From 16 September 2019 the Home Office has initiated a document reduction pilot scheme for Appendix FM spouse and partner applications. The scheme will run initially in six application centres in India and will last for approximately eight weeks before being extended out.

The thinking behind the scheme is to reduce the amount of supporting evidence provided for spouse and partner applications. With a lack of clear guidance of what may constitute evidence of a relationship, applications have become somewhat overloaded with documentation.

While UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has assured applicants that the pilot will not stop them submitting additional documents, UKVI has asked its commercial partners (who operate the Visa Application centres) to provide greater clarity on suitable documentation and not to scan documents such as money transfers, greeting cards, letters from friends, wedding invitations or call logs. The guidance recommends chat history such as WhatsApp and social media should be limited to ten pages spread out over the history of the relationship and there should be no more than ten photographs covering the full period of the relationship.

These applications are by nature document heavy and applicants are naturally concerned to ensure that they adequately demonstrate the genuine and subsisting nature of their relationship, as required by the Rules. We will be watching the pilot closely to see if the number of refusals increases. Although UKVI has stated it will contact applicants for any further information or documentation required, experience tells us UKVI has been inconsistent with such approaches in the past.

Once the eight week trial has concluded, consideration will be given to whether it should be extended or made permanent. 

This article is from the October 2019 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals.