On 17 May the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes announced details of the outsourcing of the visa application submission process to a single third party provider, Sopra Steria, for people applying for a work or study visa, settlement or citizenship from within the UK. This will take effect in October 2018.

In the lead up to the introduction of this new outsourced service, the Home Office has implemented the gradual roll out of online application forms for most application types in the UK, including Tier 2 work visas, Tier 4 student visas, Tier 1 investor, settlement and citizenship applications. At the same time as submitting the application forms online, the associated fees are paid and the biometric appointment booked. Applicants have then attended either a Home Office visa application centre to submit their biometric data and deliver their documents or submit their application package by post and attend a Post Office to submit their biometric data, once asked to do so by the Home Office.

The application process will now be streamlined and the main changes will be:

  • Once applicants have submitted their application online and paid the fees, they will have the facility to upload the documents required for their application, in advance of their biometric appointment
  • Over 60 locations will be provided for applicants to submit their biometric data and present original documents, including their passport
  • All original documents will be checked at the appointment and immediately returned to the applicant who can then take their passport and other documents away with them
  • The application will then be processed immediately by the Home Office
  • There will no longer be premium service centre (PSC) appointments at the Home Office in Croydon and their other offices around the country, and the Tier 2 priority service will also cease. However, Home Office service centres will still be available for certain “vulnerable” applicants and asylum applicants.

With the cessation of the PSC same day processing service, there is some uncertainty as to whether Sopra Steria will offer a 24 hour service but full details of turnaround times will be published in due course, along with the associated priority processing fees. We understand that Sopra Steria will be able to offer bespoke services, similar to the current Super Premium Service, whereby applicants can submit their biometric data at a location of their choosing, subject to payment of the relevant premium service fee.