14th November 2012 Beirut, Lebanon
Top Secret …. how to get a UK Visa
I recently wanted to apply for a visa for a close colleague who needed to travel to the UK at short notice. But I couldn’t – she has not worked for us long enough to meet the visa requirements. Why do I end up telling this story so often on the circuit? Because I want to prove to people that, when it comes to visas, we are a wasta-free zone: the Ambassador cannot buck the system. Quite right.
I want more Lebanese people to visit the UK, and much of our work is focused on showing that Britain is the best place to further your education or business. Issuing a visa is not some kind of favour or act of charity, but is in our national interest. We want you to get to know us better, as – like Lebanon – a country of outward looking traders and pioneers. A country more confident in itself after an extraordinary Summer (I recently met a Lebanese student who had tattoos of London 2012 and HM Queen, despite not yet having visited).
Last year we received nearly 15,000 visa applications from Lebanese nationals, a 6% increase on 2010 and a 17% increase on 2009. Great. 85% of these applications were successful. Great. We turn around 90% of applications within 15 days. In September 2012, one of our busiest months, we processed 99% of visit visas within 15 working days, with 81% in 5 days or less. I don’t want to knock the competition – much – but that is seriously competitive. This year we also introduced a new priority service for applicants needing to travel at very short notice. We are open for business.
So please don’t be put off from applying. But, when asked as I so often am for help with visas, I share a secret. The key to a successful application is not to lobby or to hire an unscrupulous agent, but to … read the guidelines thoroughly, submit the documentation requested, attend the Visa Application Centre, and wait a short while. You can find more detailed instructions, top secret, for your eyes only, on our website
We are constantly on the lookout for further improvements to this system. Personally, I would like to see a simpler process and politer rejection letters. Applicants should feel that we want them to succeed, but that we owe it to our taxpayers to ensure that they have met justifiably tough criteria. Throughout, they should expect, and will receive, full respect – we’re running a service.
I’m determined that every application is judged fairly, rigorously, transparently, and on its merits. Not on whether the applicant is related to a Minister, or meets the Ambassador at dinners, but on the facts on the page, and the supporting documents provided.
So, when it comes to applying for a UK visa, know that no others, especially not the Ambassador, can use their wasta to get ahead of you in the queue.