It has recently been announced that from 25 March 2014 UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) will be working in conjunction with Teleperformance (operating as FedEx) to deliver visa services in Rwanda. This is also the date on which the visa application desk at the British High Commission in Kigali will close and these operations will shift to a new Visa Application Centre. The address of this new centre is Blue Star House Plot no. 1236, Boulevard de l’Umuganda, Kacyiru Sector, Gasabo District, Kigali, Rwanda. Opening hours for the centre will be Monday to Friday, 08:00 – 12:30.
Due to contracting a private company to assist with UK visa applications, an additional charge will be levied on many applications, including family categories, i.e. UK settlement fiancee, partner and marriage visas. As of the same date, the majority of applicants will be required to pay a “User Pays charge” of £59.00 on top of the standard visa application fee. This works out as approximately 66,900 RWF at the current exchange rate. This additional fee will not apply to current ‘gratis’ categories such as those which apply to diplomatic passport holders who may require a UK visa for official visits. Such passport holders will also not need to visit the Visa Application Centre and will also not need to submit biometric data. In fact, diplomatic passport holders will not have to pay the standard application fee either.
Other than the physical change of address for UK visa applications and the newly introduced fee, the visa application process is largely the same. Applications must initially be made online, and then a visit to the Visa Application Centre will need to be made. UK visa applications submitted in Kigali are forwarded to the Decision Making Centre in Nairobi, Kenya by a commercial courier; upon receipt, Entry Clearance Officers will review the application and make a decision. This decision will then be returned to the Visa Application Centre, or in some cases directly to the applicant. The time it takes to process visa applications is expected to remain the same, and no Visa Application Centre staff will play any role in the decision-making process.
The opening of this new Visa Application Centre in Kigali, Rwanda is not unique, as many similar centres are being opened around the world to deal with UK visa applications. The main reasons behind the outsourcing of much of the visa application process to commercial entities is to deliver greater customer services, provide a more efficient application process, and to introduce new premium and priority services.
Although many Visa Application Centres around the world are not subject to additional application charges, it is not always possible for this to be the case, and Kigali is one of the locations where the additional charge mentioned above is implemented. Despite previous applications being made at the British High Commission not being subject to an additional charge, this fee is deemed as necessary in order to move to new premises and offer a better service. It also funds the cost of returning applications directly to the customer via courier.