Filing a UK visa in
China: Key Tips
12 March 2021
When filing an application for a UK visa in China, most applicants will need to attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) to submit their supporting documentation and biometric information before being granted a visa.
Although VACs in China have now re-opened following a period of closure due to COVID-19, many centres are operating at a reduced capacity meaning applicants may face a longer wait to secure an appointment, and may need to pay for a premium appointment to speed up the process.
Smith Stone Walters regularly files UK visa applications in China on behalf of clients. Our team of immigration consultants based at our Hong Kong office have been working hard to ensure our clients can attend an appointment at a Chinese VAC at the earliest convenience. However, applicants should bear in mind that booking an appointment may be more difficult than it was before COVID.
As such, we would like to provide an update on the current situation regarding appointment availability, and highlight some key pointers for applicants.
How many VACs are there in China?
UK VACs in China are run by VFS Global, a commercial partner engaged by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to provide UK visa services abroad. Currently, there are 15 visa application centres in China, in the following locations:
Are VACs in China currently open?
All 15 centres in China are currently open, but many are operating with reduced opening hours and maximum capacity limits. Some centres in the region are currently only open for two or three days a week, meaning fewer appointments are available to book each week.
Applicants should bear in mind that opening hours may be subject to change without notice, therefore we would advise all applicants to check the VFS Global website for the most up to date information. To check the current opening hours for your local VAC, please visit the VFS Global website here.
How can I find out the current appointment availability?
VFS Global releases a calendar of available appointments at regular intervals, which can be booked online by visa applicants or the immigration consultant working on their case.
Pre-COVID, the appointment calendar for VACs in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region would show the available time slots for the next 28 day period. Each time slot could then be booked by two or three applicants.
However, due to shorter opening hours and fewer available slots, many VACs are currently releasing their appointment calendars at shorter notice, with applicants only able to view availability for the next few days or a week.
Where clients were previously able to book an appointment weeks in advance, there is now a greater sense of urgency around booking, with many applicants only having a few days to a week’s notice to prepare for their appointment.
Will I be able to book a free appointment?
Most VACs in China are currently releasing a very limited number of standard, free of charge appointments on the booking system.
SSW Immigration Consultant Betty Cheung said: “Some VACs will release up to four free appointments for each working day, whereas others are only offering free appointments on one particular day of the week. Recently I have found some centres are not providing free appointments at all. So far nearly all of my clients have attended premium appointments during COVID.”
Due to the lack of availability for free appointments, most clients are currently facing no other option but to pay out for one of VFS Global’s ‘Premium Lounge’ appointments in order to complete their application submission.
Which priority services are available?
The majority of appointment slots available to book are currently Premium Lounge appointments, which cost CNY 449 at present. By booking a premium appointment, applicants will receive:
- A separate lounge with personalised service from staff
- Photocopying service for documents
- Courier return of passport
Furthermore, applicants who want to receive a faster decision on their visa application may wish to take advantage of the priority services offered at some VACs. These services will incur an additional charge, as follows:
- Priority service – This service costs CNY 2077 and applicants using this service can expect to receive a decision on their application within five working days from submitting their biometrics.
- Super priority service – This service costs CNY 9023 and aims to provide a decision within 24 hours.
Details of priority services can be found on the VFS Global website here.
Key tips for applicants
- If you choose to book one of the premium lounge appointments, please note that the payment must be made online in advance and cannot be paid in cash at the centre.
- The fee for premium appointments may be adjusted at any time without notice. SSW advises applicants to check the VFS Global website, or speak to a SSW consultant for the latest fees.
- All applicants attending appointments will be required to observe COVID safety precautions, and certain VAC buildings may be subject to additional access requirements.
- Appointment availability will vary between different centres. However, in order to view the appointment availabilities, the applicant needs to select and confirm which VAC they would like to visit first. Once the VAC is selected and confirmed on the booking system, it cannot be changed to another VAC. In other words, a new application form need to be drafted and submitted again to make a change of VAC.
Help with filing a UK visa in China
If you require personalised support or advice on filing a UK visa in China, Smith Stone Walters can help.
Our friendly team of immigration consultants based in our Hong Kong office are on hand to offer practical guidance on a range of visa application types.
To speak to a member of the team, please contact us today.