UK to expand 24-hour visa service to several more countries

14 Nov 14



What is the change? The United Kingdom will expand its 24-hour “super priority” visa service to Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as to the visa decision-making centers in New York and Paris. The program is already operating in China and India.

What does the change mean? Nationals and residents of the affected countries will be eligible to receive British travel visas in less than 24 hours. Applicants whose visas will be processed in New York (e.g., applications made in Canada are processed in New York) or in Paris will also be eligible to apply for this service. The services will cost £600 above the normal visa-application fees.

  • Implementation timeframe: The program will be expanded by April 2015, according to Prime Minister David Cameron’s office.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visit visas only.
  • Who is affected: Nationals and residents of Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, the Philippines, the U.S., France and those whose applications will be handled by the visa-processing centers in New York or Paris.
  • Impact on processing times: The program makes 24-hour visa processing available.
  • Business impact: For an additional fee, business travelers from the above countries will have a faster option to obtain a U.K. visa.
  • Next steps: The service is expected to be available by April 2015.

Background: The U.K.’s same-day “super priority” visa service, launched for Indian travelers in 2013 and expanded for use by Chinese travelers earlier this year, has proven to be successful. Cameron’s office has confirmed that the Indian visa service averages 50 to 60 applications per month, while the Chinese applications top 100 applications per month. The service is expanding to those locations that have a high demand for businesses and high-value travelers to reinforce the idea that the U.K. is open for business and to persuade more business travelers, investors and tourists to visit, trade with and to expand in the U.K. Other than processing times, applicants using the 24-hour service are subject to the same requirements and immigration rules as those applying through the normal visa processes.

BAL Analysis: Cameron’s office hopes the service will draw business travelers, investors and affluent tourists to the U.K. through faster visa processing. The service is very costly, however, and may save applicants only a few days, depending on location. For example, standard processing for a six-month visit visa in New York is five days for a standard application fee of £83.

It should also be noted that even with the “super priority” service, applicants still need to factor in time to prepare their applications, complete a biometrics appointment, and travel to the consulate. The new service will primarily be of use to high net worth visitors, and in situations where enhanced processing is critical for business people and justifies the additional costs.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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