The British Embassy is constantly looking to improve its visa services and the rules concerning entry visas to the UK are applied equally to all nationalities, the British ambassador to Qatar, Michael O’Neill (Pictured), said yesterday.
“We treat everyone fairly: the immigration rules governing entry into the UK are applied equally to all nationalities. Interviews are an opportunity to make sure we have all the relevant facts from an applicant before we make a decision,” the ambassador said in a statement issued yesterday.
He was reacting to a report in The Peninsula yesterday about Qatari nationals complaining about delays and complicated procedures in obtaining entry visas to the UK.
The report quoted several citizens calling for simplifying the visa procedures for Qataris, along the same lines entry visas to Qatar are issued to British citizens. They were particularly critical of the elaborate personal interviews that the visa applicants have to go through.
The ambassador said that foreigners applying for an entry visa to the UK normally were issued the visa in five days while a “priority visa” was available in
two days. “We are delighted so many Qataris are travelling to the UK for tourism, business and other purposes. We issued almost 33,000 visas last year — almost double the number in 2010, with a further increase of almost 30 per cent in the first quarter of this year — and are proud to offer an excellent service,” said the ambassador. “We promise to give 90 percent of applicants a decision within three weeks, and in the past two years have never broken that promise: the average applicant gets his visa in under five working days. We are constantly looking to improve the visa process, for example with a priority visa service and online applications, appointments and payments,” he added.
The priority visa service is for those pressed for time, he said. For an additional QR564 an applicant can have their application processed more quickly, normally within two days.
“There are some exceptional cases where we cannot process an application as fast we would like, and we provide a contact to raise these cases separately,” said the ambassador.
“We constantly look to make the visa process easier, and we have now introduced online applications, online appointments and online payments as well as a refurbished premium lounge in the application centre. And we offer six-month multiple entry visas as standard,” he added.