Shameful UK student visa fiasco makes a travesty of ‘priority’ processing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 10:22pm

The UK government should be appalled and ashamed at its treatment, in Hong Kong, of applicants for student visas.

The British consul general has now said he will try to speed up the visa process, and that is welcome, but it will come as little comfort to the hundreds of students who have had a few weeks of needless stress and worry.

My 16-year-old daughter applied for a student visa, with her classes in the UK starting in the second week of September.

I paid the fee for the “priority” processing. In total I paid almost HK$9,000 in fees. At the time of application, we were told that most applications are resolved within 15 days, with the processing time being shorter (perhaps five days) if you pay for the priority service.

I went to the UK visa application centre in Causeway Bay late last week (well after the priority time had passed) to ask about the status of the application.

The scene that greeted me on arrival was quite simply appalling. There were 60 to 70 young applicants in a room designed to hold probably 30, with an additional 20 to 30 waiting in the cramped and dingy corridor outside.

When my inquiry was answered, by a clearly agitated and stressed woman, she looked at my papers, snorted and said “still processing”.

She refused to let me have any details whatsoever about expected timing, even though the centre must know this, based on progress with other applications generally.

I presume that it is still UK government policy to try to attract overseas students to study in the country. No doubt this is because those students inject substantial sums into the UK economy each year.

In the circumstances, the way in which these visa applicants – who are paying their way as well as substantial processing fees – are being treated by the visa processing centre here in Hong Kong is completely substandard.

I was informed on Tuesday night that my daughter’s so-called priority visa is being issued. However, the situation for me and my daughter before that was intolerable.

Even though the expected timing had passed by a significant margin, we had no indication whatsoever of when the visa might be granted. It was impossible to book appropriate flights and I was unable to make advance business leave arrangements.

Glenn Haley, Quarry Bay