Visa Briefing at the British Embassy
On 26 November, the UK Border Agency, in conjunction with the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, held a short but illuminating briefing on visa application procedure and practice at the British Embassy on Smolensky Bulvar. The main speaker was Jon Gray, the Deputy Director of Visa Services at the Embassy. He was assisted by Ross Hunter, a gravely-voiced Scot, who supervises the day-to-day work of the visa section, and is in charge of what an industrialist might call quality control and also what a lawyer would call appeals procedure. The Embassy processes around 140,000 visa applications every year, and grants 92% of those. Mr Gray was at pains to emphasise that many of those rejected are turned down on a technicality and the applicant is successful a day or two later with an amended application. So the stories that so many Russians tell of the difficulty of getting into Britain would appear, on the face of it, to be exaggerated. The overall impression was of a painstakingly fair assessment process, with fixed, published and readily- comprehensible rules, and a serious appeals procedure in the event of a rejection. It is not an amusing subject, but nonetheless Michael Byrne of RFT Consulting managed to enlivened the proceedings by referring to the question on the visa application form, “Are you a terrorist?”, and asking how many people have answered, “Yes.” Details of visa application procedure can be found on the Embassy website: ukinrussia.fco.gov.uk/en/visas.