From today (Monday 05 March) all UK visa applications in India will need to be made online, the UK Border Agency has announced, along with a number of other changes around the globe.
Applicants will also need to book an appointment at the visa application centre online and hand completed applications will no longer be accepted.
UKBA has now completed the rollout of biometric residence permits in the UK. This significantly increases the number of biometric residence permits issued by the agency.
It means that all applicants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) applying to stay in the UK for more than six months will have to register their fingerprints and digital facial image. Successful applicants will be issued a biometric residence permit as evidence of immigration status and entitlements in the UK. This includes refugees and those granted settlement.
‘Since the rollout began in November 2008 we have issued around 650,000 biometric residence permits, containing fingerprints and photograph on a secure chip. Biometric residence permits are an important step in fighting immigration abuse and illegal working and make it easier for employers to verify a foreign national’s right to work in the UK,’ said a spokesman.
Employers can download guidance on checking biometric residence permits and their security features from the UKBA website.
From 31 May 2012 UKBA will launch a new automated online checking service to provide quick and easy real time checks on biometric residence permits, the holder’s identity and their right to work.
The Post Office is to provide a service for applicants to provide their biometric information throughout a network of locations across the UK. ‘This will ensure that a biometric enrolment facility is within reasonable travelling distance for most of applicants. The additional Post Office locations will join the 17 branches already offering biometric enrolment. We expect the additional branches to be operational from March 2012, with all 104 locations operating by 10 April 2012,’ added the spokesman.
Also today the new biometric enrolment centre in Christchurch will open for appointments on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays between 13:00 to 15:00.
The UK Border Agency in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait has now introduced a priority visa service in all visa application centres and the priority visa service in Bangkok now included applicants applying for tourists and family visitor visas.
The priority visa service is only available to applicants who meet criteria and who pay an additional fee to have their visa application processed ahead of others. The aim is to process all applications using the priority visa service in Thailand within three working days of receiving them.
Meanwhile, UKBA has suspended appointments at its visa application centre in Damascus, Syria. All appointments have been cancelled and applicants are advised to monitor the website for advice on when new appointments will be available.
Applicants in Syria can apply for visas in Jordan or Lebanon whilst the application service in Syria is suspended.
‘Applications received in Damascus before Sunday 04 March 2012 will be processed in Amman as normal, and the visa application centre will remain open until further notice for the collection of those applications once processed. We will continue to keep this situation under review,’ a spokesman explained.