Chief Executive Carrie Lam joined calls for the British Home Office to expedite the processing of student visas for Hong Kong students who are still awaiting their travel documents even as the new academic year has already started.
They risk their places being canceled by their universities in the UK if they fail to show up soon.
In a meeting with the British Consul General to Hong Kong, Andrew Heyn, on Tuesday, Lam urged the UK government to explain the delay and speed up the issuance of student visas.
She was assured by Heyn that the UK government was doing its best to resolve the problem. Earlier, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung also met with Heyn regarding the matter.
Previously, all student visa applications were processed by the British Embassy in Manila as there is no visa processing center at London’s diplomatic mission in the territory, since a Hongkonger holding an SAR or British National (Overseas) passport does not need a visa to visit the UK for sightseeing or visiting relatives.
But there have been delays since all local applications for student visas are now vetted in the UK, affecting hundreds of Hong Kong students.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the British Consulate-General said: “We greatly value the decision by Hong Kong students to study in the UK and understand that preparing to study overseas is a stressful time and getting a response to visa applications within the timeframe that you are expecting is a fundamental part of that process.
“The British Consulate would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by these delays. The overall picture is that 99 percent of student visa applicants in Hong Kong are successful and the vast majority receive a decision within 15 days.
“The UK Consulate General does not handle visas, but is in constant contact with the relevant authority, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), and has been assured that they are looking into these individuals’ cases as a matter of urgency and that they are working flat out to ensure that outstanding applications are resolved as quickly as possible.
“Many visas have been issued in recent days,” the statement said.
Heyn also uploaded a video on the consulate’s Facebook and YouTube page apologizing for the delays.
As a remedial measure, the consulate will issue letters on behalf of the students who have yet to receive their visas to explain the delay to their respective universities and colleges in the UK and ask that their places be saved.
The Hong Kong government’s office in London is also said to be in close contact with the UK authorities on the matter.
Meanwhile, in a rare move, the government has set up a 24-hour dedicated hotline 3142 2522 and enquiry email address [email protected] for students to register their individual cases of UK visa applications.
The HKSAR government will consolidate the cases and forward the details to the British consulate for immediate follow-up, a government spokesman said.
Hongkong Post said on Tuesday it was aware that student visas are posted via Hongkong Post’s Local CourierPost service.
It has implemented special arrangements including proactively calling up the addressee (if the applicant has provided his/her telephone number in the delivery form) to arrange for collection, and a special counter (counter number 30) is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the first floor of the General Post Office in Central so that addressee can collect his/her item in a timely manner.
For enquiries and ascertaining whether an item has been received by Hongkong Post, students still awaiting their visas may call a temporary hotline, 2104 7304, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or browse the Hongkong Post website.
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