UK to Give More Countries Priority and Same-Day Visa Service

15 Nov 13

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – Medium

What are the changes? New initiatives by the Home Office will further expand priority visa service to Entry Clearance applicants in over 90 countries by spring 2014, and add same-day visa services for several countries by the end of 2014.

What does the change mean? Applicants for U.K. Entry Clearance in more countries will be able to expedite their applications in exchange for an additional nonrefundable fee.

  • Implementation timeframe: Now through next year.
  • Visas/permits affected: All categories except for EEA family permits and settlement.
  • Who is affected: All applicants except for settlement applicants, or applicants with an adverse immigration or criminal history.
  • Impact on processing times: If adopted, the changes should significantly reduce processing times for those in the targeted countries who opt for priority or same-day services.
  • Business impact: The changes are aimed at facilitating travel for a greater number of foreign visitors, including applicants for entry clearance under the Points Based System, as well as for visitors.

Background: While the details are scant, the Home Office announced that it aims to attract business travelers to the U.K. by expanding priority visa service from 67 countries to 90 countries by spring 2014. Priority service allows all qualified applicants to have their applications processed before non-priority applicants by paying a nonrefundable fee.

The U.K. also plans to expand same-day visa service, available since May in India and newly-offered in China, to “other key locations” by the end of next year, according to an announcement by the Home Office.

Coinciding with the Prime Minister’s state visit to New Delhi and the Commonwealth Gathering, mobile biometrics clinics service is being rebranded and promoted to certain Indian VIP travelers as a way for them to get their biometric information and photo taken at their place of work. Furthermore, a pilot program in southern India will allow visa applicants to keep their passports while their application is pending. The goal is to expand the scheme throughout India if the pilot is successful.

BAL analysis: The initiatives, if launched, will significantly expand the number of foreign nationals who are able to take advantage of faster processing of visa applications. However, it is unclear how a government hiring freeze will impact the U.K.’s ability to handle an ever-increasing demand for priority processing, which in some posts accounts for double-digit percentages of all applications received. In addition, the 24-hour turnaround time for biometric screening, which is mandatory for all applications, may limit the extent to which “same-day” services are available in a given country.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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