A brief overview of the process
Amongst the many changes going on in the country’s approach to immigration, UKVI has recently announced several updates to the way in which many standard immigration applications are made.
The new service is called UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) and will be available to those seeking leave to remain in the UK in over 30 visa routes including PBS, settlement and (from early 2019) naturalisation applications.
From 29 November 2018, Premium Service Centres were closed to make way for the new system. The new UKVCAS service is described by the Home Office as being intuitive, offering a ‘streamlined digital’ process which will ensure ‘peace of mind’ for applicants who are able to retain their original documents while applying.
Key changes in the process include the scanning and uploading of supporting documents for applications; the need to leave original documents with UKVI is no longer needed. Applicants will have the choice of uploading evidence themselves or during an UKVCAS appointment.
How you book it
As the Home Office continues to transfer the majority of application forms to online versions only, the new service can be accessed when an online application form is completed, and the relevant fees are paid. Once an application is submitted, applicants will be directed to Sopra Steria’s website where appointments can then be booked at UKVCAS centres. Available appointments at the nearest core service point will be suggested first followed by the nearest enhanced service centres.
The current guidance suggests that appointments at UKVCAS centres will be available within 5 working days of submission of an application. There will be 57 UKVCAS centres across the UK allowing applicants to select an appointment at the most convenient location to them.
What it costs
Of the 57 UKVCAS centres, 6 will be core service centres which will offer free appointments. The 6 core centres will be in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Croydon.
50 enhanced service points will be accessible in several cities in libraries across the UK and will charge for appointments. Exact fees have not been confirmed as yet, but services available will include next day appointments, documentation checking and an on-demand VIP service.
A premium lounge located in central London will also be available offering high-speed Wi-Fi and business facilities.
What you get
The key change with the service provision involves the retention by applicants of their supporting evidence as documentation will be digitised. Retention of important documents such as passports for the majority of applicants will be welcomed.
A faster appointment process is also promised as the provision of appointments within 5 working days of submission is now open to applicants. However, the offering of appointments within this time frame may involve extensive travel across the UK should the nearest core or enhanced service centre be several miles away.