To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 12 February 2009, Official Report, columns 85-88WS, on departmental expenditure limits, under what circumstances UK visas are offered gratis to fans planning to visit the UK to attend sporting events; on how many occasions such visas were provided in 2007-08; and what the cost to his Department of such visas was, broken down by category of expenditure.
I have been asked to reply.
Gratis visas may be issued in a range of circumstances, commonly as a matter of international courtesy. This means that the visa applicant does not pay a fee for the application to be considered but another Government Department reimburses the Home Office for the lost fee income.
Our records show that in 2007-08 no gratis visas were issued to fans visiting the UK to attend sporting events.
In May 2008 we accepted 2,169 short-term visit visa applications from fans of FC Zenit St. Petersburg travelling to Manchester for the UEFA Cup Final without a fee being paid by the applicant, normally £65. This was in part in recognition of the waiver of visa requirement by the Russian Government for fans of Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC travelling to the UEFA Champions League Final in Moscow later in the same month, which Manchester United won on penalties. The cost to the FCO was £104,000 in reimbursing the Home Office for lost fee income. Our records show that this is the only occasion in 2008-09 to date where gratis visas have been issued to fans visiting the UK to attend sporting events.