COVID-19 EXPERT LEGAL INSIGHTS

Immigration Update: Gradual reopening
of UK visa centres

26 June 2020

UK visa application centres around the world are gradually reopening after weeks of closure. We have produced a short Q&A below outlining the main changes to date.
 

Which visa centres are reopening?

The centres in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand reopened at the beginning of June. Many others reopened this week. More, including those in the EU, will follow from the week of 29 June.

When will the UK visa application centres in the US reopen?

There is no date yet for the UK visa system to restart in the US. Most people applying for UK visas in the US enrol their biometrics at Application Support Centers run by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They then have to send their passport to the UK Visas & Immigration Scanning Hub in New York, where the vignette (the visa sticker) is stuck into the passport.

USCIS Application Support Centers are due to start a phased reopening on 13 July. However, this does not mean that UK visa applicants will be able to book appointments from that date, as  there is no date yet for the UKVI Scanning Hub in New York to reopen. The Mayor of New York has indicated that lockdown measures in New York will be eased in the coming weeks to allow business to reopen, but this is dependent on New York City, where the Scanning Hub is located, meeting strict criteria outlined this week. 

We also do not know when the Premium Application Centres around the US – where some people submit their applications – will reopen.

How do I find out when  my local UK visa application centre will reopen?

UK visa application centres are operated by two private companies: TLScontact (in most of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region) and VFS Global (everywhere else). You need to check the website of the relevant company and select the country to see the status of UK visa application centres in that country. TLS has a central update page here and VFS’s can be found here. If you are not sure which company operates in a particular country you can find a list with links on the gov.uk website.

I am in the UK – are the application centres open here?

Inside the UK, the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services biometric enrolment centres run by Sopra Steria are gradually reopening. Emails are being sent in phases to applicants inviting them to book a biometric appointment, starting with people who applied before 27 March.

How quickly will my application be decided once I apply?

Please note that as centres reopen for applicant to submit their biometrics, there will be more limited availability of appointments. This means you may have to wait longer than normal to get an appointment or travel to a different centre further away.

Priority visa services are suspended at the moment so applications are likely to take up to three weeks to be processed. We are seeing some applications are coming through more quickly. Family visa applications are likely to take much longer.

Stay updated

The Kingsley Napley Immigration team are staying in constant touch with our Home Office and the outsourced visa partner contacts. We will provide the most recent guidance as soon as this is available. You can sign up for our immigration updates here.

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