Consul General Brian Davidson presided over the opening of a new UK Visa Application Centre in Shanghai. In quick succession a further two visa centres will be unveiled in Hangzhou and Nanjing – the provincial capitals in what are two of China’s wealthiest provinces.
Key partners present for the Shanghai opening include VFS Global Solutions, and their Chinese Partner Shanghai Shenhui Oversees Affairs Service who run this centre on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration.
This is the very first of twelve openings across China to launch the UKs improved network of visa application centres. The centre has almost doubled in size and capacity and has been refurbished and rebranded in line with the GREAT campaign - which showcases the very best of what Britain has to offer.
The changes ensure that the UK is ready to provide an excellent service to more and more customers wishing to go to the UK for the purposes of business, tourism and education. Visas are vitally important in facilitating trade and travel to the UK, and last year saw a record numbers of visa applications from Chinese nationals, up 31% on the previous year.
Shanghai also saw its busiest ever year in 2013, with record numbers of applications and 40% growth in demand. The UK is expecting this growth to continue into 2014 and beyond, and the upgrade to facilities is a sign of the UK’s investment into its visa service. We hope that this demonstrates the value that we place on customers from China and our continued focus on providing excellent customer service.
The UK has made continual improvements to its visa system over the past 18 months in response to customer feedback, and to refine our customer service offer. 96% of those who apply for a UK visa are successful in their application, and the vast majority of our customers receive a decision on their visit visa application within an average of just over 7 days.
Customers can now apply, pay for their visa, and book appointments online. Guidance is available in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Just this month, we introduced a new global customer contact centre which provides customers with a range of choices. We offer customers a free email service, with a commitment to reply in 24 hours, as well as the option to pay for online chat or phone agent services.
And our unique range of premium services offers customers flexibility. Eligible customers in Shanghai can choose to receive their visa more quickly, with our optional priority 3-5 day service. From this summer we will be launching the option of a 24 hour service. We’ll provide more information on this option nearer the launch of the service.
These improvements have been widely recognised, by our partners, our customers, and trade in China and in the UK. We will continue to listen to the needs of our customers to make sure that the UK continues to offer a world class, competitive visa system in China.
Guests at the launching ceremony were also able to see the unveiling of a Chinese-language video, which explains the key parts of the visa application process.
Dominique Hardy, Regional Manager for UKVI in China took a series of questions from regional media, helping to clarify some of the misconceptions associated with applying for a visa to the UK.
The last of the new visa centre openings in East China will take place in Nanjing during the week commencing 14th April.