ISLAMABAD: UK plans to improve visa services

The British High Commission in Islamabad has announced its plan to streamline and improve the efficiency of the visa services it offers to the applicants.

The plan is part of the UK Border Agency’s “Hub and Spoke” programme, which began to roll out in 2007 and has already moved the decision-making process from 52 visa sections in British embassies across the world to 22 global centres of excellence.

For the visa applicants, the application process will remain the same. Applicants will still submit their applications in person at one of the four Visa Application Centres (VACs) run by Gerry’s FedEx. They will collect their passports from the same VACs.

The idea is simple — to consolidate the UK’s immigration experts in visa centres of excellence so that the quality of decision-making can be improved.

The visa section in the British High Commission Islamabad will continue to receive all applications from the network of VACs across Pakistan and still carry out the compulsory anti-fraud procedures. The papers will simultaneously be forwarded to the centres of excellence (the “hub”) in the Gulf where a team of visa experts will fully and comprehensively assess the application on the basis of supporting documents provided by the applicant, and the decision will be made and relayed back to Islamabad, where approval or refusal stems or stickers will then be put onto the passports.

If a visa is approved, the applicant can expect return of their passports in 5 to 15 days which is consistent with the current system. The visa officer’s ability to make a quick and fully considered decision depends on many factors, but the submission of comprehensive supporting paperwork is crucial.

The decision to move to “hub and spoke” was made in order to improve the quality of decision-making, whilst keeping visa application fees as low as possible. This will allow the UKBA to invest more resource in better customer services and in promoting more projects like the recent move to biometric data collection. The fact that there will now be a large “hub” to assists the making of decisions would help in maintaining the high level of efficiency of service even during busy periods, like summer holidays, or in cases of emergencies, like natural disasters.

“Hub and spoke is an innovative approach to managing a global network and we wanted to be absolutely certain that it was tried and tested before we implemented it in Islamabad–our largest visa operation in the world”, said Visa Services Director Peter Chaplin. He further said, “We know it works well in a variety of environments and can be adapted to meet different challenges.”

The move to “hub and spoke” is likely to take place by summer 2009.

Source: The Post, 16/8/2008

6 Comments

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