UK visa delays 'put off foreign business visitors'

11 Oct 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Overseas business people are being put off visiting the UK because it takes so long to obtain a visiting visa, according to banking group HSBC.

It warned that the UK risks missing out on business opportunities because it takes so much longer to obtain a UK visa to visit than it does in the US and parts of Europe. The bank raised its concerns in a report on measures to increase UK exports and economic growth.

Folding cycle maker Brompton Bicycle faced problems because its distributor in Colombia could not attend a UK business meeting due to delays in the visitor visa process. The firm also ‘came within a whisker’ of being forced to send home a Chinese speaker employed on a student visa before she was granted a longer permit, the Financial Times reported.

Another company, under-floor heating firm Warmup, said it needed non-EU nationals, especially people from Latin America, to make overseas sales. But it had also faced problems obtaining visitor visas and UK work permits.

HSBC said the Government could ease these problems if it relaxed the restrictions on intra-company transfers when people were expected to be in the UK for less than 12 months.

HSBC Bank chief executive, Alan Keir, said: “There are things the Government can do to help British business do better, and you can be sure that other governments will be looking at what they can do to help their businesses get better.”

It can take more than two weeks for business visa applications to be processed from people in emerging markets such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Bangladesh who want to visit the UK. HSBC said these delays can hurt the perceptions other countries have about doing business with the UK.