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Home Office introduces new in-country visa application process – what you need to know (12 November 2018)

Date: 12/11/2018
Duncan Lewis, Business Immigration Solicitors, Home Office introduces new in-country visa application process – what you need to know

On 2 November 2018 the Home Office published and announced a new system of submitting in-country visa applications. Here we detail exactly what you need to know about the system and how we can assist in your immigration matter.

The new system involves submitting an application online, in anticipation of the closure of all Home Office premium centres by 29 November 2019.

A new centre was set up on 9 November 2018 and is managed by a private company called Sopra Steria. The Home Office has awarded the French outsourcing company a £91m contract to develop a digital visa and immigration service in the UK.

Under the contract, Sopra Steria’s UK visas & immigration (UKVI) application service will be accessible from over 60 locations across the UK, including 56 local libraries, at UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services centres (UKVCAS). Applicants will first have to complete the online application for their chosen visa, in addition to paying the biometric enrolment fee, before attending one of the centres through a scheduled appointment.

After submitting your application and paying your enrolment fee, you will be redirected to Sopra Steria’s website to book in an appointment at a UKVCAS centre. Alternatively, you can purchase a Premium Service Centre appointment for an extra charge. You will be offered appointments to choose from within 5 days of making your application. You will be sent a reminder of your appointment 15 days prior to your appointment. If you have dependents attached to your application (including minor children), they must also attend the appointment.

Under the new system you can submit your biometric information, including photos, fingerprints, and signatures online in a single appointment; this means that you will be able to retain your most important documents, including your passport. Alternatively, this information can be scanned during the appointment for an additional fee. The evidence will then be copied and sent to UK Visas and Immigration.

If you are applying for visas to work, study, settle or gain citizenship from within the UK, you will be able to make appointments to use the new service centres. This system is not available for visa applications made for countries outside the UK, or by applicants who are based outside the UK.

The first centre, which opened in Manchester on 9 November 2018, will be followed by new centres in Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Croydon. The standard VCAS appointments are free unless you purchase an enhanced one day service. There will be 50 Premium Service Centres nationally, which will be available to customers for a charge, as well as a premium lounge which is to be located in London.

The Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:

“We are committed to delivering a modern, convenient and easy to use service for UKVI customers.

“These new service centres located across the country are a key part of our vision for a system that supports its customers and provides peace of mind whilst they are making an application”

Who can access this new service?

Customers seeking leave to remain in the UK or to settle permanently on the following routes on or after 2 November 2018, will be given a choice between using the existing service offered through the Post Office, a Premium Service Centre (subject to availability) or the new UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS):

  • Tier 1 (Investor)

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

  • Tier 2 (General)

  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer): graduate trainee

  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer): long term staff

  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)

  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson)

  • Tier 4 (General) student

  • Tier 4 (Child) student

  • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker)

  • Points-Based System (PBS) dependent: partner

  • PBS dependent: child

  • Member of HM forces or their dependents

  • Turkish businessperson or worker

  • Dependent partner of a Turkish businessperson or worker (ECAA 3: dependent partner)

  • Dependent child of a Turkish businessperson or worker (ECAA 3: dependent child)

  • Settle or extend your leave in the UK: Turkish ECAA categories only

  • Settle in the UK: long residence

  • Settle in the UK: child

  • Settle in the UK: partner of a person or parent of a child already settled in the UK

  • Settle in the UK: HM forces category

  • Settle in the UK: refugee or humanitarian protection

  • Settle in the UK: certain categories

  • British citizenship by naturalisation

  • Register for British citizenship as a child under 18

  • Register as a British citizen

  • Update, replace or transfer: biometric residence permit

  • Other leave to remain applications within the Rules (unless noted below)

  • Apply for a Home Office travel document

If you are applying through one of the below routes, you will not be able to use the new service and will continue to use the existing service:

  • to join family members in the UK as a dependant, other than a PBS dependant, armed forces dependant or ECAA dependant

  • for family reunion with a refugee or person with humanitarian protection

  • on the basis of statelessness

  • as a victim of domestic violence under the specific route

  • making further submissions after a failed protection claim

  • to only enroll your biometric information

  • for a fee waiver or fee exemption

  • apply for a certificate of right of abode

  • apply for a registration certificate as an European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national

  • apply for a document certifying permanent residence as an EEA or Swiss national

By January 2019, UKVI will start opening dedicated Service and Support Centres (SSCs). You must apply using the existing service until then if you’re applying for these routes.

These service centres will be for:

  • 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 enroll their biometric information

From 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. During the application process you will be advised about which services you are able to use.

The customers who can use the UKVCAS 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

It should also be noted that over the next few months, the majority of the applications for leave to remain accessed through the Home Office website will be deleted. The Home Office confirms to publish more information soon.

If you require assistance with an immigration matter, contact Immigration Director Tamana Aziz whose practice includes immigration applications under EU law, business immigration under the Points Based System, complex appeals (including deportation and country guidance cases) in Immigration Tribunals, the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Tamana also advises employers and provides bespoke training on subjects such as compliance with the Home Office’s Prevention of Illegal Working regime and how to use the online sponsorship management system. In addition, Tamana advises high net worth and skilled individuals on extending Tier 2 (General) visas, spousal applications, applications for settlement and British Citizenship. Tamana also has significant experience assisting clients with immigration applications under EU law.

For expert advice and support with your cases, contact Tamana on tamanaa@duncanlewis.com, or 020 3114 1130.

Duncan Lewis Immigration Solicitors

Our Immigration department is ranked as a top-tier practice in Immigration: human rights, appeals and overstay matters in The Legal 500 2019. As leading immigration specialists we advise on business immigration, right to work in the UK, Tier 2 visa applications, student/graduate visas, spousal visas and visa overstays.

Our broad practice provides a full service to SME business clients across the UK in relation to the Points Based System (PBS); Sponsorship license applications and immigration strategy/compliance advice. Our specialist solicitors are also able to advise businesses and individuals on any changes to UK immigration law during Brexit negotiations and after 29 March 2019, post-Brexit.

For expert legal advice call Duncan Lewis immigration solicitors on 033 3772 0409.

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