Chandigarh, May 5: Visa applications from India to the UK are showing an annual growth of 25 per cent, with as many as five lakh Indians visiting Britain last year, British High Commissioner Michael Arthur said today.
''We have the biggest visa operations in India, showing a 25 per cent growth rate every year. Last year, as many as five lakh Indians visited Britain while four lakh British visited India,'' Sir Arthur said while talking to reporters after the launch of a Visa Facilitation Service (VSF) office here.
The VSF offices, which had been set up at ten other places in by a business process outsource agency VFS (India) Pvt Ltd, would act as one stop shops for the total service of visa requirements to the UK.
''Once your application has been lodged, the entire process of issuing visa takes only 48 hours before your passport is couriered to you,'' he said.
The Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in Britain constituted two per cent of the country's population, which was the same as the Sikh polpulation in India, Sir Arthur said.
Punjabis had the highest population among the NRIs, he said and admitted that Punjabis probably had the highest number among the Indians entering Britain illegally.
The British High Commisioner said while his country was liberal with those seeking ''front-door entry'' it was cracking down hard on before seeking ''back-door entry.'' He said Britain would introduce the biometric identification system by next year or within two years wherein the fingerprints of the visa seekers would be taken for purpose of identification.
Biometric identification, would make the system more safe and secure, Sir Arthur said.
Britain would also introduce the Iris Scan system for regular travellers soon wherein the visitors would just look into the scanning machine and their identification would be verified, he said.
Replying to a question, the High Commisioner expressed concern over the practice of misappropriation of funds raised in the name of temples and gurdwaras in the UK.
''Cross-border flow of money should be handled with responsiblity,''he said.
The problem could be tackled more effectively when India would become a member of Financial Action Task Force of which Britain was already a member, he added.