Saturday, 20 March 2010

Manila now UK’s largest visa hub in Asia-Pacific

By MADEL R. SABATER
Manila Bulletin\http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/248741/manila-now-uk-s-largest-visa-hub-asiapacific

Manila is now the United Kingdom’s largest visa hub in the Asia-Pacific.

United Kingdom’s Border Agency International Group Director Barbara Woodward bared this as she said the British government is targeting 80,000 visa applications in Manila this year.

“I am delighted to be visiting the Philippines and seeing in detail the important work carried out in the British Embassy’s visa section. Our visa hub in Manila is now the largest in the Asia-Pacific region taking in applications from five different areas as well as Filipino applications,” said Woodward, who was in Manila Friday for her Asia-Pacific regional tour.

“We expect to process upwards of 80,000 applications in total this year in Manila. These present a range of interesting migration challenges for us – from dealing with those wishing to join ships to those wanting to visit, study, or settle in the UK,” she added

Woodward is the most senior migration official to visit the Philippines in recent years. She is responsible for overseeing the work of the United Kingdom Border Agency in 135 locations throughout the world.

For his part, British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie said: “People-to-people links are a vital part of the UK-RP relationship. We pride ourselves on running an efficient and customer-friendly visa operation in Manila – now Asia Pacific’s largest visa hub.”

The UK’s visa section in Manila takes in visa applications not only from the Philippines but also from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, making it the largest visa hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

The British embassy in Manila recently opened its new Visa Application Centre (VAC), located at Unit 606, 6th Floor, 2305 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati City.

New applications for a British passport from the Philippines, however, is being handled by the British Consulate in Hong Kong to ensure efficiency and security from fraudulence and tampering.

The British embassy had warned that those who will be caught submitting fake documents will be arrested and banned from making further applications for a period of 10 years.

The UK is the first European Union member country to adopt biometrics and has so far rolled out the procedure at its visa issuing centers in many countries worldwide. Its system has been adopted by other countries, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Visa applicants are required to submit their biometric details such as fingerprint scans and digital photo to ensure that future applications from individuals who have used false or fraudulent documents are refused without question.

The UK Boarder Agency has intercepted increasing fraudulent applications, from 584 in 2007 to 657 in 2008 alone.

The British government is likewise planning to change its migration policies that would allow individuals applying for a citizenship in the UK to go back to their home country for a period of time while waiting for their naturalized citizenship. This “circular migration” is expected to benefit developing countries like the Philippines.

There are currently about 200,000 to 300,000 Filipinos based in the UK, most of whom are in the health sector.

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