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UK launches new visa services in UAE

New range of premium visa services at its application centres in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Gulf News

Dubai: The UK Embassy is set to roll out a new service in which staff will make house calls to UK visa applicants from the UAE to take photographs and scan fingerprints as part of the biometric enrolment process, officials announced on Monday.

The premium service will be offered soon and allows applicants to avoid visiting VAC (visa application centre) offices.

“The service is perfect for those who want to pay a premium fee to apply for their visa from the comfort of their home or office. Staff will come to your chosen location and will take your photograph, and scans of your fingers, saving you a trip to the VAC. The service is being developed and will be introduced in the UAE in the coming weeks,” the embassy said in a statement yesterday. “The service will be introduced in the UAE in the coming weeks, and will be open to all nationalities.”

The latest move is part and parcel of a string of new premium visa services launched on Monday at UK visa application centres operated by VFS Global in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

According to embassy officials, some of the new services include the ability of visa applicants to pay an additional fee to walk into application centres without an appointment, receive assistance with applying or paying online, or receive help with checking that their application form has been completed correctly.

The services are being offered over and above the existing electronic visa waiver (EVW) programme for UAE nationals in which applicants register electronically before travelling to the UK — UAE nationals can use the electronic visa waiver service for short trips to the UK of up to six months. An EVW registration must be completed online at least 48 hours before travel. Emiratis wishing to study, work or invest in the UK will normally need to apply for a visa under one of the UK’s ‘points based’ categories.

Philip Parham, British Ambassador to the UAE, said in a statement, “The UK already offers an excellent and innovative visa service in the UAE. Over the busy summer months we continued to process visas in under four days on average, with more and more UAE nationals and residents taking advantage of the ‘same day’ super priority service. And in July we saw record numbers of Emiratis travelling visa-free using our electronic visa waiver service. The introduction of this new range of services demonstrates our commitment to making the visa service we provide not only as fast but also as flexible as possible. These improvements will help to ensure that the UK remains a top business and leisure destination.”

There were almost 50,000 EVW registrations in the last year, with record numbers of registrations in July. For Emiratis who choose to apply for visas, and those who require longer term study or work visas, the UK provides fast processing, with an average turnaround time in the last year of just under four working days.

In March, a super priority visa service was introduced in the UAE, and more than 1,800 applicants have already used the service to receive their visa decision the same day, or within 24 hours. The new range of options complement the existing services, providing applicants with access to help and support with completing their application at the VAC, for a small additional fee.

Simon Hayes, UK Visas and Immigration International Director, said: “The UK welcomes visitors from the UAE, and we provide a fast and efficient service for those who need a visa. The new services have been introduced in response to feedback from customers and are designed to provide additional flexibility, as well as support with the application process for those who need it.”

A new scheme for multinational companies based in the UAE, who send staff to the UK on a regular basis, was also introduced today. The scheme, which companies can apply to join, will offer a streamlined visa service and a dedicated account manager from UK Visas and Immigration.

BOX

New UK visa services

Walk-in service

The walk-in service is aimed at customers who prefer not to book an appointment or who have missed their pre-booked appointment, and is ideal for those looking to travel spontaneously or urgently. The service is available to all between 3pm and 4pm. Applicants who opt to use the premium lounge can use the walk in service for free at any time within the VAC’s opening hours. Walk-ins will also be available to people who are late or who miss their appointment, meaning that rather than booking a whole new appointment customers can still complete their application that day.

Digital assist service

Customers who pay for the digital assist service will receive one to one support from a member of the VFS team with completing their online application. Staff will read out the questions on the form, and will record the answers verbatim on behalf of the customer. Staff will not provide advice on the answers, or advice on how to complete the form.

‘Get it right’ service

Customers who have completed and printed their application form can pay an additional fee to have the form checked by VFS staff before it is sent to the embassy for processing. Staff are unable to provide advice on what to put on the form. However, as part of the service they will check that all the questions have been answered, and that required mandatory documents have been submitted.

If VFS staff find that there are missing documents, customers will have the option to submit these by email after their appointment, within 7 calendar days. Using the ‘get it right’ service does not imply or guarantee that applications will be successful.

Online fee payment service

For a small fee customers can choose to have their visa fee payment made by VFS. The service is perfect for those who don’t have a credit or payment card. Customers can only use this service if they are submitting their application on the same day.

All of the services can be selected and paid for online or at the VAC. Full details of all premium services are available on the VFS website http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/uae/user_pay_services.html

Mobile biometric service

The service is perfect for those who want to pay a premium fee to apply for their visa from the comfort of their home or office. Staff will come to your chosen location and will take your photograph, and scans of your fingers, saving you a trip to the VAC. The service is being developed and will be introduced in the UAE in the coming weeks.

BOX 2

Costs

Fees for additional premium services are in addition to the visa application fees and

are as follow:

* Walk in without appointment: Dh150

* Digital Assist: Dh100

* Get it right: Dh75

* Online fee payment: Dh25

* Mobile biometric service: Prices will depend on customer’s location and number of applicants. A quote will be provided on request.

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