The British High Commissioner yesterday announced the launch of a new fast track visa pilot scheme for selected companies in Sri Lanka.
Twenty companies have been invited by UK Trade and Investment and the UK Border Agency to be members of the pilot Business Express Programme, the British High Commission said in a statement.
As part of the pilot scheme, the UK Border Agency will put in place special arrangements for company members of this programme. This will include, for an additional fee, expediting the processing of UK business visitor visa applications for company employees.
UK is one of Sri Lanka’s most important markets in terms of export of goods. Sri Lanka exported over $ 1 billion worth of goods to UK in 2010. The UK exported goods to Sri Lanka worth almost $ 200 m and even greater value in terms of services, such as education and financial services.
There are over 100 companies in the Sri Lankan market, with strong trading links with the UK, the statement added.
The UK Border Agency processes most visa applications from Sri Lanka in Chennai. Business visitor visa applications made by company members of the Business Express Programme will be processed in Colombo. Applications under Tier 2 of the points based system will continue to be processed in Chennai.
“I am delighted to see this service launched in Sri Lanka. This pilot scheme is intended to directly support those Sri Lankan companies whose employees undertake a significant amount of business travel to the UK, or otherwise invest in the UK. In 2010, the UK was Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner, by volume. This initiative demonstrates the UK Government’s continuing support for those strong and enduring business links. I hope this pilot scheme proves successful and strengthens the existing Sri Lanka-UK trade relationship,” British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka John Rankin said.
Regional Director of the UK Border Agency Thomas Greig added: “I am pleased that the UK Border Agency and UK Trade and Investment are working together to provide this service. The Business Express Programme will offer an enhanced visa service to a select group of companies. In addition, the UK Border Agency and its commercial partner VFS Global are committed to providing an efficient service to all our customers in Sri Lanka.”