74% Of Those Who Applied Got UK Visas In 2011

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UK Visas

UK Visas

In an interview with The Abuja Inquirer, Ed Bossley, the Head of Visa section at the British High Commission in Abuja, explains how visa applications are handled



74% Of Those Who Applied Got Uk Visas In 2011- Ed Bossley
For many Nigerians, the United Kingdom is home. Beyond the colonial relationship that existed between both countries, a lot of personal relationships have been forged over the years that make many Nigerians want to visit the UK. The official figures in terms of number of visa applications received at the visa sections of the British High Commission in Lagos and Abuja, underline this fact. Receiving and processing over 200,000 visa application each year is not a small achievement. In an interview with The Abuja Inquirer, Ed Bossley, the Head of Visa section at the British High Commission in Abuja, explains how these applications are handled, why Nigerians should apply early for their visa and why presentation of forged documents could lead to being banned from entering the UK for a long time. Amazingly, contrary to popular public perception, nearly 75% of those who apply get issued British visas. Ed Bossley spoke to Mfon Udo-Ema.

Compared to last year, has there been an increase in the number of Nigerians applying to travel to the UK for Christmas?
Year-on-year, we’re seeing an increase in the number of Nigerians applying to visit, work and study in the UK. In 2011 we’re expecting to reach almost 200,000 applications across Nigeria. Obviously we get big surges of applications around holiday periods- especially in the summertime. But also around Christmas and Easter. Because of this, we advise people to apply for their visas well ahead of time. We always try to process applications within three weeks- but often we do things much faster. Our application numbers are up almost 10% in 2011. But the most significant change is that the number of visas we issue is also on the increase. So far, around 74% of all applications have been issued in 2011. In 2010 it was 69%.
That’s impressive. We know that in the past people present fake documents to get UK visas: Has there been an increase in this? What do you have in place to detect this type of fraud?
Yes, sadly it’s true that some applicants present fake o forged documents along with their applications. This is something that our officers are constantly on the lookout for. We have specially trained staff who are expert in forgery detection. We also have staff whose specific job is to monitor the number and types of fake and forged documents that we receive. This improves and hones our ability to spot forged documents. We also have advanced technology to help us detect when things are wrong. And when we do detect applications with forged documents… or even applications submitted with false information…that applicants faces the prospect of being banned from applying for a UK visa for up to 10 years. My advice to anyone thinking about submitting a fake or forged document or even lying about something on their visa application from is this: just don’t do it!
In the past, some Embassies have complained about the abuse of Note Verbales by Nigerian Government officials. Does the British High Commission have those problems too?
The British High Commission has a close working relationship with the Nigerian government. We certainly do not have any problems relating to abuse of Notes Verbales.
Many Nigerians whose visa applications were denied, says that their applications were not THOROUGHLY evaluated before a negative decision was reached. How do you react to this? Are decisions from Entry Clearance Officers final? Can they be reversed in cases where they made obvious mistakes?
I’d argue that all applications are evaluated thoroughly. The burden of proof is on the Balance of Probabilities and it’s not an exact science. It’s am application of the rules, but we strive for consistency through a significant process of review. We need to be consistent and we are always looking for consistency. Our Visa Officers are very well-trained staff who are able to quickly assess large amounts of information. They are able to take in this information and assess it against the UK’s full range Immigration Rules. It’s their job and they are good at it. I see it every day and it’s very impressive. But we don’t just automatically accept this. There is a stringent process of checking and re-checking decisions before we decide to issue or refuse an application. It’s a serious business to ensure the quality of our decision making is right and I’m proud of it. But it’s true that we occasionally get a decision wrong or miss a piece of vital information. Very occasionally we’ll miss something really obvious. We try to avoid it of course, but sometimes that happens in a big and busy office. So we have a system in place to review decisions. If we’ve made an obvious mistake, we’ll correct it right way. Where an applicant simply disagrees with our decision, they are welcome to state their case and we’ll review the decision again. In some categories of applications, there is a right to appeal to an independent Immigration Judge in the UK. I think there is lots of protection there for applicants. For those who want to get in touch with us, email is the best option: abuja.visa.correspondenceunit@fco.gov.uk

What is better: Face to face interview process or the Drop Box?
As you know, we moved from interviewing to none interviewing. We’ve also done things to help make that shift. The interview process was helpful, but it didn’t always make the final decision for us. Now, we look at a whole lot of factors. We also have the ability to look for risk assessments. Ultimately, the final decision comes down to the reasons for the trip. Will the applicants come back and all that. The current process is more objective because it is based on how you filled the forms and the documents that you have supplied. If we need to check some things, we invite the applicants for an interview.
Are visa refusals subject to appeals? If yes, through what channels?
Some visa refusals attract the right of appeal- typically those with family in the UK. So those applying to visit family or to move to the UK to be with their family can appeal if their application is rejected.
What is the most common reason why Nigerians are denied UK visas?
There’s a wide range of possible reasons for refusal. Obviously submitting a forged document or providing false information on the application form is almost certainly going to lead to a refusal. But the most typical reasons are probably the most mundane. i.e. not submitting the requires supporting documents or not completing the visa application form fully or correctly. Best advice here is to make sure that you submit genuine information and genuine supporting documents. If you say that you earn x amount of money and you are paying for the trip yourself, provide us with clear evidence of your income and your funds to pay for the trip.

Regarding students’ visa applications, why do you insist that the fees must be in the students account for a while and not the Parents or Sponsors? Some students don’t have that type of money…
We’re perfectly happy for the student’s fees to come from parent or legal guardian’s bank account. Also, funds being transferred into the student’s account are also acceptable. But where the sponsor is not a parent or legal guardian this causes us problems. It’s difficult to know where to draw the line because we need to be sure that the funds are really available and genuinely intended to pay for that person’s education in the UK. So we’ve drawn the line at the student or their parent or legal guardian- and we’re consistent in this right around the world.

What in your background prepared you for this job? Are you a Career Diplomat?
I’m a career diplomat with the Foreign Office. But I’m developing a speciality in the visa field. Prior to coming to Nigeria I managed the UK’s visa operations across Southern Africa. Prior to that, I was a manager in our visa section at the British High Commission in New Delhi, India. But I’m enjoying life and work in Nigeria.

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