The Home Office today announced a pilot scheme to return passports to Tier 2 intra-company transfer applicants whilst their applications are pending.

Under the new pilot scheme, Tier 2 intra-company transfer applicants in the UK will receive their passports back before a decision has been made on their application.  According to the Home Office, passports should be returned within 7-10 working days after an application is received. 

This initiative will greatly benefit employees, who will no longer be land locked whilst their application is being processed. Providing their leave has not expired, employees will be able to travel abroad for both business and pleasure. 

Louise Elson, Director of Recruitment Services at United Health Group said, "For certain senior individuals it is important that they are able to travel, often on short notice. Therefore this initiative will be very well received by the business.  It allows us to remain cost effective without inhibiting important business travel."

This new service is being launched in response to feedback provided from UK businesses about processing times and challenges around passport retention when applications are submitted.  While application processing times are always subject to change, they have recently been taking between 4 and6 weeks.  In busy times, they can take up to 10 weeks. 

This is the second positive initiative taken by the Home Office to improve customer service and processing methods. The first initiative was to introduce the premium postal service. This service provides an expedited processing route via the post rather than the Public Enquiry Office same-day service. The premium postal route has been a great success notwithstanding it is limited to 30 applications being received per day.

Clients are reminded that at this stage the pilot is only available to individuals extending a Tier 2 intra-company transfer from within the UK.  If the pilot proves successful, the Home Office will then consider opening up this particular service to other immigration categories.

Clients are also reminded that they can make an extension application up to three months before the expiry of their existing leave to remain in the United Kingdom.  We therefore encourage clients to process applications at the earliest available time to take advantage of the return of passport service and to allow their employees to continue to travel in and out of the United Kingdom.