Sunday, January 3, 2010

Malaysia in no danger of losing visa-free status in Britain

Malaysia’s visa-free status with Britain is under no threat of being revoked, according to the British High Commission.

Revealing the good news, High Commissioner Boyd McCleary said any such notion was misleading.

He said Britain’s visa-free status with Malaysia had already been reviewed and the outcome was to have it maintained pending any future review.

“There have been ongoing concerns and we have been working with the authorities here to reduce the cases of visa abuse. And we do see some improvements.

“We have seen a commitment on the part of the Malaysian government to work with Britain on this issue. There has been greater enforcement activity here. So we haven’t made any decision to include Malaysia under the visa-regime,” he said in an interview.

McCleary was responding to news reports that Malaysia was set to be included in the list of countries whose citizens required visas to enter Britain.

Malaysian Deputy High Commissioner to Britain Datuk Rustam Yahaya was quoted as saying that the number of Malaysian overstayers had reached a “critical” level following a recent situation update by the British Home Office.

He said based on the current trend, British authorities were likely to impose visa requirements on Malaysians travelling to Britain.

Malaysia was in a group of 11 non-European countries whose visa-exempt status was reviewed by Britain in mid-2008.

After a six-month wait, the British Home Office announced last January that Malaysia was to maintain its visa-free status.

McCleary said most Malaysians who went to Britain did not abuse the visa-free status they have been enjoying.

“We have tens of thousands of Malaysians going over as holidaymakers and visitors who don’t abuse their visas and they are very welcome. Visit Britain (Britain’s tourism body) is very happy to see Malaysians coming to enjoy the sights of London and the wider UK.

“We are not trying to deter genuine visitors, nor are we trying to deter Malaysian students,” he stressed.

The High Commissioner was pleased that the number of Malaysians applying to study in Britain had increased, with 5,900 applications received last year — an 8% increase from 2008.

“Of these, 97% obtained their visas and this is very good. We also improved our visa services with students being able to get their visas within three days,” he added.

McCleary said further improvements would be made this year to Britain’s points-based visa system for foreign students implemented here in 2009.

He said the acceptance letter issued by a British institution to an applicant would be made available online and need not be physically presented to the High Commission at the time of applying.

“There were delays in such letters being received here by Malaysian students in 2009. This year, the universities will indicate online if the student has been successful in securing a place and this will expedite matters,” he added.

A student needs 40 points to qualify to study in Britain – 30 points are awarded if a letter of acceptance is issued by a registered British institution and 10 points if the student shows proof of enough funds to support the course fee and living expenses for the first year.

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