Connecticut, US

Oct 18 2018

New Service Centres to Streamline In-Country Visa Process

United Kingdom

At a Glance

A new streamlined service model for UK in-country visa processing will open in November that will result in the closure of the current Premium Service Centres and the opening of new service centres in the United Kingdom. The goal of the new service is to streamline the visa application process by returning supporting documents, including passports, back to applicants immediately, which will allow some applicants to travel while their application is processing. This is part of a wider effort in the United Kingdom to digitise and streamline immigration application processing.




The situation

As previously announced in June, a new service model for in-country UK visa processing (e.g. those extending certain UK visas) will open in November.

Background

Certain UK visa holders (including Tier 2, Spousal, Points-Based System Dependant migrants, among others) can currently submit their UK visa applications at one of the UKVI Premium Service Centres. Other applicants submit their applications by mail, which takes longer to process. The drawback of either submission method is that the service centre holds the applicant’s documents during processing, preventing the applicant from traveling while the application is pending, which can take up to 24-48 hours, or longer in some cases.

A closer look

Starting in November, certain in-country visa applicants (the UKVI will publish the official list of eligible applicants at a later date) will benefit from one of the following visa application methods:

  • Online submission. The new model allows applicants to scan their supporting documents, including their passport, to an online platform or have a mobile service visit them to collect copies of their documents. Following online submission, some applicants will need to appear at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service Centre in one of the six major cities in the United Kingdom (which at least include Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London); at one of 50 local services centres located in local libraries across the country; or at the new premium service centre in central London.
  • In-person submission in special cases. Applicants who require face-to-face assistance, such as individuals with disabilities, will be able to attend a free appointment at one of an additional seven UKVI Service and Support Centres across the country.



Impact

  • More service centres. The opening of more service centres will reduce travel time for foreign nationals seeking to access in-country immigration processing.
  • Limited Premium Service appointment availability. Since the existing Premium Service centres will be closed, the number of available traditional Premium Service Centre appointments has declined. This has led foreign nationals to rely on the postal route instead of the Premium Service route, which delays application processing.
  • Travel possible during processing. The UKVI projects that the new service model will allow applicants to travel while their visa application is processed since documents and passports will be returned to applicants immediately following submission at the service centre.



Looking ahead

The UKVI will be releasing further information on the eligible visas and their new services over the coming weeks.

It is not yet known when further action will be taken on other proposals to digitalise the UK immigration process, such as allowing online filing at consular posts and conducting electronic compliance audits.

Fragomen will monitor the developments and inform clients once new information is available.  

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to londoninfo@fragomen.com.