I’m delighted to be here in Gurgaon to open this new visa facility. I have three messages I want to convey to you today.
First: the UK runs the best visa service in the world here in India.
Second: with the opening of this facility today, that service just got better.
And third: we’re going to make further improvements in future.
We run the best visa service in the world.
Let me start with my first proposition: that the UK visa service here is the best in the world. I say that because:
The UK visa operation here in India is the UK’s biggest visa operation in the world. In India we process over 400,000 visa applications every year.
The UK operation here in India is also the biggest visa operation of any country in India. With the opening of this facility in Gurgaon, the UK now has 13 visa application centres across India*.
Our visa operation is one of the most efficient in India. In 2014, the average time to process a UK visa was just 6 days.
Our service delivers what our Indian customers want most: their visa.
Many Indians think it’s hard to get a visa for the UK. Wrong: most Indians who apply for one get it. In 2014, 91% of Indian applications were successful. If you are a genuine traveller, you will get your visa.
Many Indians also think it’s impossible to get a work visa for the UK. Wrong again: In fact, we issue more work visas to Indians than we issue to any other nationality in the world. In 2014 the UK issued over 60,000 work visas to Indians, more than we issued to China, Australia and the US combined. And in 2014 more than two thirds of the Intra-Company Transfer visas we issued globally – visas for professional workers going to work for their company in the UK - went to Indians.
Our visa service also delivers a great deal for Indian students. We want India’s best and brightest to come to the UK for their education. So we have set no limit – no limit - on the numbers of Indian students who can come to Britain. If you have a place at a UK university, can support yourself financially and speak decent English, you will get your visa. The proof of that is that in 2014, 85% of Indian student visa applications were successful and we issued over 12,600 visas to Indian students.
And our service delivers a great deal for Indian visitors and business people too. Every year we welcome over 300,000 Indians to the UK as visitors, and over 100,000 Indian businesspeople. Those numbers continue to rise.
It just got better: Gurgaon
That’s why I say that the visa service the UK provides here in India is not just the biggest but the best there is. And today this service gets better.
Because here in Gurgaon we are launching a new facility, our first ever standalone Premium Lounge. From Monday (30 March) Indians who want to travel to the UK can apply for their visa in this new exclusive facility. It will allow our customers to apply for their visa more quickly, more conveniently - especially for those who work or live in and around Gurgaon - and in greater comfort. Gurgaon is an increasingly important business hub so I’m glad that we’ve been able to meet the requests of Indian and British business communities by opening here.
Those who choose to use this new facility will be able to submit their application and give their biometrics quickly. They will be notified by SMS when their visa is ready and their passport with visa will be couriered back to them. For all that they will pay a relatively modest charge of R2,500, on top of the cost of their visa. In addition should they wish they will be able to apply via the priority service and get their visa within three to five days.
Gurgaon is the latest in our expanding list of Premium Service Lounges which are now available in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi and – from next month – Kolkata.
And we will continue to improve it.
But we know this is a competitive market. Which is why we are committed to constant improvement in our visa service. And we have made a lot of improvements over the last few years.
In 2013 when Prime Minister David Cameron visited India he announced our new same day visa service, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, now available in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
Most recently we introduced our new passport passback service. This means that if you plan to visit other countries in addition to the UK, you can have your passport back while we process your visa application in order to apply for the other visas you need.
We are currently running a pilot in Bangalore which has extended our priority visa service from visitors to student and workers. This means those applying for student or work visas can pay to receive a visa decision in just three to five days. We hope to extend this service more widely later this year.
And we plan to keep on improving. I can announce today that next month we will open a 14th Visa Application Centre, in Jaipur. And we are looking at plans for more in the future.
So don’t believe the myths. The UK is open – for business travellers, for visitors, for students, for qualified workers. Indians who visit the UK have a good time and leave with a good impression. We aim to make that good impression on you before you even leave India – with the best visa service there is.
*Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Jalandhar, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai (North), Mumbai (South), New Delhi, Pune.