UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has released further information about its upcoming new Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UK VACS). While the Home Office promises a more streamlined, intuitive process, implementation delays are likely, and applicants considered higher risk are likely to be subject to stricter scrutiny.

The new service, provided by French outsourcing specialist Sopra Steria, was announced in May 2018.

On October 11, 2018, the Home Office published the latest statement of changes to the Immigration Rules.

Then, in information sent to stakeholders, UKVI described the features of the new service, which include “streamlined” online applications and secure digital submission of document copies and biometric information.

New Application System

  • UK VACS will replace the existing system of postal applications and in-person submissions at Premium Service Centers, with new online application forms, digital document submission and biometrics appointments.
  • Over the next few months, the majority of paper forms will be withdrawn, and most UK-based customers will need to apply via GOV.UK, pay an application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (if applicable), and book an appointment.
  • Appointments will be available for free in six major cities (Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and Croydon) with an additional 50 local user-pay service centers located in libraries and a user-pay premium service point in central London.
  • These centers will open around the country during November 2018, starting with Manchester on November 9th. During this period, the legacy system will still be available as an alternative to the new system.
  • More flexible, paid, “on-demand” (formerly known as Super Premium) and mobile application services will be available, for example at university campuses, employers’ offices or individual customers’ homes.
  • At the appointment, applicants’ passports will be checked automatically, their biometric details captured and copies of their supporting documents (rather than originals) uploaded digitally.
  • In most cases, the applicant’s will be able to take their passport away with them after this appointment. However, if they then choose to travel outside the common travel area their pending application for leave to remain will be treated as withdrawn.
  • For other customers who may be in positions of vulnerability, or need more face-to-face help with their application, free appointments will be offered in seven dedicated Service and Support Centers (SSCs) in Belfast, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield and Solihull from January 2019.

Action Items

Employers who may be affected are encouraged to contact their immigration specialist for a case-by-case consultation.


Please note that this is general information only and not intended as advice on a specific matter. Please feel free to contact Fakhoury Global Immigration directly with questions exclusive to your situation. This news alert may have been prepared using information from Peregrine Immigration Management, which is licensed to Fakhoury Global Immigration.