The COVID-19 pandemic brought the UK immigration system to a standstill.
Visa application centres were closed as the country entered full-scale lockdown, leaving those with pending applications unable to submit their biometric information and complete the final stages of the immigration process. But now, after an extended period of inactivity, the system is beginning to reopen.
Biometric Appointments at Visa Application Centres
The closure of visa application centres under lockdown measures left scores of visa applicants in a state of limbo. Despite the fact that application forms had been submitted to the Home Office, biometric appointments at visa application centres could not be attended, leaving the overall application process incomplete.
As we are now a considerable way into the phased reopening of visa application centres, this situation is beginning to change. Not only have those who had booked an appointment prior to the closure been able to re-book, the booking system has also been opened up to other UKVCAS registered customers in date order.
In addition to this, last Thursday (2nd July 2020) saw UKVCAS announce a relaxation of the rules for those who have previously submitted biometric information. If fingerprints can be reused, the applicant will receive instructions via email regarding how to send a digital image of their face alongside supporting documents.
Some applicants who have previously submitted biometrics will still be required to book a physical appointment, including those who last enrolled their biometrics before July 2015 and children under 18 who have not enrolled their biometrics in the last two years. In family groups where none of the group’s fingerprints can be reused, all members of the group will be required to attend a biometric enrolment appointment together if applying at a UK service point.
Applications from within the UK
The submission of biometric information is still a compulsory part of the visa application process. Those who do not qualify for the exemption will need to book an appointment at one of the service points that have reopened. As mentioned, the first to receive an appointment will be those who had a scheduled appointment prior to the closure.
Regarding Tier 2 Visa applications, in most cases applicants must wait for visa approval before they have the right to work under the new visa.
Applications from outside the UK
Outside of the UK, the reopening of visa application centres depends very much on the COVID-19 infection rates in the relevant country. Application centres in Canada and USA remain closed, but in other countries the reopening process has begun.
Applicants can access more via the websites of the Home Office’s commercial partners: TLS (for applications submitted in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East) and VFS Global (for applications submitted anywhere else in the world).
UKVCAS has said that previously-submitted biometric information can be reused in order to relieve pressure on the booking system.
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