The new UK Immigration system – what you need to know
Many of the best Immigration lawyers have long criticised the UK Immigration system. It’s incredibly complex, the interface between applicants and case workers is often hard to navigate, and applications are often expensive and time consuming, not to mention the length of time it can take for decisions to be forthcoming. In the face of mounting negative opinion from all sides, not just British Citizenship lawyers, Minister Caroline Noakes has announced that UK Visas and Immigration have launched a new and apparently more streamlined UK Immigration system, known as the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service.
Application, documentation and biometrics
One of the major issues with the UK Immigration system has been the lack of cohesion between different aspects of the process. Currently, in addition to the online application process, applicants send documents in to UK Visas and Immigration, and then enrol biometric information separately. The possibilities for documentation to be lost are huge, and as most UK Immigration lawyers will have experienced, arise not infrequently. The integrity of the process is open to challenge, but the reality of losing a passport or other vital identification document is one that many applicants for study or work visas, settlement and citizenship face. Under the new system, applicants will be able to attend at one of the new service centres where documents can be copied digitally by UK Visas and Immigration; biometric information can also be taken at the service centres reducing the application process to one appointment covering the application, documentation and biometric information.
Work and study visas, settlement and citizenship – the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service
Broadly speaking, the new UK Immigration system will be available to individuals, their partners and children coming to the UK under the points-based system, those looking to settle in the UK and those seeking British Citizenship. A full list of those who will have the opportunity to use the new UK Immigration system is available in recent government guidance.
Top UK Immigration solicitors have already noted that individuals in these categories will have the choice between making their application under the existing system making use of Post Office services or Premium Service Centres, to submit documentation, or by using the new UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service.
Paper-based applications to become obsolete
Government guidance indicates that over the coming months, paper-based applications for leave to remain and for settlement in the UK will become obsolete, replaced for the most part by online applications. These online applications do not need to be completed at the new service centres, but will be completed and the fee paid before attending at the service centre for an appointment as soon as possible after you have made the application. You’ll receive an electronic confirmation of your appointment which you will need to take with you.
Under the new UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service, when you attend for your appointment you will need to take your appointment confirmation and ID along with other required documentation including – photograph, documentary evidence such as passport or travel document. During the appointment, you will
• enrol your biometric information (fingerprints, photograph) and digital signature
• submit your supporting evidence (although you can choose to self-upload this)
• show your passport or travel document and have your identity checked
• verify that your biometric information has been enrolled and your passport and supporting evidence have been correctly scanned with a member of staff.
UK Visas and Immigration place great importance on attending an appointment as soon as possible after the application has been made, and appointments should be available within 5 working days of the application. Those who have not attended an appointment will be sent a reminder after 15 working days. All family members should attend the same appointment.
Additional Services available at UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service Centres
In addition to the biometric enrolment and digital copying of documents, the UKVCAS Centres will offer a range of additional, premium, services which applicants will be able to pay for to assist the smooth running of their application. Mobile services will be available to larger organisations such as businesses, universities and groups of applicants/individuals.
Service and Support Centres – a new service in 2019
Alongside the UK Visas and Citizenship Application Service which has just launched, in January 2019, a series of Service and Support Centres will be brought into use for those applying to come to the UK under different routes. The list of individuals who will have access to Service and Support Centres will include those applying to come to the UK as dependants, those applying on the basis of statelessness and those applying under the domestic violence route. UK Visas and Immigration advises that more information about the Service and Support Centres will be available nearer to the launch date. For now, the existing service should be used.
Immigration solicitors in London are waiting with interest to see how the new system will work. Giving the opportunity to deal with biometric enrolment and the making of digital copies of documentation at the same time may well make applications more efficient and reduce the chances of documentation being lost but whether the benefits are realised remains to be seen. Ultimately, while this is a change to how some Immigration applications under the UK Immigration system will be handled, there is no substantive change to the rules themselves, meaning that the underlying complexity of the UK’s Immigration system remains.
OTS Solicitors are Legal 500 recommended Immigration lawyers with wide ranging experience of dealing with all aspects of Immigration claims, both business and personal, under the UK Immigration system. For advice, support and assistance, please call us in confidence on 0203 959 9123.