The UK has made a number of changes to its immigration rules which mean that many people applying for visas will be able to do so online and in some countries they will have to pay online.

Changes to the immigration rules will enable applicants applying under Tier two and five and their dependants who are in the UK to apply online for permission to stay as of 14 February.

It means people can apply online, pay online and if they want to use a premium service they can book the necessary appointment online.

On line applications come with strict rules. Supporting documents specified as mandatory must be submitted within 15 working days and an appointment made to provide biometric information.

It is part of a wider strategy to move services online. The UK Border Agency said it is also getting rid of its phone line for postal applicants who want to book appointments to enrol their biometric information. From 01 February all postal applicants will need to book these appointments online.

Before you can book an appointment online, you must register by creating a customer account on our 'Apply online' service. You will need a valid email address. You will then be sent password details, which will allow you to access your account and book your appointment.

From 06 February all applications for visas in a number of countries in the Middle East must pay online by credit or debit care before being able to submit a visa application. The fee must be paid in US dollars.

The countries affected by this new arrangement include Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The agency has also announced that as a result of the earthquakes in Christchurch, it is still unable to offer visa appointments at the biometric enrolment centre. 糎e will be sending a mobile biometric enrolment unit to Christchurch until the new office is fully operational.

The next mobile biometric clinics will be held at the Sudima Hotel near the Christchurch airport on 16 February.