I wanted to let you know how we are handling two issues that are impacting on our overseas operations.
You are probably aware that the visa section in the Mexican embassy has been closed alongside the FCO consular services in response to cases of swine flu in Mexico City and other locations in Mexico. Staff in the Mexico office are now focusing their efforts on providing essential consular services for UK nationals.
The move to close the visa section in the Mexican embassy was in line with Mexican Secretariat of Health advice to people to avoid crowds. The aim is to reduce the risk both to staff and those who might be attending the Embassy to apply for a visa. It will remain closed this week and we will keep this decision under review.
The visa operation in Mexico is relatively small - we normally receive about 100 applications a month, with the decisions being made in New York. We are contacting applicants who have already made an application to consider returning passports. Up to date information - including details of alternative locations to make a visa application - can be found at www.visainfoservices.com under "Mexico" on the drop down menu.
We are keeping our operations in other countries under review in light of the changing situation, but will ensure that any further closures are clearly communicated to applicants on our website and through regular communication with relevant stakeholders.
You may also be aware of some delays to our normal services in some cases. The delay being experienced by some applicants is a residual effect of a problem with a server earlier this month. There has been no loss of data and the problem has not compromised security.
We are currently trying to fix the problem but in the meantime are rectifying individual incidents manually. This has resulted in a delay for some visa applications. We are working to clear these as quickly as possible but should anyone require urgent travel to the UK they should contact their local visa application centre or mission.
Finally, on a positive note, I am pleased to report that the visa application centre in Mirpur re-opened this week following a lengthy closure to upgrade building security in the wake of the Islamabad Marriott bombing in September.
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