Bangalore,May 21: Britain Monday opened a new visa application centre here to expedite processing time for residents of Karnataka planning to visit the European country for business, leisure or higher studies.
The centre will be handled by the global consular services firm VFS Global, which will process applications and forward them to the UK Border Agency at the British deputy high commission in Chennai for issuing visas in 10 days on average.
“This(2012) will be a great year to travel to Britain as two historic events – the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years reign and london Olympics are taking place this summer,” British Deputy High Commissioner Ian Felton said on the occasion.
As a build-up to the Olympics, the British government has also launched the “Great Campaign” to promote the country as a tourist destination and flag its capabilities.
“Trade and tourism between Britain and India have been important strands to our overall relationship. We are committed to supporting them through our trade and investment offices, our UK visa operation and the work of Visit Britain,” Felton observed.
The centre, which will commence operations from May 28, will have internet facility to file applications online and submit relevant documents on all working days (Monday to Friday) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The centre has the option of receiving applications offline with supporting documents by a dedicated staff. Plans are underway to receive applications with prior appointment beyond working hours during the week from 6-8 p.m. and extend the service to Saturday and holidays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” VFS chief operating officer for South Asia Murali Raghavan told reporters.
The centre, 12th in the country, also has a travel shop – Visit Britain — to provide information and sell tickets to those planning a trip to England.
“As one of its biggest visa operations in the world, the UK Border Agency processed about 400,000 visa applications from across India in 2011, with 87 percent success rate. Of them, 250,000 forms were for short-term visitor visa with 90 percent approval rate,” Agency’s regional director Thomas Greig recalled.
Besides India, VFS provides counsellor services to the British government in 35 countries globally as a partner, levying a fee for processing visa applications and allied services.