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UKVI announces outsourcing of customer enquiries to Sitel UK from 1 June

Date of Publication: 
31 May 2017

Overseas customers to face new charge of £5.48 for an email exchange with UKVI

UKVI announces outsourcing of customer enquiries to Sitel UK from 1 June

31 May 2017

The Home Office's UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) arm announced yesterday that it is outsourcing all its customer enquiries to the company Sitel UK from tomorrow.

UKVI said it is taking the measure to reduce costs and ensure customers "make an appropriate contribution" to the system.

In a press release UKVI noted that customers applying from outside the UK will face the following changes:

• all phone numbers and opening hours will change

• the number of languages offered is reducing to 8 including English

• customers who contact UK Visas and Immigration by email will be charged £5.48

There will be no changes to services if you are contacting UKVI from inside the UK.

UKVI clarified that the email charge for customers applying from outside the UK includes the first email enquiry and any follow-up emails to and from the contact centre relating to the same enquiry.

The Independent noted that the 8 languages in which services will be offered are English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, French, Hindi, Russian and Spanish, as other languages make up only four per cent of the total number of volume of calls and emails received.

The International Business Times reported that many social media commentators expressed outrage at the new email charge.

The Independent said that the move is likely to worry the hospitality industry.

The chief executive of the British Hospitality Association warned earlier this year that UK's reputation as "a hospitable and welcoming nation" was at risk, and was quoted as saying: "We are very concerned about the tonality of statements and messages going out from Government."

Barrister Jan Doerfel said that that the email charge on top of the already "immense" existing visa fees added insult to injury and constituted a dangerous precedent for charging for customer services more broadly.