03 July 2020 #Immigration
The UK Home Office has announced the opening of further visa centres in the UK and overseas. This follows the gradual reopening of centres on 1 June, 9 June and 21 June 2020. The Government is also expected to announce air bridges for nearly 60 countries, allowing those returning to enter the UK quarantine-free. The Government has also established the Office for Talent emphasising its focus on talent for its future immigration policy.
Re-opening of visa centres & the biometric exemption
In-country applications (UK)
The visa submission part of an in-country UK immigration application is run by Sopra Steria through their UKVCAS (UK Visas & Citizenship Application Services).
From 1 June 2020, these centres reopened to applicants whose appointments had been cancelled owing to the lockdown. In a phased reopening, these applicants have started receiving emails from UKVCAS inviting them to re-book their biometric appointments.
In a further update this week, applicants who registered for the UKVCAS service until 30 April 2020 will now be invited to book their visa centre appointment. However, at the same time, the Home Office has announced a biometric exemption for those applicants, whose biometrics (fingerprints and facial image) can be reused from a previous application. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis, and if the exemption applies, those applicants will not need to attend a further appointment.
Out of country applications
In addition to centres that have opened since 1 June 2020, the following centres will now reopen for a UK visa application from 5/6 July 2020:
Papua New Guinea
5. Sri Lanka
Since 8 June 2020, all travellers to the UK (except those who are exempt) were required to complete a questionnaire before they travelled to the UK. After entry, the travellers were told to self-isolate for 14-days.
The government has announced that it will ease this restriction for travellers from nearly 60 countries (list yet to published). The new rules are expected to come into force from 10 July 2020.
Office for Talent
The government has announced that it will set up a new Office for Talent. This purpose of this new Office will be to attract the talent from across the globe. The press release states that the purpose of this new office will be to:
“…review the effectiveness of the current rules and ensure excellent customer service across the immigration system, so that it is simple, easy, and quick. They will also help those coming to the UK better understand the opportunities on offer and break down any barriers they might face.”
The press release also confirms the opening of a new graduate route for international students allowing them to stay in the UK for up to 3 years (if completed a PhD) or 2 years (if completed a masters or undergraduate degree).
Further, the student visa is set to receive an overhaul extending the time in which prospective students can make visa applications, removing study time limits at postgraduate level and allowing all students to switch to another type of visa from within the UK. Existing students and those who start their course this autumn will benefit from these changes, once they have been introduced.
The global talent visa route will also be extended to include all EU nationals, when the new immigration is rolled out.