UNITED KINGDOM – Home Office Releases More Details About Upcoming New Application Service
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has released further information about its upcoming new Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UK VACS). While the Home Office promises a more streamlined, intuitive process, implementation delays are likely, and applicants considered higher risk are likely to be subject to stricter scrutiny.
The new service, provided by French outsourcing specialist Sopra Steria, was announced in May 2018.
On 11 October 2018, the Home Office published the latest statement of changes to the Immigration Rules.
Then, in information sent to stakeholders, UKVI described the features of the new service, which include “streamlined” online applications and secure digital submission of document copies and biometric information.
New Application System
UK VACS will replace the existing system of postal applications and in-person submissions at Premium Service Centres, with new online application forms, digital document submission and biometrics appointments. Over the next few months, the majority of paper forms will be withdrawn and most UK-based customers will need to apply via GOV.UK, pay an application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (if applicable), and book an appointment. Appointments will be available for free in six major cities (Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Croydon) with an additional 50 local user-pay service centres located in libraries and a user-pay premium service point in central London. These centres will open around the country between 5 November and 29 November 2018, starting with Manchester. During this period, the legacy system will still be available as an alternative to the new system. More flexible, paid, “on-demand” (formerly known as Super Premium) and mobile application services will be available, for example at university campuses, employers’ offices or individual customers’ homes. At the appointment, applicants’ passports will be checked automatically, their biometric details captured and copies of their supporting documents (rather than originals) uploaded digitally. In most cases, the applicant’s will be able to take their passport away with them after this appointment. However, if they then choose to travel outside the common travel area their pending application for leave to remain will be treated as withdrawn. For other customers who may be in positions of vulnerability, or need more face-to-face help with their application, free appointments will be offered in seven dedicated Service and Support Centres (SSCs) from January 2019.
Employers who may be affected are encouraged to contact their immigration specialist for a case-by-case consultation.