The British High Commission has announced that email enquiries by visa customers applying from outside the UK would attract a fee as from June 1.
According to the report, the changes would help the government reduce costs and ensure those who benefit directly from the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution. “Effective today (June 1), email enquiries by visa customers from overseas will attract a fee. “How you contact UK Visas and Immigration is changing.
“From 1 June, all customer enquiries will be handled by a new commercial partner Sitel UK. The new contract will see a number of changes for customers,” he said. The high commission stated that changes were made in all phone numbers and opening hours.
Other changes made were a reduction in the number of languages offered to eight including English, and a fee of £5.48 for customers who contacted the UK Visas and Immigration by email. Services will be offered in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, French, Hindi, Russian and Spanish.
“You will need to pay using a credit or debit card for contacting us by email. “The charge includes the first email enquiry you send and any follow-up emails to and from the contact centre relating to the same enquiry. “The way you pay to use the telephone service will remain the same using a credit or debit card. “If you do not have access to a credit or debit card, you may choose to use a trusted 3rd party such as an agent or sponsor.”
The UK mission, however, stated that there were no changes to services for customers contacting from inside the UK.
But the move is likely to affect the UK tourism industry, which was estimated to be worth £126.9bn in 2013 and provided 9.6 per cent of total jobs, with foreign holidaymakers potentially choosing destinations where it is easier to get a visa.
For instance, Chinese tourists make up a growing percentage of visitors to the UK and made up 2.7 per cent of total British tourism spending in 2014 but will be forced to apply for a visa through this process. The move is likely to worry the hospitality industry which is already concerned about the impact of Brexit as many companies are reliant on the EU migrant workforce.