Sat, Jul 21, 2007 - Page 3 News List

New UK visa application centers to open next week

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Britain's representative office will inaugurate two visa application centers next Thursday, one in Taipei and one in Kaohsiung.

The British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei stopped accepting visa applications yesterday as it prepared to turn over responsibility for applications to the new centers.

The new centers will be able to take fingerprint scans and digital photographs of visa applicants.

BIOMETRIC DATA

The British government has begun collecting biometric data -- fingerprints and digital photographs -- for all visa applicants worldwide as part of its efforts to combat visa fraud and abuse of the UK's immigration and asylum system, BTCO said in a news release issued yesterday.

BTCO Director Michael Reilly said on Wednesday that the biometric data collection was designed to offer better services to foreign visitors as the data would ensure both a higher level of security and a simplified procedure for travelers to pass through UK customs.

Britain has implemented the new visa procedures in 64 nations so far, Reilly said. He said he hoped implementation of the new process would go smoothly in Taiwan.

VFS TAIWAN

The two new visa centers will be run by BTCO's new commercial partner, VFS Taiwan. However, BTCO staff will still make the decision on whether to issue a visa.

BTCO statistics show 25,000 Taiwanese obtained visitor visas from the office last year, while 9,653 Taiwanese students applied for UK student visas last year, setting a record for student visas issued by the office.

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