x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Olympics fans urged to apply early for visas

As the London Olympics draw closer the British embassy is warning residents to complete their visa applications early to make sure they don't miss ¿the greatest show on earth¿.

ABU DHABI // Tourists who want to attend the London Olympics should submit visa applications early if they hope to see the "greatest show on Earth", the British Embassy has warned.

"The most important thing is for people to apply early so you will not be disappointed," said the British ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey.

There are no changes to the UK's visa policy for the Olympics, he added, but "what we are about is facilitating getting people there and making that as efficient and painless as possible".

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) and British government will put more staff on duty at airports to ensure visitors experience a quick and efficient arrival.

"We are very confident of our visa policy and the security behind it," said Mr Jermey. "What will change is that we will secure very quick passage through London airports."

The British Embassy in Abu Dhabi processes visa applications for residents of GCC countries and Pakistan, and expects a large rise in submissions ahead of the Games.

"We process more than 200,000 applications every year but we expect to see an upsurge during June and July," Mr Jermey said. "Usually we process about 50,000 applicants during those two months."

A premium service is in place, where feedback on applications is provided within 24 hours.

"The turnaround is usually five days for Emiratis and other Gulf nationals," Mr Jermey said.

According to UKBA, 90 per cent of visa applications for other nationalities takes between five days and three weeks. A special Olympic visa for Emirati athletes and their families has been set up.

"We began last year establishing a special Olympic visa for athletes and their families to get them to the UK," Mr Jermey said. "The local committees have been very involved with that. We are delighted there will be very strong representation from the UAE in London."

The Games begin on July 27 and end on August 12, and the ambassador said the British capital was well prepared.

"We saw London host more than 1.2 million visitors during the Diamond Jubilee weekend, when the security was very tight and manageable but you didn't feel it at all."

Despite being one of the largest security operations in the country's history, Mr Jermey stressed the approach would be as unobtrusive as possible.

"The intention and philosophy behind the security is that it should feel like London on a normal busy day," Mr Jermey said. "For that to happen, you need a great deal of work to go in to it.

"For the very first time since the Second World War, there is a British battleship on the river Thames and we are deploying our air force.

"In terms of policing, the Metropolitan Police is one of the largest in the world and is very experienced."

Cooperation between local and international police will help ensure things run smoothly.

""People coming into Heathrow and getting through immigration and going to different locations will sense the normal feel of UK security, which is very low key," Mr Jermey said.

The UAE will field strong Olympic and Paralympic teams in London, Mr Jermey said.

"I am delighted with the UAE football team but people might be less familiar with the Paralympic powerlifting team and shooting team," he said.

"But what I'm really focused on is the UAE-Great Britain football match on July 29."

amustafa@thenational.ae