From the beginning of November 2018, there are major changes to the process of applying for UK visas and British citizenship applications from within the UK.
Going forward, the Home Office are withdrawing the majority of paper application forms and most UK-based applicants will need to submit their application online via the Home Office's 'gov.uk' website.
Until now, applicants have had to apply either by sending their applications by post and providing their biometric information at the Post Office; or pay more to attend a Home Office Premium Service Centre with their application and submitting biometric data at the same time.
The Home Office hope that by moving their processes online, this will bring their application processes more in line with modern-day life.
Will these changes affect me?
From 9 November 2018, applicants making applications in the following categories can apply online and via a new UK VCAS centre:
- Points-based visas (Tiers 1, 2, 4 & 5)
- Permanent residence cards
- British citizenship by naturalisation
- British citizenship as a child under 18
- Register as a British citizen
- Registration certificates
- PBS dependant visas (partner and child)
- Member of HM forces and their dependants
- Turkish business person or worker, or their dependants (partner and child)
- UK settlement (certain categories only include long residence, child, HM forces category, refugee or humanitarian)
- Biometric residence permits (update, replace or transfer)
- Other leave to remain applications within the rules
- Home Office travel document
As this list is not exhaustive, please contact us if you are uncertain whether you can utilise the new online application process. Applications within all other categories are expected to come under the new system from January 2019.
Until the changes are rolled out in full by the Home Office and until 30 November 2018, applicants can continue to use the current application processes.
On 29 November 2018, the Home Office's Premium Service Centres will close.
Will these changes change the speed of the application process?
Features of the Home Office's new system may speed up the application process. These include being able to apply online rather than fill in a paper application by hand, upload documents online, purchase additional services to 'fast track' applications, and keeping hold of your original documents during the process. Time will tell if these changes do in practice speed up the Home Office's application process. Applicants should account for some time for the new system to 'bed in' and remain aware that the Home Office can request at any time for the original documents which may not make the process any faster.
The Home Office are making slight changes to their service standards: where a 'priority service' is purchased it will be decided within 5 working days from December 2018, rather than within 10 working days. 'Super priority service' will be decided on the next working day. However, it remains the case that a standard application will be decided within six months (or eight weeks, depending on the type of application).
How do I apply now?
First, it is necessary to find the relevant online application form you need via the Home Office's 'gov.uk' website.
It will then be necessary to book an appointment at one of the Home Office's new service centres. In Scotland, centres will be in Glasgow and a paid centre in Aberdeen only. The Glasgow centre will be located beside our Glasgow office.
Until all centres are open in December 2018, you may be able to choose whether to enrol your biometrics and submit your evidence via these new centres or use the existing processes, such as the Post Office. During one of these appointments, your identity will be checked and your biometric information collected (fingerprints and photographs).
Then, it will be necessary to upload your supporting documents digitally. You will be able to do this by either 'self-uploading' your documents (for example, from home or your office), or via a self-service biometric kiosk available in the new service centres. Importantly, this means that you retain your original documents, such as passports and birth certificates. The Home Office can contact you to request the original during the application process, but it may be that your application is processed without the need for parting with your original documents. This is a significant change to the application process we have been using to-date.
You may also be given the opportunity to purchase additional, optional and chargeable services during the Home Office's new online application process, such as mobile application services, next day appointments, walk-in appointments, translation services and extended opening hours.
What will not change is that is necessary for you to stay within the UK whilst your application is being processed by the Home Office. Leaving the country while your application is being processed will cause your application to be withdrawn.
If you would like any advice or assistance with how these changes affect your own application, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our immigration team.
The content of this webpage is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Morton Fraser LLP accepts no responsibility for the content of any third party website to which this webpage refers. Morton Fraser LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.