Posted by By Moses Jolayemi And George Oji on
Millions of young Nigerians whose hopes of visiting the United Kingdom appeared dashed last year by a blanket ban on a particular age group can now heave a sigh of relief.
Millions of young Nigerians whose hopes of visiting the United Kingdom appeared dashed last year by a blanket ban on a particular age group can now heave a sigh of relief. The ban has been lifted, said visiting British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw.
According to Straw, by next month, the UK will lift the ban on visa issuance to first time young visitors aged between 18 and 30 years wishing to travel to the UK.
Straw who announced his government's position while delivering the 10th Annual Murtala Muhammed Memo-rial Lecture entitled, "Africa - A New Agenda," said the gesture forms part of Nigeria and British Governments' cooperation to facilitate legal migration and combat illegal immigration, regretting that Africa now constitutes the greatest number of asylum seekers in his country.
"First, we will next month lift our temporary suspension of visa applications by first time young visitors (18-30). And second, we will provide a better quality and faster visa process, by using commercial partners to take applications, fees and data also from next month," Straw said.
Confirming the lifting of the ban yesterday, the director of UK visas in Nigeria, Mr. Chris Dix, told THISDAY in an exclusive interview that there would be a total and remarkable change in the entire visa application process with effect from March.
Though no date has yet been announced for the commencement in March, Dix said the visa application process had been outsourced to Visa Facilitation Services(VFS), a member of the Swiss group called Kuony.
There will be four designated visa application centres which would be located in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja and Port Harcourt, according to Dix. The centres which are expected to have worked on the applications will then send them down to the visa section of the High Commission for approval.
The new system is expected to reduce the current pressure which the visa offices of the Mission face. Lagos has for many years remained the highest visa issuing port of the UK anywhere in the world.
VFS, THISDAY checks reveal have already successfully carried out such assignment in Ghana, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Singapore.
However, the High Commission will still maintain the courier system in Enugu, Benin, Warri, Kano and Kaduna, according to the visa director who is also in charge of visa services for the rest of the sub-sahara.
The UK last year suspended visa issuance to first time young persons wishing to visit the country. It said the group of Nigerians constituted the greatest visa applicants and that the suspension was to enable the UK office update its facilities to be able to handle the increasing requests.
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