Update: UK Visa application process
On 23rd October 2020, the Home Office issued a few key updates for visa applicants in the process of completing or submitting their applications from either the UK or overseas.
UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) is the system utilised to process visa applications made from within the UK, such as further leave to remain, switching visa categories, extending visa stays and both settlement and citizenship applications.
This system has now been categorised as an ‘essential service’, with workers for UKVCAS also being treated as ‘key workers’. The significance of this update is that service points across the UK will remain unimpacted by the varying COVID-19 tier restrictions imposed over many regions in different degrees. This also means that services will be available to all customers regardless of what regional tier they are in.
In line with COVID-19 compliance procedures and legislation, it is legal for visa customers to travel to a Service Point to progress their applications. Should applicants wish to book an appointment at a UKVCAS centre, there is an up-to-date list of all the Service Points that are currently operating. There is continuous review of availability at UKVCAS centres and appointments are being allocated as normal, unaffected by the pandemic.
Eligible visa applicants can submit their biometric information via the UK Immigration: ID Check app, which can be downloaded via a smartphone. Should individuals not have internet access or a smartphone, they can use a family member or friend’s smartphone to send their information and proof of their identity. Please read more in our latest publications.
Individuals required to use the app to submit their information are urged to do so as soon as possible. Once they have done so, they will not be required to book an additional appointment at a UKVCAS service centre to submit their biometric information, otherwise this would be a repeated biometric submission process and is unnecessary. This way, individuals do not have to pay an additional fee for paid slots or for their travel to a service point.
Visa customers who are not eligible to use the app are advised to keep updated with appointment availability at UKVCAS centres. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are continually overseeing the submission of biometric enrolments both via the app and at service centres and will cancel pre-booked appointments where individuals have already submitted their information via the app. This ensures maximal availability for individuals seeking to book an appointment.
It is also important to note that meanwhile applications are in progress, individuals’ immigration statuses will not be affected during this time until their applications have been decided.
Return to pre-Covid-19 service:
Visa applications submitted between March 2020 and 18th September 2020 are now either completed, or in the assessment process by UKVI.
From 24 September 2020, UKVI returned to pre COVID-19 service standards for newly made applications under the Study, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and Citizenship routes. More updates for different visa routes will be provided in due course.
From 23 October 2020, an additional 210 Visa Application Centres (VACs) reopened. There are now only 21 VAC locations currently closed because of local COVID-19 restrictions.
Priority and Super Priority services are still of limited availability and this is dependent on the location individuals are in. only available in some locations.
Amendments to the Immigration Rules
On 22nd October 2020, the Home Office set out new policy changes to the current set of Immigration Rules for the UK, which will have a significant impact on the UK immigration system overall. Please view our latest publication explaining the changes.
Some of the new visa routes of the UK’s new points-based immigration system which is scheduled to take effect from 1st January 2021 have now opened, including the new Student Route and Child Student route. Other visa routes such as the Skilled Worker route are still due to open towards the end of this year.
EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens
It is important that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens view the latest guidance on how the new immigration system will affect them. Some EU citizens may be eligible to apply via the EUSS scheme to stay in the UK from June 2021. Otherwise, these citizens will be treated equally to non-EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals from third countries and will have to apply for a visa to enter the UK.
Should you have any queries regarding the above information or if you require legal assistance with your visa application and would like an update on UK immigration changes, please get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone +44(0)20 3318 5794.