Government brings in new online application process. Read on to find out more.
With the recent developments in the Brexit negotiations and the upcoming increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge payment, it was easy to overlook an event of not strictly a legal nature. November 2018 has seen the introduction of the Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) – yet bringing about a profound change to the immigration and nationality application processes.
The new application process, developed by the Home Office in collaboration with an IT company Sopra Steria, is aimed at creating a uniform online application process and gradual phasing out old paper forms, such as FLR(M), AN or SET(LR), as well as closing the Premium Service Centres (PSC). Equally, the local authorities will cease to offer the Nationality Checking Service (NCS) and the Post Office – biometric enrolment services for UKVI. Instead, new UKVCAS centres will be launched from 9 November 2018, with all stipulated to be open by 30 November 2018.
57 UKVCAS centres in total are going to be open across the UK, of which 6 core service centres (based in large metropolises, such as Manchester or Birmingham) will offer free appointments; 50 enhanced service centres in smaller cities and towns will offer charged appointments; and 1 premium lounge in London will a service similar to that previously offered at PSCs
Until 29 November 2018 applicants seeking limited or indefinite leave to remain on the following routes will have a choice between using the existing service or 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)
· 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
It needs to be noted that wherever paper forms were still an option, they are no longer available and customers may only choose between the old online application form and the new one.
The change will mean that one will need to make an application and pay the application fee online – which will also include your biometric enrolment fee. The immigration health surcharge will need to have been paid online before the application – the IHS reference number required on the application as it has been the case to date.
Following submission, applicants will be directed to the dedicated appointment booking website to book an appointment at a UKVCAS centre. Another novelty at this is stage will be the opportunity to purchase added-value services, such as document scanning. This means that all the applicants will be able to keep their documents while applying, thus enabling the applicant to demonstrate their right to remain, work or study in the UK while the application is pending decision. However, they will still be barred from travelling outside the Common Travel Area, i.e. the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.
As not all the routes have been included in the rollout of the new process, those applying for the following immigration documents 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 dependent, other than a PBS dependent, armed forces dependent or ECAA dependent
· for family reunion with a refugee or person with humanitarian protection
· on the basis of statelessness
· on the basis as a victim of domestic violence under the specific route
· making further submissions after a failed protection claim
· to only enrol 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 EEA or Swiss national
· apply for a document certifying permanent residence as an EEA or Swiss national
As we welcome the long-awaited improvements, it would not be an overstatement to conclude that the rollout of UKVCAS will have come as a surprise to many applicants. The local authorities are often unable to offer advice on why they are discontinuing the Nationality Checking Service; the Premium Service Centre booking system has not contained information regarding the reasons for the lack of available appointment slots. The Home Office traditionally could have done a better job informing their service users in advance and offering a transition period of more than mere four weeks.
Fortunately, our team at MLC Immigration Lawyers are carefully following changes in the immigration and nationality application processes and are well-equipped to help our clients navigate the unfamiliar waters and make sure you only experience the unquestionable benefits the new system has to offer – without the stress of transition.
Blog by Aleksander Bucholski, Immigration Lawyer
T: 0161 224 4224