Overseas business people and students have suffered from long delays in acquiring visas simply because they have not been able to get an appointment. The problem was caused by individuals and organisations booking several appointments at a time which then prevented others from taking up those appointments. 20 to 30% of the appointments were ‘no shows’ and a waste of visa officials time. According to a BBC investigation ‘scammers’ were selling free appointments for as much as £200 to people wanting to process their visas.
A new pre-payment system to help prevent the abuse and increase the efficiency of premium visa appointments was launched on the 8th April 2013 by Immigration Minister, Mark Harper. Visa applicants pay £375 for an appointment and will now have to pay a refundable deposit of £100 when booking an appointment. If they fail to keep it they will not get a refund unless they have cancelled it at least five working days days in advance. The Home Office also plan to launch an online application pre-payment service later in the year as part of its commitment to improving customer service.
Mark Harper said “We are determined to ensure that genuine visa applicants receive the very best visa service possible, and this is just one of the changes that we will be introducing to make sure this is the case.
The new system will help to make more appointments available for genuine applicants and help protect them from paying unnecessary and often unfair fees to agencies or individuals.”
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