The United Kingdom (UK) is welcoming record numbers of Filipino visitors to its shores with over 49,000 UK visas issued to Filipinos in the 12 months to March 2014, with a 27 percent growth in tourists and business visitors.
The growth in visitors shows the strong appeal of the UK in tourism, culture, sport and innovation. With a wider range of flight options, it has never been easier or faster to get to London from Manila.
British Ambassador to the Philippines, Asif Ahmad said that, “It is great to see our people-to-people links growing in such a way that we are seeing more Filipinos travelling to the UK not just for sightseeing but also to do business.”
“The GREAT campaign we launched last year showcased the UK as a destination that offers a diverse range of attractions from historical sites to modern architectural designs, world-class universities and inspiring commercial enterprises. We want to welcome even more Filipino visitors in the coming 12 months,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad also dispelled misconceptions that it is difficult for Filipino travelers to get a UK visa.
“Over 90 percent of Filipinos who apply for a tourist or business visit visa are successful. We encourage you to apply early and have with you all the necessary documents when you go for your appointment. Be clear about the purpose of your visit. There are additional services you may want to look into, such as the priority visa service and Prime Time service, for those who need a bit more flexibility.”
To cater to growing demand, there have been a number of recent enhancements to the UK visa service to improve customers’ experience and make the journey to the UK an easier one.
These include: a bigger and better visa application centre in Manila with more facilities and the GREAT campaign branding to highlight the best that Britain has to offer; a new international visa enquiry centre: www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-outside-uk; a visa application centre in Cebu City to cater to customers in the Visayas and nearby regions; a premium lounge for a more personalized and streamlined service; An optional priority visa service that returns visa decisions within 3 to 5 working days; a Prime Time service for those who need the convenience of an out of hours appointment; a Passport Passback service for those who may need to travel or apply for another visa while their UK one is being processed; and more streamlined visa guidance at www.gov.uk/visas-immigration.
Details of additional services are on the VFS global visa application centre website: www.vfsglobal.co.uk/philippines.
Frequent visitors to the UK may wish to consider applying for a long-term visit visa. Long-term visit visas are available for 1, 2, 5, or 10 years. The long-term visa has the same conditions as a regular 6 months visit visa but is valid for a longer period for you to travel in and out of the UK. This means you will only need to make one application and provide biometrics once for the entire duration of the visa. Details are at www.gov.uk/business-visitor-visa.
According to the Philippine Embassy in London, there are about 200,000 Filipinos in the UK based on 2013 data. However, it is estimated that about 85 percent of them are either British citizens or permanent residents already. The said figure includes Filipino spouses and their children. The rest of the Filipinos are still on work visas. There are also those on student visas in the UK and some number of undocumented or irregular Filipino workers who are believed to have overstayed beyond the validity period of their entry visas.
Most of the Filipinos in the UK are working in the health sector as nurses, care givers, radiographers, and others. A good number of Filipinos can also be found working in the household sector as nannies, housekeepers/domestic workers, drivers, cleaners, and the like. Also there are Filipinos working as accountants, salesmen, marketing agents, chefs, hotel and restaurant workers, overhead electricians, pipe welders, and many others.
Filipino workers can be found in almost all parts of the UK. However, about 70 percent of them are concentrated in the Greater London area and England. The rest are distributed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.