New UK visa and immigration application process has now commenced

Top London immigration solicitors may speculate why the 5 November was chosen by Home Office officials to launch the new UKVI immigration application process. Maybe it is not an auspicious date given the potential for fireworks and complaints about the new application procedures. Recently visa applicants have made a lot of complaints about the delay in booking Premium Centre Service appointments, blaming the long waits on the imminent arrival of the new process UKVI process. 

Initially the new UKVI immigration application process will deal with in country applications but the Home Office has announced its intention to extend the scope of the applications dealt with under the UKVI scheme in due course. Top London immigration solicitors have welcomed the intentions behind the scheme, namely to simplify the immigration and visa application process and to make the venues that process immigration paperwork more accessible to applicants. Time will however be the true test of whether the new UKVI scheme is simpler and more efficient but the Home Office has said that:

• An IT service group is providing the new UKVI application process in over  57 locations across the UK, including libraries;

• The purpose of the new process is to help applicants submit their immigration documents quickly with the aim being to simplify the application procedure;

• There will be intuitive easy-to-use forms to make it easier for applicants to progress applications and there will also be the option to buy additional services should the applicant want more convenience or speed; 

• The new digital process will be more secure with applicants having the ability to submit personal information online;

• Applicants will be able to keep their immigration documents and travel documents while the UKVI considers the application; 

• Mobile application services will be provided and will be accessible at third party offices;

• There will be extra support for vulnerable applicants with financial support for travel costs and mobile services;

• Applicants will be able to pay for additional or premium services, for example a next day appointment or a document checking service. When filing their immigration application, applicants will have the choice of being able to select the UKVI standard or priority service and will then have the option to add on extra services such as the use of a premium lounge or the use of an on-demand mobile service resulting in the service coming to the applicant.

Timeline for the introduction of the new UKVI application process   

The new UKVI application process is being introduced in phases:

• 2nd November 2018: the new online booking system goes live; 

• 5th November 2018: the UK Visas and immigration Visa centres start to open – the openings will be phased. During the period from the 5 November to the 29 November applicants can either choose to submit their immigration  paperwork at one of the current Premium Service Centres or alternatively submit their documents to an official at the new visa application centres;

• 29th November 2018: deadline for the opening of all the UK Visas and immigration centres. All the Premium Service Centres will be closed.

The new UKVI centres

The Home Office has said that it expects that the majority of in-country applicants will make an online application using the new easy to use intuitive application form. The applicant will then be able to book an appointment at one of 57 new centres across the UK, including a premium service point in central London.

It is reported that the 57 centres will:

• Be equipped with hi-tech booths;

• Provide for the biometric enrolment process to be automated;

• Be speedier to use as it is anticipated that prior to arrival at the centre the applicant  will have already filed their application online as well as paid the application fee and uploaded their evidence;

• At the centre the applicant’s passport will be verified automatically and biometrics will be taken. The applicant will be able to leave with their passport but the applicant will not be able to travel abroad whilst their application is being processed. 

Vulnerable applicants or applicants who need additional help

The Home Office has said that in January 2019 there will be 7 Service and Support Centres where Home Office officials will be able to help applicants use the new UKVI immigration application process.

Will the new UKVI process be an improvement?

The Home Office is confident that the new UKVI process will streamline applications through the use of online technology as well as by using sophisticated verification of identity and document programmes and assessment tools. Top London immigration solicitors anticipate that there will be teething problems with the new information technology and that even once the new application process has bedded down there will be applicants who are winners and losers as a result of the introduction of the UKVI process and the closure of existing services.

Experienced London immigration solicitors believe that if an application is straightforward in nature and the applicant’s details are easy to check through a digital assessment process the process may be more efficient. However the converse is that if an application is made by an applicant who is considered high risk because, for example, of his or her country of origin, the new system may slow the application process down as a result of additional checks and information being required. 

It is reported that the UKVI new process is likely to rely on its assessment of sponsors when considering applications made on work and study grounds. For students it may therefore become important to do some due diligence on sponsors as it is said that the Home Office new system will fast track applications involving some Tier 4 Higher Education Institutions next year provided that they meet certain criteria and standards.

The fast tracking of straight forward, low risk applications is great news but top London immigration solicitors anticipate that there will be a lot of applicants who do not fall in to the low risk category that the new UKVI centres are designed to efficiently process.   If for whatever reason an applicant or their sponsor is perceived to not be a run of the mill case then the application may well experience delays and resulting frustrations. Furthermore experienced London immigration solicitors believe it is highly likely that the new system will experience teething problems, with the potential on the 5th November for there to be fireworks with disgruntled applicants.

OTS Solicitors are specialist in Immigration Law matters. The firm is recommended for Immigration Law in the Legal 500. OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors as trusted specialists in Immigration Law. For more information on sponsoring a dependent relative or any alternative aspect of personal or business immigration law please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors who will be happy to help.

 

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