UK visa system 'crying out for common sense'

10 Feb 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The UK visa system is "crying out for common sense", a recent letter to the Financial Times has suggested.

Writing to the paper, Michael Emerson, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Belgium, noted that the system is not designed to be helpful for individuals.

A number of sources have remarked upon the negative impact that the government's changes to UK visas are likely to have.

London mayor Boris Johnson, for example, warned at the end of last year that the annual immigration cap could do damage to the capital's competitiveness. He added his support for employers in the city, noting that they are "hacked off" about the fact that they will struggle to access talent from overseas.

But Mr Emerson told the paper that there is also a "simple human dimension" to the issue, citing a case involving his mother-in-law.

While she is an official and permanent resident of Belgium with an identity card for the country, she was required to produce a UK visa when visiting England for a major family event.

The process itself, which involves a ten-page application form that can only be completed online, fell to the author to complete because of its complexity.

Mr Emerson concluded that this process had clearly proven to be problematic for his mother-in-law. But he also noted the effect of the UK's visa processes on business and the community.

The think-tank the author works for has a number of visitors from outside of the European Union. However, these people's plans usually do not include a visit to the UK when they are in Europe due to the insistence that Britain remains outside of continental Europe's Schengen Area.