2 November 2018
There is a rollout of a new Home Office visa service in the UK from 2 November 2018 onwards. It will affect non-EEA nationals applying for indefinite leave to remain (settlement or ILR), further leave to remain (FLR) including unmarried partners and spouses of British Citizens and legal permanent residents, and those looking to apply for naturalisation. These changes have been introduced by the Home Office to provide a more efficient and effective service which will replace the existing procedure that has been around for over 10 years. The changes will come into effect gradually, although certain applicants will be affected immediately after the rollout.
The UKVI’s front end services are changing to deliver a smoother and more efficient experience. The changes will take affect over the next few weeks. The old system of paper applications will be phased out in favor of online applications. Most UK-based applicants, including those applying for FLR and ILR to settle in the UK with their British partner or spouse will need to make online applications. Effective November 2018, paper leave to remain and settlement applications will no longer be accepted with limited exceptions. The Home Office is going to release an updated paper FLR form for applicants who request a fee waiver. All other applicants are required to use a brand new online application platform launched this month.
The new rollout will also lead to the opening of specialist UKVCAS centres by 30 November 2018. There will be a total of 57 of new visa centres spread around the UK, including one premium lounge which will replace the existing UKVI Premium Service Centres. Six of these will offer appointments for free, whereas the rest will accommodate paid appointments. The new application method will provide the ability to pay both the Home Office and NHS fees online. The completion of the online application process will result in an appointment at a UKVCAS centre. The choice of appointment becomes available to an applicant within five working days.
It is highly advisable to book a UKVCAS appointment as soon as possible. A reminder is sent if an appointment is not attended within 15 days. An application that features family members will require them all to be present at an appointment with the principal applicant. Children under 16 must be accompanied with the designated adult that must be named on the application prior. The new service will not require any supporting evidence to be sent by post. This can be now uploaded online using the new Home Office application platform. Optionally, it is also possible to bring this evidence along to the appointment. It will be handed back to the applicant once the appointment is over, although they may not be able to use it until a decision has been reached.
A usual UKVCAS appointment will consist of recording applicant’s biometric information, submitting any relevant supporting evidence, and having applicant’s identity verified with travel documentation. A UKVCAS staff member will let the applicant know if everything has been properly scanned and submitted to the appropriate UKVI decision-making centre for processing. Applicants will not be able to provide any additional documents later in the process. Therefore, it is vitally important to ensure that the initial FLR or ILR application is complete and accurate.
Anyone who makes an FLR or ILR application before 29 November 2018 will have a choice on whether to use the old or new application method. Applicants can have their biometric information enrolled at a local post office or a Premium Service Centre (PSC). This procedure will be abolished after 29 November 2018. All applicants will be required to attend a UKVCAS appointment in order to get fingerprinted and submit all the necessary supporting documents.
During the period between 29 November 2018 and 8 January 2019, there will only be a limited number of appointments available in the UKVI premium service centres for online customers who are applying for family life leave or private life and choose UKVI’s 24 hour decision service. Therefore, those who are unable to get a premium PSC appointment or use the UKVCAS yet, must consider other submission methods available as a result of these recent changes.