The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in visa application centres being closed, which led to fears that students would not be able to reach campuses.
“This progress means more students can confidently pursue their plans to study with us”
According to VFS Global, an outsourcing company that manages visa applications, centres for countries including the UK and Canada, have reopened around the world.
As of June 22, UK centres have re-opened in Brunei, Cambodia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“It’s great news that visa application centres and English language testing is opening up globally, not just in China,” chief executive of UKCISA, Anne Marie Graham, told The PIE News.
“There will undoubtedly be some backlog to work through, but it will be hugely beneficial for UK institutions in their planning for autumn intake, and in their communications to continuing and prospective students.”
She added that UKCISA expects that VACs will continue to open in more locations over the weeks ahead, enabling many more students to apply for a UK visa in time for their course start date.
Stephanie Harris, head of international engagement (Non-EU) at Universities UK International, said that it is hugely encouraging to see UK visa application centres continue to reopen in many countries.
“The closure of VACs has been a significant challenge for incoming international students looking to study at UK universities during the Covid-19 pandemic. This progress means more students can confidently pursue their plans to study with us,” she said.
“We are continuing to work with partners to find solutions to outstanding challenges, as outlined in a paper jointly published by UUKi, BUILA, and UKCISA, but this is very welcome progress.”
One issue highlighted by Graham is the backlog that VACs may have built up during the time that they could not process applications.
She told The PIE that UKVI has reassured UKCISA that the capacity is in place, and UKCISA will be monitoring the situation through their contact with international students and members.
While the re-opening of VACs have been welcomed by stakeholders, myriad issues around quarantine measures and course start dates still remain.
Director of Turkish agency Alternatif ECS, Izzet Aslantatar, told The PIE that stakeholders have expressed cautious optimism as they see visa processing centres start to reopen.
On the other hand, he said, the two-week quarantine measures which are still in place in the UK is “likely to kill the remaining hopes for summer vacation courses”.
“President Trump’s executive order to extend a freeze on J visas through the end of the year will affect some agencies who are dealing with au pairs, exchange programs and work and travel,” he added.
However, not all countries are opening centres in the same way or at the same time, which has caused problems with students who are trying to reach their study destinations.
For example, while Canada has opened centres in countries including Spain, Thailand, France and Australia, centres are still closed in India.
A campaign started by prospective students from India asking Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for urgent processing of student visas under SDS has already received more than 24,000 signatures on change.org.
In a statement, campaigners said that students who applied for study permits in late February and early March have not “received a single update in 90-120 days”.
VFS Global’s last update on the situation in India was made on May, 19, saying that VACs are closed in India and will remain suspended until further notice, as per government directives.