The new process is part of the move to a digital application process, where Applicants can upload documents to the Home Office digitally to avoid having to hand originals in at a visa centre. However, the new system is not as straightforward in practice as it may sound and this can be a cause of stress for visa Applicants because:
- The new system isn't the same across the world. Applicants in some countries can upload their documents digitally, but this is not available in all countries so some Applicants are expected to use alternative submissions methods;
- The process also depends on which commercial provider operates in a particular country. The two main providers, VFS and Teleperformance, operate different websites and the procedure for uploading documents also varies;
- There is only one opportunity to upload documents. With applications from inside the UK, you can repeatedly log back into the booking system and add further documents before a visa centre appointment (I've even added documents after an appointment where it was necessary). The system for out of country applications only allows one opportunity to upload, so if there is a mistake or documents are missed the Applicant has to ask visa centre staff to add them to the package;
- The system only works if you apply through the correct website. As part of the new process, the Home Office are phasing out the old visa4uk website but the Home Office website still links Applicants to this website for some applications. Links are being updated regularly, but in the meantime people may be applying using the old website and it's not until much later on that they find they can't upload documents digitally; and
- There is contradictory information available to Applicants. I have had clients who have uploaded the documents onto the new system, only to attend the visa centre and be told that they have to send hard copies to an address in the UK. This is a major cause of worry for clients, as they want to be sure that the documents are in the correct place.
In the long term, the new system will be beneficial for people applying for visas but in the meantime it is the cause of a great deal of worry and stress for Applicants. As an immigration lawyer, I often think my job is to reduce uncertainty for clients and as a result we have recently submitted applications digitally and in hard copy to ensure nothing is missed.
If you are making a visa application, and you are already worrying about submitting the correct documents, then the last thing you need is to worry about how you submit your documents. We can help by identifying the correct procedure and making sure your documents get to the Home Office in a format that allows your application to be successful.
If you are looking for help with a visa application, please get in touch and one of our specialist team will be able to assist.