The American writer Mark Twain once said that he had been reliably assured that the music of Wagner was much better than it sounded. I am here today to tell you that the UK visa service is much better than you may have heard. In fact, the service we offer to Indians wanting to come to the UK is not just good, it’s the best visa service offered by any country in India. Here’s why:
Many Indians I meet think that getting a UK visa is hard, and that most who apply get refused. Wrong. On the contrary, nine out of ten Indians who apply for a UK visa get one. People think that we don’t issue very many visas. Wrong. We issue more visas to Indians than to any other nationality in the world: over 400, 000 in 2013. People think we are issuing fewer visas than in the past. Wrong again: we issued 5% more visas to Indians in 2013 than in 2012 – more visas for visitors, whose numbers rose by about 10% last year, more visas for workers, and more visas for dependents. If you are a legitimate traveller, you will get your visa.
Many people tell me that it takes weeks to get a UK visa. Wrong. It takes on average only eight days from the time an Indian applies for a UK visa until we issue it. We have faster services available for those in a rush. And if you really need your visa fast, we have introduced a new same-day visa service. India is the first country in the world where we have offered this.
We make it easy to get your visa. We have more places in India where you can apply than any of our competitors: twelve Visa Application Centres, including two here in Mumbai itself. We have launched a new mobile visa service for those who are not near one of those twelve centres. You can complete most of the process online: making your application, paying, booking an appointment at the Visa Application Centre; and we will post you your passport and visa once it’s done. We offer a ten year multiple entry visa for frequent travellers, so they don’t have to keep reapplying.
Another myth I hear frequently is that we overcharge for our visas. Wrong: a UK visa is competitively priced. A UK visit visa costs £80. An Australian visa costs about the same. And a US visa costs around £100.
We think we offer a good service, but we are constantly seeking to improve it. Let me give you two recent examples. First, our new passport passback service. This means that you can have your passport back while we process your visa application if you want to apply for another visa at the same time – for example for people who are visiting the UK and another European country. We have been piloting this new service in Chennai. I am delighted to announce today that we will be extending it shortly to the whole of India. Second example of improvement: where we are today. This new Visa Application Centre that we are inaugurating here in Mumbai will offer a better environment and better services to our customers. It is not unique: we are upgrading all of our visa offices around India.
Visas for students
We offer Indian students wanting to come to Britain a great deal. Every Indian student is welcome in the UK. 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 and speak decent English, you will get your visa. And you can work in the UK afterwards – for up to six years, provided you get a graduate level job.
So don’t believe the myths. The UK is open – for business, for visitors, for students. We look forward to welcoming even more Indians to Britain this year. 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.
That’s why I am delighted to be here today to open two new UK Visa Application Centres in Mumbai. The Centres, located at Bandra-Kurla Complex and Nariman Point, will provide an enhanced experience for all those seeking a UK visa. Mumbai is a world class city. It deserves a world class service, and our new Visa Application Centres demonstrate our commitment to providing that service.