Regarding the March 17 article “I am not a Pakistani child bride (but the U.K. can’t tell the difference)“: While I understand the author’s frustration, I welcome the opportunity to clarify U.K. immigration procedures. We actively encourage visitors from Japan to enjoy and experience life in the United Kingdom. The U.K. remains a very popular destination for Japanese nationals for visits, study and work.
Japanese nationals are not required to apply for a visa to enter the U.K. for a visit. But all foreign nationals — except European Economic Area and Swiss nationals — are required to apply for a visit visa if the specific purpose of their visit is marriage. This is a mandatory requirement for foreign nationals wishing to get married in the U.K.
Like Japan, the U.K. is committed to strong and safe borders and appropriate immigration controls. That means applicants must provide some personal information and supporting documents. This can seem intrusive, but it helps us to assess whether the application is genuine. Much of this can be done online. We separately collect biometric data not only to ensure the security of U.K. citizens, but also to protect visitors by preventing document fraud and identity theft. Japan uses a similar system for all non-Japanese nationals visiting here. The biometric procedure takes about one minute.
The U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) aims to deliver a transparent and consistent service, making it easier for genuine applicants to visit the U.K. As part of its modernization program, UKBA uses the services of VFS Global Ltd., our commercial partner in Japan since November 2007 with offices in Osaka and Tokyo. The VFS offices handle visa applications and biometric data from customers on behalf of UKBA. The U.K. is not the only country to use outsourcing services. We welcome feedback from our customers and act on any complaints received.
Under the new system, a regional hub based at the British Embassy in Manila handles applications from a number of countries, including Japan. The hub provides a center of excellence and consistency in decision-making; this allows us to provide improved services to our customers. VFS recognizes that document security is of the utmost importance.
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