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China: UK ‘super priority’ student visa pilot launches

Students from China will be able to obtain a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK within 24 hours, under a 10-week super priority visa pilot scheme.

Until now, the quickest processing time available to Tier 4 applicants has been 3-5 days. Photo: The PIE News.

The service will cost an additional £750 on top of the standard £322 visa processing fee

Over the trial period, over-18s applying in-country in three major cities for a General Tier 4 visa – offered to all long-term adult students – will be given the option to upgrade to a super-priority appointment.

“In the majority of cases, a decision will be made within 24 working-day hours”

Initially UK Visas and Immigration will offer up to 100 appointments a day at its centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but more may be made available depending on demand. During the peak application period, UKVI predicts it will receive up to 800 applications per day across the country.

However, the service will come with a hefty price tag, costing an additional £750 on top of the standard £322 fee.

Despite the added convenience of the expedited processing, the cost will likely be too high for many students to use, according to a number of agents canvassed by the Beijing Overseas Study Services Association.

Yang Huan, vice-president, operations at Studying Abroad Live, said that if the additional fee were halved, there would be a bigger take-up.

“Dealing with emergency cases, it can still help agencies to get a visa as soon as possible,” he noted, but as it stands, he predicted the service “should not become a popular option.”

To date, the quickest option available to Tier 4 applicants has been the 3-5 day priority service. However, if this pilot is successful, the one-day service could be rolled out permanently.

Super-priority processing was introduced for other visa applications in 2014. In the year ending March 2016, UKVI received some 3,000 super-priority applications for other visa classes.

A 24-hour turnaround on the new service is not guaranteed, according to UKVI, which notes: “All applications will be based on their individual merits in line with the UK’s immigration rules.”

“Super priority visa service applications are processed with the highest priority,” UKVI guidance reads. “In the majority of cases, a decision will be made within 24 working-day hours of submitting the application at the visa application centre.”

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