Changes to UK visa and citizenship application services
New UK visa and citizenship services
From November 2018, the Home Office will be introducing a new service for customers promising to provide an intuitive, streamlined and faster process.
UK Visas and Immigration has set out the changes in this helpful presentation which can be accessed here.
In summary, the new service aims to provide:
- An online application process for most routes including a streamlined and intuitive form;
- The option to purchase additional service for enhanced speed and convenience;
- A digital process for uploading key documents and personal information for decision makers to be consider, allowing for most applicants to retain valuable documentation such as their passports;
- A self-service kiosk for applicants to upload documentation;
- A faster and more efficient service;
- Mobile applications creating flexible and ‘on-demand’ services; and
- Additional support for those requiring assistance with the application process.
New UK VCAS centres
New UK VCAS centres will replace the current Premium Service Centres which will begin to close from 29 November 2018.
From 2 November 2018, applicants can book appointments at the new UK VCAS centres. The new centres are opening from 5 November 2018 on a gradual basis. All centres will be opened by the week commencing 26 November 2018.
Once opened, applicants will be able to choose from one of 57 service points throughout the UK meaning applicants will be able to choose the most convenient location for them.
Core centres will open in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Croydon.
There will also be 50 enhanced service centres nationally. These will be located in local libraries and available to customers for a charge. There will also be a premium lounge located in central London. The locations of the ‘Enhanced Service Points’ can be found here.
Between 5 November 2018 to 29 November 2018, applicants will be able to choose whether they submit their documents and biometrics at the new centres, and through the new process, or whether they use existing process through the Premium Service Centres. However, from 29 November, the new service must be used.
The new application process promises to deliver an intuitive online application process.
After submitting the online form, applicants will be able to upload their key documents to the new secure online system. There will be no need to provide paper copies of these documents.
Applicants will then be required to pay the application fee and purchase any additional services they require. These are set out below, but will include the option to stick with the standard service, or opt for the priority service.
Applicants will also be able to choose from a number of service centre locations to book their in-person appointment.
At the centres
After applications have been submitted, applicants will be expected to attend a UK VCAS centre to enrol their biometrics and to verify their passports.
There will be a number of booths or kiosks at the UK VCAS centres which will enable the verification of passports, meaning the passport can be retained by the applicant, and the self-service enrolment of biometrics.
Although a free service (i.e. no additional charge on top of the application fee) will be available, the Home Office will provide a range of optional and chargeable ‘added-value’ services including the use of mobile apps and on-demand services.
These services will include:
- A documentation checking service;
- Extended opening hours;
- A premium lounge;
- Immigration Services;
- Translation Services;
- Next day appointments; and
- ‘On-demand’ VIP services meaning the Home Office will attend at a location of the applicant’s choice.
There will also be commercial chargeable services including an ‘on-demand’ service for university campuses, employers’ offices or individual customers’ homes.
From January, a number of Service and Support Centres will open for use by applicants who need more support with making their application. This will be available for a small number of applicants.
What types of applications does this service apply to?
Initially this service will be used for in-country applications.
This new process will be available for 30 different visa routes and available to both applications for leave to remain and settlement applications within these categories.
A full list of the types of visas can be found here at page 11.
Applicants who are applying on routes not listed as being eligible for the new service, will need to continue to use the existing service until January 2019. These include those applying to join family members in the UK as dependants, other than PBS, armed forces or ECAA dependants. A full list of routes where the new service is not available is available here at page 11.
Online applications are the future
The online application forms will eventually become the norm for applications and paper applications will be phased out.
The Home Office has already announced that there is no need to supply original versions of documents. As stated above, applicants will be able to upload key documents to the online system.
What does this mean for applications?
The aim is for applications to ultimately be easier to manage and process, leading to an altogether quicker and more efficient service.
Some, however, have commented that the efficiency of the service may lead to greater scrutiny of applications. This could, in turn, lead to a higher number of refusals.
Of course, it is difficult to know the impact of the new system until it has been fully launched and implemented. It will be interesting to compare, in a few months time, how turn around times and refusal rates using the new system compare to the old system.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance in relation to using the new process or making an immigration application, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form.