New Service For Visa Applications: What's Changing?

Just last month, the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes announced that there would be changes to UK Visa application submission process. The government plans to outsource visa application process using a single third party provider, Sopra Steria. The changes will affect those applying within the UK for work, study, settlement or citizenship and is due to take effect in October 2018.

The change comes as no surprise, following the Home Office’s gradual implementation of online application forms Tier 2 work visas, Tier 1 Investor, Settlement and Citizenship. Applicants, who make an online application, will have to pay the specified Home Office fee and book their biometric appointment at the same time. Applicants will then have to attend a Home Office visa application centre to submit their biometrics and deliver their documents or submit their application and supporting documents by post and visit their local Post Office to submit their biometric data, as required by the Home Office.

The main reforms to the current process are as follows:

  • Once the applicants have submitted their application online and paid the fees, the third party provider Sopra Steria will provide the facility to upload their required documents, prior to the applicants biometric appointment
  • Secondly, there is set to be over 60 locations, to be provided for applicants to submit their biometric data and present original documents, including their passport
  • All original documents will be checked at the appointment and then immediately returned to the applicant who can then take their passport and other documents away with them
  • The application will then have to be processed by the Home Office straight away
  • The Home Office premium service centre (PSC) appointments at the Home Office in Croydon will no longer exist. However, Home Office service centres will still be available for certain “vulnerable” applicants and asylum applicants

With the removal of the Premium Service Centre it is unclear whether Sopra Steria will offer a 24-hour service but full details will be published in due course, along with the associated priority processing fees. Sopra Steria will be able to offer bespoke services, similar to that of the current Super Premium Service, whereby applicants can submit their biometric data at a location of their choosing and pay the relevant premium service fee.