‘500 Hong Kong students’ face visa delays and risk losing places at British universities

UK Home Office says it is looking into the matter; local lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen says he will take the matter to the British consulate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 8:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 10:55pm

The number of Hong Kong students at risk of losing their school places at British universities because of visa delays has more than doubled from 220 to 500 in a day, a legislator from the city revealed on Saturday.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the situation was more serious than expected.

On Friday, Ip disclosed that at least 220 students had contacted him for help because they had not received their UK visas.

Visa delays put Hong Kong students’ places at British universities in jeopardy

A day later, Ip said there were now at least 500 students still in Hong Kong, unable to travel to the country in time to start the new school year.

The cause of the delay is still unknown.

“Some of the cases were quite serious and urgent,” Ip said. “Many students and their parents have already purchased air tickets, and because of the delay in obtaining visas, they have had to change their flights and itineraries.”

The students had applied for their visas several weeks ago and many have already missed classes, or were set to miss the start of their courses.

“People who sought my help said they had applied for visas in the middle of August or even at the end of July, but they had not yet heard from the relevant British departments,” Ip said.

In one case, a student applied for a priority visa – which takes three to five days to process – on August 1, and intended to fly over and begin class on August 21.

The visa was only delivered on Friday, meaning it was too late and the student had lost a place at the university because of missed classes.

Another student, who felt “forced into a corner” applied for a visa on August 16 and has yet to receive it. Classes have already started, but the university in this case has been accommodating in extending its attendance deadline to September 6.

Tighter Hong Kong visa rules may affect more foreign visitors than only Indians

When contacted by the Post, the UK Home Office said it stood by its earlier statement.

On Friday, a spokesman from the office said: “The British consulate has been made aware that some Hong Kong students have raised questions about ... their UK student visa applications. We are looking into these individuals’ cases as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesman for VFS Global, which handles deliveries of UK visa applications, said it had no role in the processing of the visas.

Ip said he would liaise with the British consulate in Hong Kong to try and “resolve the problem as soon as possible”.

He would also discuss how to assist the most urgent cases, he added.

This is the second time in recent years where Hongkongers have experienced major delays in processing British travel documents.

In 2014, people trying to renew their British passports in Hong Kong faced delays of up to four months.

London had ordered an end to all processing of passport applications overseas and moved it to a central location in Liverpool, creating a massive backlog of 350,000 applications.