The British High Commission in Banjul has announced that its visa section will be closed for the receipt of new application on February 17, 2011, until it reopens for business as normal on Thursday 22 February 2011.
The move was taken in conjunction with the United Kingdom Border Agency, Gambian journalists were told at a press conference at the High Commission’s Conference Hall in Fajara on February 4, 2011.
“We are changing our visa application process because the government of UK wants to make more savings, as we are currently facing a budget deficiency, as a result our government has called on all its departments to make savings for the betterment of our citizens,” Mr. Ian Underhill, Regional Entry Clearance Manager said.
The decision to close the visa section in Banjul was communicated to us by the UK government, he said, however, he was quick to say that the High Commission will remain open for business and their staff will continue their daily official duties.
Mr. Underhill noted that the new visa assessing process will not only affect The Gambia but many parts of Africa, Europe, and America. He said their new office in Accra have more resources than the one in Banjul as Accra is a hub, and can be a place for the UK government to make much savings.
Underhill disclosed that they recorded a small number of visa applications in The Gambia, which is costing them millions of pounds. “In fact last year, we receive about five thousand visa applicants, and it costs us about two and a half million pounds which is not good for our government,” he said.
Asked why many Gambians are refused visas, Mr. Underhill said some Gambians do not meet the requirements but still apply for visa, and only to have their applications rejected.
Visa applicants should make sure they meet the requirements before applying for a UK visa, since rejected applicants will not be refunded their monies, he warned.
Earlier-on, the High Commission said in a media dispatch that with effect from Monday 21 February, 2011, the internal processes for assessing visa application will be amended.
“All application submitted after the date will be forwarded by courier for consideration at the British High Commission in Accra. There will be no change to the application process. As at now all visa applications should be completed online at www.visa4uk.fc.gov.uk.”
All applications will continue to require an appointment so that the printed online visa application documentation can be submitted at the High Commission in Banjul, High Commission said. It added that there will be no reduction in the levels of customer services; 90 percent of non-settlement applications within three weeks of the application being submitted.
“Please note that any visa applications completed online, on or before Wednesday 16 February. Must be submitted for consideration by that date; failure to do so will result in a new online application being requested.”