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Dubious agents running illicit UK visa appointments trade in India, other South Asian countries

Team Parvasi – Inside

Dubious agents running illicit UK visa appointments trade in India, other countries
London: Dubious agents are operating an illicit visa appointments trade in South Asia, charging unsuspecting students and workers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal exorbitant rates for a service that should be free, a UK media investigation has found.

According to ‘The Observer’ newspaper on Sunday, brokers in some parts of South Asia are charging up to GBP 800 for biometric appointments being advertised on social media messaging services in these countries. The problem is believed to be the worst in Pakistan where the investigation found that the abuse of the visa appointment system by agents is feared to have increased significantly over the last year.

“It is a massive issue. It all adds to the debt people pay to come to the UK,” Rakesh Ranjan, South Asia coordinator for the migrant workers’ programme at the UK-based Institute for Human Rights and Business, told the newspaper.

When applying for a visa from New Delhi recently, Ranjan was quoted the equivalent of GBP 500 by an agent – excluding government fees – who offered to help him arrange his documents and book an appointment. He said workers often did not know they were paying out unnecessarily, with some relying on agents because they did not have easy access to the internet.

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Anyone planning to stay in the UK for more than six months and short-term visitors from certain countries must attend an in-person appointment in their home country to provide fingerprints and a photograph.

“We take all attempts to misuse the visa application appointment system exceptionally seriously. We have not experienced this type or scale of abuse in any other UKVI [UK Visas and Immigration] locations and have been working closely with the UK Home Office to combat this abuse,” said a spokesperson for VFS Global, which provides consular services for 70 governments, including the UK.

They added that customers are “strongly encouraged” to avoid unauthorised agents and only book appointments through the company’s website.

The UK Home Office said it was taking robust action to tackle “abuse of the visa appointment booking process” by “unauthorised agents” in South Asia.


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