What are the improvements to applying for a UK visa?
Dear Mr Bassie,
I have used the United Kingdom Visa and Immigration (UKVI) online application systems in the past and I have found them quite difficult. I have been told that it has become much easier in recent times. Can you inform me of some of the most recent improvements made? I am curious to find out.
The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has stated that it has used its feedback and complaints mechanisms to review and improve its services. The UKVI has focused on the areas in which the feedback showed that the applicants were less satisfied, and as a result, has made some service improvements in the 'Americas Region', which covers all countries in North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean.
The UKVI has recently looked at the visa application form with respect to making it and the process of applying easier. The UKVI has improved the online visa application experience to make it more user friendly by providing a better layout for easier navigation, help text in 18 major languages, and it has now provided the addition of personal profiles that recall a person's key information each time that person makes an application.
Extended opening hours
In addition, the UKVI has extended the Visa Application Centre (VAC) opening hours and the number of available appointments in some VAC locations so as to make it easier for a person to access the services. It should be noted that customers in Cuba are now able to apply and pay the visa fee online.
The UKVI has also implemented certain measures to make it easier for a person to get in touch with UKVI and obtain any information needed by the applicant. The UKVI has partnered with Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) to assist in providing customer support via a new international enquiry service. The HGS is supposed to provide customers/applicants with cheaper telephone calls and free-of-charge email support in all major languages. The HGS has dedicated staff within the visa operations in Bogotá, Rio, and New York who are trained to consider enquiries that HGS is not able to answer when an applicant first contacts them. Once HGS sends this visa team queries, the team aims to respond to HGS within two working days. This is supposed to allow HGS to follow up and provide the applicant with the answers he/she needs in a timely manner.
The UKVI has also been asked to see if it can provide the applicant with updates during the application process to advise him/her how long it would take to receive a decision. The UKVI has stated that prior to submission, an applicant is now able to review the most recent processing times for any location. After an applicant submits an application, he/she will now be able to call the enquiry service to receive updates on whether his/her application has been received and/or decided.
The UKVI has attempted to improve and expand upon the content and range of communication an applicant receives from the organisation while it is processing the application. The UKVI has stated that where there is a delay in processing an application within the published customer service standards, it will advise the applicant. The UKVI states that when it initially receives the application package, it will send an email to confirm receipt and give you an idea of the average processing times for all categories.
The UKVI has also been asked to see if it could provide more options for expediting the visa process. As a result of this type of request, the organisation made the decision to expand the availability of Priority Visa Services as an optional service, where a person's application can go to the front of the queue for process and Prime Time (VAC) appointments in some locations. In addition, there is available Super Priority Service, where the aim of the organisation is to deliver decisions on the day that the application is submitted. It should be noted that this has been introduced in India and China, with more locations to be added before April 2015.
In addition, the UKVI has expanded its Priority Visa service to five additional locations across the region that provide customers with more options on how they would like their applications processed. It should be noted that Premium Service lounges are now available in Rio, Kingston, and Bogotá. VACs and Prime Time appointments are now available in some VACs, including key locations in Canada and Colombia.
I hope this helps.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org