Accra, April 6, GNA - The British High Commission on Wednesday opened a Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) application centre, the first of its kind in Africa, to improve upon its services. The Centre located at North Labone would be one of two main receiving centres of application for the United Kingdom visas in the country where information required by visa applicants would be made available.
Mr Gordon Wetherell, the High Commissioner, who inaugurated the Centre, announced that the second VFS Centre would be opened in Kumasi next week.
The Centres would be administered by VFS Ghana Private Limited in partnership with ECOBANK.
The High Commission said the Company won the contract after an extensive tendering process in competition with over 200 other parties. The statement said highly trained professionals would staff the new Centres. They would offer facilities for lodging applications and collecting decisions, have telephone, e-mail and personal caller enquiry services.
He said VFS had tremendous success in procession UK visa applications in a number of countries and expressed optimism that the partnership would work well in Ghana.
Mr Wetherell said VFS created value for customers and strived towards perfection but noted that it would cost a little more. He said out of the more than 75,000 visa applications received last year, more than 50 per cent were granted visas. Due to the increasing pressure, the figure might rise this year.
"The demand for UK visas is growing worldwide, increasing the pressure on our officers to process applications more efficiently, while still maintaining the quality of their decisions," the High Commissioner said.
He said outsourcing some of the administrative processes to VFS would free the British High Commission Visa Section to concentrate their resources on the specific tasks, notably decision-making. Mr Wetherell said the decision-making would still be carried by the High Commission and added that the control mechanism would remain the same.
The British High Commission said last month that the two new Visa Application Centres in Accra and Kumasi would operate considerably extended opening hours, allowing visa applicants the flexibility about when and where to submit their applications.
Applications may be lodged there from Monday to Friday from 0800 hours to 1200 hours and 1300 hours to 1600 hours. Decisions may be collected between 1300 hours and 1600 hours on the day notified by the Centre.
The Fast Track (formerly known as Drop Box) applications for previous visitors may be lodged between 0800 hours and 1000 hours and collected between 1430 hours and 1600 hours the following day. The Kumasi Centre located at No. 8 Southern By-Pass, Ridge Residential Area, Kumasi, would open on April 12. Applications may be lodged there from 0800 hours to 1200 hours and 1300 hours to 1500 hours. Decisions may be collected between 1300 hours and 1500 hours on the day notified by the Centre.
The High Commission said with effect from April 7, applicants for visas do not need to purchase a Barclays Bank draft to cover the visa fee and could pay cash to ECOBANK, which would be based at the Visa Application Centres.
It said from April 7 all applications should be made direct to the Visa Application Centre and not the British High Commission. All decisions relating to visa applications would continue to be made by Entry Clearance Officers at the High Commission. 06 April 05