Visa process ‘puts off artists, writers and scientists’, says Spanish MEP

04 Nov 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The difficulty in obtaining a UK visa could put off top international artists, writers and scientists from coming to Britain, according to a Spanish MEP.

Pablo Echenique Robba, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is cared for by his Argentine-born wife, spoke out after he had to pull out of speaking at University College London because issues in getting a visa for his wife, Maria Alejandra Nelo.

Mr Robba, who is a physicist as well as a politician, had been due to spend three days in the UK. But it took so long to organise a visa for his wife, he had to cancel his trip.

He told the Huffington Post: “I can’t imagine that a guy who is going to give a talk for three days in London spending three weeks trying to get a visa.

“How do writers present books, how do artists present their works, how do scientists present papers? People that have choices to say go to a conference in London or go to Berlin, they wouldn’t go through the process.”

He said that applying for a UK visa took “endless hours”, cost £85 and also involved a trip to a visa application centre in Spain. He pointed out there was only one such centre in Spain, which was more than 300km from where he lives, and that the whole process could take up to three weeks.

University College London was also critical of the process.

Dr Claudia Sternberg, Acting Deputy Director of the university’s European Institute, said: “As a university institute, we are worried.

“If it is this difficult for academics or potential speakers of high calibre to get visas to come to the UK, they will go elsewhere to present instead. This would be a great loss for academic life and public debate in the UK.”