UK offers super priority visa for Chinese students

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has launched a new 24-hour super priority visa service  for Chinese Tier 4 students as a 10-week trial scheme, with up to 100 appointments available per day until October 14.

Under the trial scheme, applicants over 18 applying as a General Tier 4 student will be offered the option of a super priority appointment if they attend the UK visa application centres in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.


UKVI said the number of daily slots could be increased depending on demand and that the service could be made permanent if successful.


The super priority visa service will cost an additional UK£750 (US$974). UKVI said in the majority of cases, decisions will be made within 24 working-day hours of submitting the application.


Students will still have access to the regular three-to-five-day priority application service at the UK's 15 visa application centres across China.


Larry Field of Overseas Personal Development Services Ltd (OPDS), which specialises in the placement of Chinese students into British secondary schools, told StudyTravel Magazine, "My immediate thought is that this is a good idea and that it will be used in such emergencies as late applications which would otherwise result in the student being late for their course and maybe missing a week or two of education."


However, he expressed concerns about refunds if decisions were not made within 24 hours. In guidance on the new service, UKVI said no refunds will be issued in cases where an application is delayed as a result of the need for: additional enquiries; a Tier 4 interview; standard checks; technical faults; or where the payment of the health surcharge cannot be confirmed.


Beijing-based agency association Bossa canvassed members on the potential appeal of the UK's new fast-track scheme.


Yang Huan, Vice President of Studying Abroad agency said the new visa could be helpful to agents in emergency situations, but doubted it would be a popular option due to the UK£750 fee, and suggested around half that cost would have been more appropriate.


Wei Hongliang of the University of Kent, China Office, agreed that the new scheme could be a helpful mechanism to cope with student demand in the peak season, but said that most Chinese students are not in a hurry to obtain a UK student visa.


Chinese students heading to the UK generally begin to apply around three months in advance, leaving plenty of time for visa applications, said Xu Jingjing of Oxford Education Group, adding that the new stream would only be used in exceptional circumstances.


"Chinese intermediaries are very professional; they will do their best for the school to complete all procedures and processes smoothly to ensure that students arrive in the UK before the start date."


One agent that did not wish to be named claimed that if the UK really wanted to be increasing student numbers from China, it should not be adding such additional costs for the express visa.


UKVI said super priority applications will need to be submitted in person before 11am at one of the three applicable centres.


It confirmed the service was not suitable for any applicants with "adverse immigration history", or those whose previous study period in the UK was cut short.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor