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British officials boost resources to ensure student visa chaos is not repeated in Hong Kong this summer

More than 1,100 anxious students contacted lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen’s office for help over their delayed documents last year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 10:22pm

British immigration authorities have promised to put in place more resources for their visa application service to avoid a repeat of the chaos last summer when more than 1,100 Hong Kong students were affected by delays to their documents, according to a local legislator.

On Sunday, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who met a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) delegation in Hong Kong to discuss the matter in March, said officials had explained that the delays were due to technical problems with a scanning system, insufficient manpower at the visa centre in Sheffield and a failure to respond to inquiries in time.

Hongkongers will be able to use an online application system, Access UK, this year to process documents.

Ip released a report on the delays, which included a letter from UKVI. “We have reviewed what happened and have put in place necessary resourcing and operational plans to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” the letter read.

680 students caught in UK visa delays, but some documents arrive

More than 1,100 anxious students contacted Ip’s office for help over their delayed visas last year.

Some students had applied for UK visas in July, but were still waiting for the document in September. A few were at risk of losing their university places for failing to report to school on time.

Parents also complained about a lack of communication which meant they did not know the progress of applications.

In one case, the delay cost a student an extra HK$20,000 (US$2,564) for air tickets, because he had to cancel his original flight and make a new booking after finally obtaining his visa, Ip’s office said.

The Hong Kong government set up a hotline to help students while the British consulate referred urgent cases to speed up the process in early September. Most cases were eventually settled.

British Consulate apologises for visa delays affecting students

But Ip received two more cases about delays after the Easter holidays in April from two students who had applied for one-off UK visas. They did not receive their document in time and missed the start of school, despite UKVI having expedited their cases after Ip’s referral, he said.

Ip said the reasons for the latest delays were not known, adding that they could have been a sign of more impending issues as the peak time for applications had just started.

He urged students this year to apply for UK visas as early as possible.