Fix ‘woeful’ overseas student visa service, say UK universities

International students are “paying through the nose for a woefully inadequate document-checking service” for UK study visas, say universities. Some students are waiting 30 days for checks on the documents and biometric information they need, with the problem stemming from the outsourcing of these checking services to a private company, Sopra Steria.

UUK, which represents all 136 UK universities, says it is concerned that if Sopra Steria is struggling now, it will be completely overwhelmed by the more than 40,000 overseas students arriving ahead of the autumn term.

Until last November, students were able to arrange document checks through their local post offices.

Now, universities say applicants too often face:

  • waits of at least two weeks, sometimes longer, for appointments
  • difficulties accessing and processing information online
  • a support line charging £2.50 a minute
  • paying up to £200, on top of the cost of the visa, for a premium service, still not getting appointments but being refused refunds
  • long journeys to Sopra Steria centres for fast-track appointments

Sopra Steria said it is working closely with the Home Office, universities and higher education institutions across the UK to “increase capacity where needed.”

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