A new in-country application process is being introduced next month. This is in line with the government’s ambition to have most applicants apply online, and also reflects a modernising of the Home Office’s approach. Following the Windrush scandal, there is a desire to be more pragmatic when dealing with applications. The changes will come into force from 5 November 2018.
The most significant (and welcome) change is that the requirement to provide original documents is being removed and copies can be provided. If there are doubts about whether a document is genuine, verification rules will apply and the Home Office may still request an original, but this will significantly reduce the burden on most applicants.
The requirement to provide passport-size photographs is also being removed.
A more generous approach to evidential flexibility is being introduced. The current policy allows a caseworker to write to the applicant once, in very precise circumstances, to request further information where the applicant has failed to provide the evidence required. The new rules will give the caseworker more flexibility regarding whether and when they may write to applicants to ask for any missing documents required.
Paper forms will only be used if the application is being submitted by post. Those who will want to use the Premium Service Centre (or its future equivalent) will need to apply online.
The applicant’s ID documents will be returned while the application is outstanding, unless it is considered necessary to retain them. However, leaving the UK while the application is pending will still result in the application being treated as withdrawn, and applicants will need to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking they can travel whilst their application is being considered by the Home Office.