Letter to the Editor: British Embassy doing its best to make visas "pain-free"

Dear Editor,

I hesitate to write to you a second week running, but I cannot let Mr. John Skelton's letter ["British visa still hurts," Letters to the Editor, Vol.5 No. 24, June 21-27] go unanswered.

He is not alone in regretting the queues for visas at the Embassy. I and my staff do too. But we faced unique circumstances last week, and have taken action to remedy the problems. Panska Ulica was closed for several hours during the Presidential inauguration which meant we were not able to deal with all the applications that day. The backlog was made worse by the end of the university term and a rush by students for visas. This is why, for the very first time since we started the visa regime, we had to ask some people to come back the next day. Quite frankly we had no choice.

In view of these events I asked for, and got, a new visa officer from London to help us with the summer peak. We have also initiated a new ticketing system for dealing with the high numbers. This means that, if a visa cannot be issued on a particular day, the applicant has priority the next day. But our aim remains to offer same-day service.

Mr. Skelton's accusations of a secret service plot are not worth commenting on. On whether we are out of touch with the public, I can only say that we make a point of speaking to applicants in the visa line to identify any particular problems, such as tight deadlines. We are determined to make our service as responsive as possible. We also offer a postal service, and applications can be made through selected travel agents. So queueing up at 2 a.m. should only be for masochists.

I believe most Slovaks now understand why it was necessary to introduce visas. It was a last-resort practical solution to the huge numbers of asylum-seekers coming from Slovakia last autumn. Until we are able to lift the need for visas we shall do our best here to make the procedure as pain-free as possible.

HM Ambassador David Lyscom
British Embassy

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