The Home Office has announced the introduction of the new in-country visa application system from November 2018. These changes will see the Home Office unify the application process for in-country and out-of-country applications. The Home Office has not changed the way applications are submitted for some time (the only change over the last few years being the move to online submission forms) and those who are used to the current system should ensure they are ready for the changes.
If successful, this change could streamline the application process. However, as with all new systems, some "teething" problems are to be expected.
The new process will include the online application form with limited submission options (i.e. no premium service). Once submitted, an additional "account" would need to be set up on the new provider's website.
An applicant would then need to attend one of the new UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UK VCAS) centres to submit their biometrics and documents.
UK VCAS centres
The first VCAS centres opened in the UK on the 5 November 2018. All current Premium Service Centres will close on 29 November 2018.
The applicants will have the choice to use one of 57 Service Points throughout the UK, which are opening in a phased programme:
|Period (Week Commencing)||Service Point Opening|
|12th November 2018||Aberdeen
|19th November 2018||Belfast
Shepherds Bush (London)
|26th November 2018||Barbican (London)
Canning Town (London)
East Ham (London)
Shoe Lane (London)
Once the applicant submits their biometrics and documents, the information will be verified and the documents returned to the applicant.
It is important to note that even though an applicant will have their passport returned to them, they will NOT be allowed to travel out of the UK until a decision on the application has been made. It is therefore vital to ensure applications are made in sufficient time, taking into account any upcoming travel for the applicant.
Applicants in the UK seeking to remain in the UK or to settle permanently in the UK will be eligible to use the new service from 5 November 2018.
Some of the eligible routes are:
- Tier 1 (Investor)
- Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
- Tier 2 (General)
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)
- PBS Dependant – partner
- PBS Dependant – child
- 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
- Registration certificate as an EEA or Swiss national
- Document certifying permanent residence as an EEA or Swiss national
- British citizenship by naturalisation
- Register for British citizenship as a child under 18
- Update, replace or transfer – biometric residence permit
Applicants on the remaining routes will continue to need to use the existing service until January 2019.
New UK Visa Application System Timeline:
- 2 November: appointment booking tool went live
- 5 November: new UK VCAS centres started to open around the UK; all locations will be open by 29 November 2018
- 5 – 29 November 2018: the majority of applicants can choose whether to enrol their biometrics and submit their documents via these new centres or use the existing processes.
- 29 November: Premium Service Centres will close
- January 2019: Service and Support Centres will open.
What should businesses be doing now to prepare?
The new process promises to be streamlined and efficient. However, the removal of the Premium Service (as we currently have it) is worrying. A significant number of applicants are required to travel regularly for business and therefore need guaranteed timelines to work within. The current guidance published provides no service standards under the new system.
We would therefore suggest any applications made after 29 November 2018 are made in good time and applicants understand that there are no guaranteed timescales or precedents to work with at this stage.
In light of the new system and changes we strongly recommend you review all Tier 2 sponsored workers who will require an extension in the next six months.