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

One student spent more than HK$30,000 on visa applications and air tickets and has now missed her final deadline

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 8:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 2:10am

At least 220 Hong Kong students are at risk of missing classes – or even losing their place – at British universities because of visa delays, a city legislator has revealed.

Ip Kin-yuen, the lawmaker from the educational constituency, said he had received numerous requests for help from students who had not yet received their visas within the time frame suggested by an agency coordinating their applications – with many missing or set to miss the start of their courses.

“This situation is urgent and could result in some students having to delay graduation,” Ip said.

A 24-year-old student, surnamed Ng, was expected to start a master’s degree programme at a London university on Friday, but his visa had not been granted.

He said he opted for a priority service via VFS Global, an outsourcing services specialist which handles UK visa applications and submitted the necessary documents on August 17.

Ng said the company’s website said it would take three to five working days to get his visa but he had not received the visa by Friday afternoon – 10 working days had passed.

“My school allowed me to report by September 6 at the latest, but I am not optimistic,” he said. “The UK government is being irresponsible.”

He said he had been unable to get any help from the British consulate general in Hong Kong, UK visa department or VFS Global, adding that a change that separated the application process between Sheffield in Britain and Manila in the Philippines had caused the delay.

Another student who wished to be known by her surname Pang said she felt angry and helpless as she had already missed the final deadline the school had given her, which was on Thursday.

“The university said if I did not reach the UK by then, I would not be able to join the course,” she said. Pang had spent more than HK$30,000 on visa applications and air tickets, including rescheduling fees.

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

VFS Global could not be reached for comment.

A petition has been launched in India for a similar issue, gathering 220 supporters as of 8.30pm on Friday.