PT AGS Visa Solutions was founded in 2014 by Daniel Choat, former Country Manager of the UK Visa and Immigration department at the British Embassy in Jakarta. Noticing a potential opportunity in the market to share his knowledge of the UK visa and nationality system, his visa and immigration consultancy business was born.
Two and a half years later, PT AGS Visa Solutions’ core business is to assist travellers who wish to obtain any type of UK visa, ranging from tourist, business, student, family and spouse, as well as the investor and entrepreneur visas. Daniel and his team also assist expats in obtaining or renewing UK passports. He talks to us about the latest trends his industry is seeing, and shares UK and Europe travel tips for expats in mixed relationships.
Daniel, who makes up the majority of your clientele?
Indonesians with a love of travel to the UK – our client base here ranges from families who like the UK as a tourist or business destination as well as expats with Indonesian partners who enjoy regular travel to the UK.
Before you started AGS Visa Solutions you used to work as an immigration officer in the UK, working at various airports. How did you end up working in Indonesia?
Whilst working as an Immigration Officer, the opportunity for an overseas posting with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) came about. I was fortunate enough to be posted to the British Embassy in Jakarta in 2010.
What trends are you noticing?
A lot of UK expats are heading back home with their Indonesian families. This is noticeable certainly within the oil and gas industry. Having said that, we’re actually seeing younger expats generally in their 20s-30s come to Indonesia and use our services for UK passports and UK visas for their partners and children as they settle here. Travel from Indonesia to the UK for business purposes is on the increase, as well as for their love of watching Premier League football! We are also assisting to identify and help clients process the two and five-year validity visit visas.
What kind of work are these new expats in?
In Bali, the majority are doing their own business, whether it’s digital, or investments, whereas our Jakarta-based clients are more in the education sector.
What about mixed relationship trends?
Traditionally our clients involved in mixed nationality relationships are expats based in Indonesia. However, perhaps the impact of social media alongside the growing awareness of Indonesia from within the UK now means we are regularly contacted by UK-based clients who wish to invite their friends or loved ones for a holiday and who have maybe only visited Indonesia themselves a few times.
How many Indonesians travel to the UK and is this figure rising?
Last year there were around 38,000 UK visa applications in Indonesia.
Since arriving in 2010 I have noticed the figure has steadily grown. I firmly believe that the number has potential to be a lot higher.
You assist with obtaining UK passports. What challenges do parents of mixed marriages have when trying to get a passport for their child?
This is always an interesting area because it depends on whether the parents are married at the time of birth. If they’re not married, the father won’t be on the Indonesian birth certificate and this potentially throws up a difficult case. The good news is that there are ways to navigate this but it does involve additional time and processes mainly on the Indonesian documentation side.
What factors would make someone a bad applicant for a UK visa?
For a visit visa application to be successful, the applicants need to demonstrate that they’ve got a genuine reason to travel to the UK, whilst being able to maintain and accommodate themselves and cover all expenses related to their visit. Most importantly, they need to show that they’ve got intention and motivation of departing the UK – employment, study, property, family life are all good ways to demonstrate that they will leave the UK at the end of the visit.
A message I try to get across to people is that all UK visa applications are assessed on their own merits and people’s individual circumstances are looked at closely; there isn’t one set of documents that will work for everyone, and what might have worked for a close friend might not necessarily be what you need to submit with your application.
How is business?
Initially I started on the top floor of a house in Pondok Indah with a part-time member of staff, and today we’re here at our office in Kuningan with an established team of five staff. We’re looking at setting up branch offices in Bali, which is our aim for 2016. Our client base there is steadily growing and it will be exciting times for us when we have the office fully up and running.
After Bali, do you have further plans to expand?
After Bali we will look at Surabaya. UKVI have recently opened a UK visa application centre there, so naturally that is where we will look to have a presence so we can support and expand our client base. We are also getting a name for ourselves in Balikpapan and Batam, so perhaps they will be on the cards for 2017!
You service people going to the UK – ever thought about servicing UK citizens who want to come to Indonesia?
That area is pretty well covered here and there are some good consultants delivering that product. Personally, I find UK immigration law a lot more straightforward and we are able to deliver a reliable and consistent service. Stick to what you know best is my theory.
Can you tell us about how European expats married to Indonesians can take advantage of their freedom of movement right when travelling to Europe?
An example of this would be where an Indonesian is married to a UK national. If they wish to travel to France, then instead of applying for a basic Schengen tourist visa they should apply for an EEA/EU family permit, which is free of charge and allows the Indonesian national to exercise the same EEA/EU treaty rights as the UK national. It is reciprocal for a French national married to an Indonesian national who wants to travel to the UK; they could potentially obtain a free of charge EU/EEA family permit from the UK Embassy.
41 years after the last referendum, the UK has voted to leave the European Union. As a British citizen, how do you feel about this decision and will it have an affect on Indonesians wishing to travel to the UK and Europe?
If we do exit, the next few years will be interesting as there will need to be a lot of reform and change to policy across many areas, including that of immigration.
Most expats I have spoken to have already felt the fall in value of the GBP.
Our Indonesian clients who wish to travel to the UK and apply for UK visit visas should not really be impacted by the Brexit; it will actually provide them an opportunity to take advantage of the exchange rate and see their spending money go that little bit further.
Is the EU treaty right still relevant now with the Brexit?
Because the UK will remain a member of the EU for as long as it takes to negotiate the exit deal, it means there will be no immediate impact at this moment. You will still be able to travel freely in the EU and therefore non-EU/EEA nationals married to Brits and Europeans will be able to exercise their freedom of movement across the EU. It is possible that the UK will accept the continuation of free movement in order to retain preferential access to the single market, in which case you will continue to be able to travel freely in the EU. If not, there may be limitations on the ability of British nationals to live and work in EU countries and that will then impact spouses and family members accordingly.
What is your visa application success rate?
We are well up around the 99 percent mark, which is pretty high considering we have been consulting for two and a half years. We cannot guarantee anyone a visa because the Embassy will always have the final word, and we will only assist people who meet the requirements and criteria. On a regular basis we do advise clients that perhaps their circumstances are not quite strong enough at the moment but will point out how they could in the future be able to meet the requirements and successfully obtain a visa.
Do you think enough Indonesians travel to the UK?
There are some UK government initiatives that are tasked with driving the tourist/business and student visa numbers up and they regularly promote the UK in Indonesia. I would like to see more efforts made and would happily support them as the number of applications from Indonesia could increase significantly. Sadly the UK visa application process deters many travellers. However, we are here to help!
Can you tell us more about the investor and entrepreneur visas?
Investor and entrepreneur visas are very popular in China, sadly not so popular in Indonesia, and I think again that is due to lack of awareness. There are many families and individuals in Indonesia whom the investor or entrepreneur visa could really benefit. The entrepreneur visa covers people who want to set up a business in the UK, whilst the investor visa is more suited to those who can invest £2,000,000 or more in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
What challenges do you face?
The last minute culture here is a challenge. My advice would be if you’ve got a thought about travelling to the UK, then start thinking about the visa. Don’t underestimate the benefits of allocating time for the visa process. People also don’t like to give up their passport for three weeks whilst the visa is under process; having identified this we have found solutions to help our clients with both matters and deliver their UK visa on time.
Thank you, Daniel. For more information, email: [email protected]