UAE residents will now witness a substantially reduced visa processing time while travelling to the United Kingdom. The move has already resulted in increased passenger traffic to the European country.
Emirati residents experienced visa delays throughout 2022 due to multiple factors including, significantly higher demand for travel and a passenger cap levied by the London Heathrow Airport.
During the 2022 summer, many UAE citizens also cancelled their United Kingdom travel plans, as the visa processing time had exceeded the timeline of seven weeks. London is the preferred destination for UAE residents for holidays and summer breaks. However, the visa processing delay, along with the London Heathrow Airport’s decision to cap departing passengers at 100,000 per day, impacted flights on the UAE-United Kingdom route.
“The processing time for United Kingdom visas has reverted to the 15 working days standard, and the turnaround time for Priority and Super Priority visas have likewise normalised,” VFS Global said in a statement.
Atish Thapa, head of marketing and business development, Cleartrip, also said that travel to the United Kingdom has become easier than it used to be, after the removal of COVID curbs. While airlines have increased their passenger carrying capacities on the UAE-UK route, airfares have gone down and getting a visa has now also become much faster.
“Emirates and British Airways have increased capacity so the airfares have gone down from the peak level seen last year. United Kingdom immigration is giving visas faster and businessmen can even get visas in 48 hours at times, depending on the requirement. Hence, there is a sizable increase in travel and traffic to Europe, specifically the United Kingdom,” added Atish Thapa, while interacting with Zawya.
Decision times for “Priority visas” now stand at five working days, and “Super Priority Visas” will now be made ready for next-day collection, as per reports.
Emirates has already announced resuming its second daily service to London Stansted from May 2023, thus boosting its London operations to 11 daily flights, including six times daily to London Heathrow and three times daily to Gatwick. It will also scale up its A380 operations with the iconic double-decker returning to Birmingham on July 1, 2023.
Mir Wasim Raja, manager of MICE & Holidays at Galadari International Travel Services, also confirmed to Zawya that visas are being processed faster now, taking approximately 15 days to a month for the residents.
“Visas are being processed and approved faster as compared to last year. Therefore, we are getting a good number of queries and bookings for travel to the United Kingdom. A good number of families are also booking now to travel to the Eid Al Fitr holidays in April,” he said.
Travel to the United Kingdom is expected to soar in 2023 as schools in the country close for Spring break.
According to the UK Visas and Immigration, a standard short-term visit visa (single or multiple entries) costs Dh473.80 and a longer-term visa (multiple two-year entries) Dh1,778. A six-month student visa generally costs Dh947.60.
A spokesperson for VFS Global told Gulf News, “Demand for United Kingdom visas remains robust. We saw travel gain speed in 2022, and we expect the trend to continue in 2023. We have witnessed a good mix in demand for leisure, family visits and business travellers. Visitor visas remain the most in-demand category of visa granted for UAE nationals, with over 2,200 granted to UAE nationals in the last year.”
“An EVW lets you visit the United Kingdom for up to six months for tourism, business, study or medical treatment. If you’re visiting for another reason, check if you need a visa instead,” the spokesperson commented.
Ahmed Soliman, Managing Director of Travel Connections Arabia (TCA), informed the Gulf News that since there weren’t any possibilities of scheduled strikes, travel demand in the United Kingdom remains stable.
“The United Kingdom continues to be a highly sought-after travel destination for people in the UAE throughout the year. Flight traffic from the UAE to the United Kingdom has seen a steady increase year on year over the past five years, including during the pandemic. Additionally, based on observations, a surge in bookings is usually observed when 5-star London hotels fill up,” he remarked further.
Ahmed Soliman commented on the state of forward bookings, “According to our data, we typically receive a high volume of travel-related enquiries before school holidays, such as Spring break.”
Moreover, even with the frequency of flight options, flight prices are stable at an average of Dh3,500 for a direct round trip, explained Ahmed Soliman.
According to travel aggregator SkyScanner, round trip airfares on the UAE-UK route are currently priced at an affordable Dh2, 680 on a British Airways flight and Dh3, 066 on Emirates.
Fares to this sector have also remained steady compared to December 2022 peak travel times. United Kingdom fares from UAE were priced at approximately Dh3, 300, including taxes, for travel from December 23, 2022 to January 3, 2023.