12 November 2017
The scanning service was first introduced in early 2017 to aid both efficiency and ease of processing for UK visa applications, including settlement partner, fiancée and spouse visas. Due to the UKVI decision making centre in Sheffield undertaking the application processing of more countries directly, creating a new scanning service allows the UKVI to improve their efficiency and meeting the processing time frames. Reducing the number of paper applications sent to Sheffield directly by post essentially means that the vast majority of applications will be mandatorily scanned and submitted electronically. Although well intentioned, the new scanning service has resulted in an increasing number of settlement applications being refused due to clerical errors made by VFS and TLS staff around the world.
What is the UKVI scanning service?
The new UKVI scanning service enables the applicant to have their supporting documents scanned and submitted to the UKVI decision making centre in Sheffield electronically. This service is provided for a fee, or without charge depending on the country of application. For example, if applying from the Philippines, there will be a fee payable to use the scanning service at the Visa Application Centres (VAC) in Manila and Cebu. However, if applying from Albania or Canada the new scanning service is provided without charge. For some countries where scanning is mandatory, there will be no extra fee for this service.
Once the documents have been scanned and submitted to the DMC (decision making centre) in Sheffield by VFS or TLS staff at the local UK Visa Application Centre, the applicant will be able to take their important original supporting documents back home. Therefore, there is no need to send any original documents to Sheffield by post. The applicant’s passport will be retained by the Visa Application Centre in the country of application.
Those who chose to use the new UKVI scanning service will need to take the original supporting documents to their biometric appointment at the relevant Visa Application Centre in the country of their residence. The VFS or TLS staff will scan the documents onsite and return them to the applicant. All documents presented must be legible, not crumpled and no smaller than A4 in size. Items which are smaller than A4 should always be copied onto another A4 sheet of paper to ensure the evidence meets the requirements. Staples and paper clips must be removed before submission, which allows the documents to be scanned quickly by the VFS or TLS clerks, reducing the waiting time at the VAC. We always encourage our clients to make a copy of all the documents submitted. This means that the duplicate copy of the application is always retained by the applicant or their sponsor.
The scanning service proves to be reassuring to applicants who prefer to keep their original documents due to sentimental or other reasons. However, as this method is not error free, there have been some situations where the scanning service resulted in the examining entry clearance officer (ECO) in Sheffield overlooking submitted supporting documents resulting in an application being refused. This is a recent example of some of the negative sides to the scanning process, as explained by a UKVI scanning service user:
“They have refused our application as Danni is not British?? We have his British Passport there with us and took photocopies of it, that were included in the paperwork? We are completely bewildered. We of course presented Danni passport which the lady in Dusseldorf scanned. She said they didn’t need to retain his passport as it would be sent ‘electronically’ to the UK. What a shambles! It seems like half our documents haven’t been properly scanned and forwarded to the UK. The refusal is based on “It is not accepted that your sponsor is a British citizen as claimed. This is because you have not provided any evidence that he is a British citizen and holds a UK Passport. We drove 8 hours to present his passport!! I am trying to contact the TLS Dusseldorf office, but you can’t ring them, only an only “Feedback and Complaints’ screen. I have tried typing into that three times and it when I hit ‘save’ it just blanks the fields again. Useless! We are going crazy!! I don’t know if you can contact Sheffield or TLS Dusselfdorf?? and ask what happened to our documents?
In this situation it is always wise to carefully observe the clerk at the UK Visa Application Centre as they scan the application to ensure that they do not miss anything out or overlook any documents that are vitally important to the application. While it is nerve wracking flagging up a potential oversight with visa officials on the spot, we would always encourage our clients to do so, as it minimises the distress caused if the application is refused due to “failure to submit appropriate documents or evidence”, which was in fact submitted at the Visa Application Centre, but overlooked by the VFS or TLS clerks.
As the supporting documents are all scanned at the Visa Application Centre on the day of the appointment, there is no opportunity for the sponsor to forward any additional documents to Sheffield from the UK. The sponsor must ensure all of the supporting documents are sent to the applicant in good time, as they cannot re-submit any documents at a later date. In addition to this, documents cannot be scanned and submitted to the DMC in Sheffield from any other location except from at the Visa Application Centre with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of normal residence.
As the UKVI has recently increased the number of countries which they directly process applications from, the list of countries that will be required to post or scan their applications into the UKVI may change over the next few months, and we will continually advise our clients of such changes to enable them to prepare their applications in the correct format for the decision making centre in Sheffield. In those countries where the scanning service is not mandatory yet, we encourage our clients to submit original supporting documents to Sheffield by courier thereby minimising the risk of refusal due to a clerical error on VFS or TLS side.