,” Ellis said on Friday. “Why is this (delays) happening? Firstly, because of unprecedented surge in a demand for UK visas post-Covid. Secondly, because of global events, particularly the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What are we doing about it? We are putting more resources into this. We are training more people and we are keeping open the priority visa service, which many of you can use. You can help us by making sure you have the paperwork right,” he added. “And my advice is don’t commit to your air tickets until you have got your visa to be on the safe side. We want to see an unprecedented number of Indian students coming to the UK this year and we will do everything we can to make sure that you get your visa on time. But again, follow the guidance to the letter,” the teacher-turned-diplomat said in a message on SM. “Good news, Priority and Super Priority visas are available for Student visas. We anticipate high demand over the next few weeks so recommend that you apply for your visa as soon as possible. Remember, it can take time to prepare your supporting documents so start this now,” the UK High Commission in Delhi Tweeted Friday. A leading Delhi-based travel agent said the average processing time for a UK visa currently is about two months. “If some one wants to get their visa quickly by using fast track, that costs about Rs 23,000 more,” said the agent who did not want to be named. Post-Omicron foreign missions in India are witnessing a surge in visa applications. VFS Global COO (South Asia) Prabuddha Sen had recently told TOI that it is “experiencing unprecedented volumes — between 20,000 to 23,000 visa applications daily on an average from India given the pent-up travel demand.” But almost all missions in India had reduced their staffing by sending people back to home countries during the pandemic. When the surge in visa demand happened, the missions were not prepared to handle the rush. As a result, scores of Indian passengers are losing a lot of money since tickets and hotels confirmations have to be submitted with visa application for many countries. And when the passport is not received in time, people are ending up paying huge cancellation charges. Travel agents in India raised this issue with the government earlier this year. The external affairs ministry had in June-end raised the issue of “streamlining student visas to Indian nationals” with countries like Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, UK and USA.