The Home Office has introduced changes to in-country application processes in November, with little advance notice. While the changes include applicants being able to submit scanned copies of documents instead of originals, the main disadvantage is that applicants will now have to submit their biometric information (fingerprints & facial image) through the new outsourced UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centres rather than through their local Post Office.
There are seven ‘core’ centres (Belfast, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield, & Solihull) which do not charge any additional fees, and around 50 ‘Enhanced Service Centres’ (the closest being Reading, Warwick and Swindon) which charge an additional £60 per applicant. There are a number of other ‘added value services’ on offer, however, the fees for scanning (£30) and translating documents (£75 per page) are high. We would recommend that applicants turn to their department/college or SIT if they need help scanning documents, and that they use other translation services.
The new UKVCAS centres, which are run by Sopra Steria, replace the Home Office Premium Service Centres, through which in-person applications were previously made. While previously applications submitted in-person were decided on the day of the appointment, under the equivalent new ‘Super Priority’ service a decision should be sent to the applicant one working day after the appointment.
As appointments are now made through Sopra Steria’s booking system when the online visa or settlement (ILR) application is being submitted, SIT is no longer able to request in-person appointments from the Home Office on behalf of applicants.
Information about the new centres and processes was provided with little notice and SIT has had to seek clarification from the Home Office on several points. SIT are taking feedback and queries from applicants who have used the new centres and are in the process of updating their visa application guidance as the new process becomes clearer. Please encourage any applicants with queries or comments on the new application process to contact SIT.
The Home Office have confirmed that out-of-country applicants will still collect their Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) from the Post Office when they arrive in the UK.