‘Very good’ visa processing gives UK edge with overseas students

Survey results ‘show significant differences’ in performance of major student destination countries amid high demand for student visas

July 11, 2022
UK visa no date

Even as visa-related bottlenecks continue to plague Australia and Canada, the UK has been rated “very good” on its processing of student visas, a large-scale survey of education agents shows.

Despite scoring last among Australia, Canada and the US on visa costs, the UK outperformed those nations on all other measures related to visa processing – the ease of visa application, processing times, acceptance rate, explanation for rejection and duration of stay granted – according to a survey of more than 700 education agents around the world.

The survey results show “significant differences in perceptions of how well the major destination countries are coping with the high demand for student visas” as they seek to recover student flows, says Jon Chew, the study author and head of strategic insights and analytics at the consultancy Navitas.

On ease of visa application, 53 per cent of agents gave the UK the highest rating – very good – far more than the next best country, Australia, which was rated very good by 32 per cent of them, compared with roughly 20 per cent in Canada and the US.

“The UK appears to be a league apart from the rest on this measure,” writes Mr Chew.

He notes that there are “similarly strong positive views” on the UK’s visa acceptance rate, with 60 per cent of respondents rating the UK as very good. In Canada and the US, roughly 20 per cent of respondents described acceptance rates as very good.

The UK was also speedy in processing visas, with 37 per cent of analysts giving it the top rating, compared with 24 per cent for the US, 17 per cent for Australia and a mere 8 per cent for Canada.

The findings come as higher education leaders warn that Australia may lose talent if it fails to overcome its serious visa backlog. Some students who waited for years to get into the country may soon be forced to drop out of their studies, Times Higher Education reported recently.

But Australia’s loss may be the UK’s gain, writes Mr Chew.

“The United Kingdom stands to benefit from positive perceptions of its visa processing performance; agents reported notably strong positive views about the UK across a number of indicators.”

Still, he warns, recent news reports could suggest that the UK’s strong performance “may have been short-lived”.

Not long after the survey was conducted this May, the UK removed priority processing for several countries, he notes, adding, “there also appears to be greater scrutiny of applications, particularly from so-called ‘high-risk’ markets”, amid a surge in applications from countries including Nigeria.

But regardless of countries’ performance so far, as the situation continues to change, they would be well-advised to stay nimble on their feet, suggests Mr Chew.

“In the coming months as international travel resumes, all destination countries will face increased difficulties when it comes to immigration processing,” he writes. “Those destinations that can find ways to prioritise student visas at those critical pre-commencement windows will be able to maximise the momentum of the recovery.”

pola.lem@timeshighereducation.com

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