New UKVI Front End Services
UKVI has started implementation of the new ‘digital’ changes to the process of the in-country applications. The new approach is currently being phased in, hoping to improve services and be more efficient. Caroline Nokes, The Minister of State for Immigration, has said that:
“UK Visas and Immigration aims to deliver a world-class customer experience that is competitive, flexible and accessible; and the launch of these new, more efficient front-end services this November is a big step towards that goal”.
It is therefore expected that applications process should become more streamlines, reduced waiting times for decisions and reduced risk of important documents being ‘misplaced’ by the Home Office.
These changes have already started taking place from this November 2018 and currently impacts a host of in-country applications for leave to remain and settlement in the UK, including, but not limited to, the following categories:
- PBS applications
- PBS Dependents: partner or child
- Turkish Businessperson
- Turkish Businessperson Dependent
- Settlement: Long residence
- Certain categories of Settlement
- Registering as British Citizen
- British Citizenship by naturalisation
- Application for Travel Document
- Update, replace or transfer of Biometric Residence card
It is expected that all other applications will also follow with these changes from January 2019.
At present, there is an option to complete online applications or to submit a paper application. However, it is expected that over the next few months all applications will have to be submitted online.
UKVI is introducing UKVCAS centres across the UK where applicants will attend after submitting their applications online.
The general process in most cases will be as follows:
- The applicant will submit their application online
- They will pay the appropriate application fee, biometric enrolment fee (if applicable)
- If applicable, the applicant will also need to pay the immigration health surcharge (if applicable) and include the reference number in their application
- Once the application is submitted, the applicant will be directed to a third party website, Sopra Steria, to book an appointment at a UKVCAS centre. At this stage, the applicant will be offered “Value-added services” which they may purchase.
The Sopra Steria website makes reference to what the “Value-added services” will include. They state that:
“UKVCAS will offer a range of additional services for those applicants requiring more support and convenience. Customers will be able to upload evidence from home before their appointment and have those documents checked in advance. A premium Lounge will be available in Central London and mobile services can be booked by businesses, universities, groups of applicants or individuals.
Added value services including immigration advice, translation and interpretation will also be available”
The advantages of this process:
With regard to the online applications, users will be led through an application process making it clear what they need to do at each stage, what supporting evidence they will need to provide and where they will need to go to complete their application.
When applicants attend their appointment, In most cases, they will have their supporting evidence returned to them immediately once the appointment is finished.
This includes their passport, which is a great advantage as the applicant will need to wait for the passport to be returned following a decision from the Home Office. Further, it eliminates the risk of passports and other important original documents being misplaced by the Home Office.
It is important to note that the applicant will not be permitted to travel whilst their application is being considered.
Service and Support Centres (“SSCs”)
Our London based immigration consultants found that in January 2019, UKVI will start opening dedicated Service and Support Centres for those applicants in the following routes:
- some customers applying under family route
- customers applying to join as a dependant
- customers applying for family reunion
- customers applying on the basis of statelessness
- customers who qualify for a fee waiver or fee exemption
- customers applying under the domestic violence route
- those making further submissions after a failed asylum claim
- some customers who are required to only enrol their biometric information
More information on these SSCs will be made available later this year.
Appointments at Premium Service Centres (“PSC”)
Between 29 November 2018 to 8 January 2019, for customers applying online for leave based on family life or private life who choose UKVI’s 24-hour decision service, there will be limited appointments available in the Premium Service Centres (PSCs) for those not able to use UKVCAS. The applicants will be advised about which services they will be able to use.
The applicants who can use this service will be those applying for leave based on family life or private life where one of the following conditions applies:
- they have no extant leave
- they are applying for the first time or are switching from an unrelated route
Whilst the intentions behind these procedural changes are great, only time will be able to tell how effective and efficient the y new procedures will be. The Home Office will be keeping us updated with the forthcoming changes and how this will impact the application process.
How we can help:
For more information about making an in-country application, get in touch to speak with an expert today:
T: 020 8935 5205
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