I very much enjoyed the recent Bikozulu blog (post), "Visa Denied", charting one man’s frustration with the UK visa application process.
For those who haven’t read it – you really should. As a piece of satire, it’s top-notch: funny; affectionate; and scathing to the core. In finest British tradition, it’s also not above the strategic deployment of a good bottom gag. I appreciate this. I am, after all, from the United Kingdom.
I like @bikozulu (Jackson Biko). It’s safe to say I’m even a fan. I have been ever since he interviewed me for Business Daily earlier this year, for another snappily titled piece: "The laid back diplomat who sings in the choir".
Again, it’s all good stuff and well worth a read. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone in my choir. My point is, I admire Jackson as a writer. As I read his blog he entertained me, and in doing so I really empathised with his position.
I know that many others did also, as evidenced by the response on social media. Whilst I can’t comment on individual cases, I do think it’s worth clarifying a couple of general points as regards the visa application process.
We do not approve a visa just because of personal lobbying or connections. It doesn’t matter if you know me, my Head of Communications, or anyone else at the High Commission. Each application is considered on its own individual merits, fairly and without discrimination.
Our immigration rules don’t just apply in Kenya, they are applied equally worldwide. Equally, the language used in communication, whether of acceptance or refusal, is standardised across all countries.
We approve many more visa applications than we refuse. This is especially true in Kenya, where the average acceptance rate is around 75 per cent. The best way of making sure you’re in that group is to apply early for your visa.
In fact, you should apply as soon as you know you need to travel. Another key part of the process is to provide all the necessary up-to-date and genuine documentation to support your application.
More applications are refused for lack of sufficient supporting documentation than for any other reason. Details of the kind of evidence you’ll need can be found on this file.
On timings, we normally respond within 15 working days of applicants registering their biometrics at our Visa Application Centre (VAC). If you do find yourself short of time, for whatever reason, we’d suggest you consider the quicker 'priority' visa service.
This can usually be processed in 5 working days from the point you submit your documents at the VAC. We introduced this last year because we listened to your feedback about wanting a faster service.
Overall, the visa section in Nairobi processes nearly 40,000 applications a year. Over 90 per cent meet our target decision times.
NOT A BUM DEAL
That, to paraphrase Biko, is not a bum deal. I'm proud of it, and what it does to strengthen ties between (the) UK and Kenya, even at a time when the British public are demanding tighter controls on who enters the country.
Being refused a visa is not a nice experience. At the very least, it’s an inconvenience. For some it will be much worse than this. It can feel like a personal slight on your character, impersonally delivered by a cold bureaucracy. But you are not powerless in this process.
Your own actions do greatly affect the outcome of your application, and you have the right of appeal. The UK is the venue of choice for Kenyans when considering going abroad for work, study or travel. If you are thinking about coming to the UK, the first step to securing a visa is to read our guidance, which you’ll find on this web page.
I want ever more Kenyans to travel to the UK, and to do so in a way that benefits both our countries.
Thanks and I hope some of you found this helpful.
Christian Turner is the British High Commissioner to Kenya