What is the settlement checking service?
Dear Mr Bassie,
I read your articles and I have seen where you have mentioned on occasions the 'settlement checking service'. Could you please explain what this is?
The settlement checking service is a partnership that exists between the United Kingdom Border Agency and the local authorities. It is an optional service which is available for a fee to applicants using the SET (M) application form only at a local authority register office.
Persons can make applications for settlement at any local authority that offers the settlement checking service, in any area and not just the one that is closest to where the applicant lives. This is subject to appointment availability.
It should be noted that the service is available by appointment only and the local authorities can provide details of the additional fee for this service and the times that appointments are available.
An applicant should expect, when attending his or her appointment, that a trained local authority officer will check that the applicant has completed his or her SET(M) form correctly; the officer will also check that the applicant has paid the correct application fee; copy and return the applicant's valuable documents; and ensure that the application is valid and then post it to the United Kingdom Border Agency.
An applicant and spouse or partner should attend the appointment. If the partner cannot attend, he or she must provide a letter stating support for the application. The letter must be signed and dated and include a daytime phone number where the applicant and partner can be contacted if necessary. Failure of your spouse or partner to provide this letter may result in the application being cancelled and the fee will be lost.
The applicant's spouse or partner's passport or travel document will be checked, copied and returned to them. The officer will check and retain the applicant's passport or travel document. If the person is applying with his or her dependants, then their passports or travel documents will also be checked and retained. The authorities retain passports and travel documents so they can insert a vignette or sticker to show any grant of leave that is given.
The general procedure should include reviewing the SET(M) documents before attending the appointment. Also, when the applicant attends the appointment he or she should take a completed SET (M) application form and all original supporting documents required and the applicant will also have to confirm his or her payment details. If the applicant fails to do this then his or her application cannot be submitted to the authorities.
The applicant should reserve a settlement checking service appointment before his or her current permission to stay expires. It should be noted that an applicant can attend his or her appointment when he or she has completed or are within 28 days of completing a two-year qualifying period.
If the applicant was given an entry clearance visa that was issued overseas then his or her two-year qualifying period started from the date that the visa was stamped by the immigration officer, when he or she entered the United Kingdom. Also, if the applicant has a residence permit or a biometric residence permit that was issued in the United Kingdom then the two-year qualifying period starts from the date these were issued.
The local authorities will not give an applicant advice about settlement. If the applicant is attending a premium service appointment at one of the local authorities public enquiry offices, then he or she can use the settlement checking service if he or she wishes to have his or her application checked. Local authorities can provide a partial checking service, where they will check the application form to see if it is complete and that the applicant has the correct supporting documents. It should be noted that they will not take the premium application fee, but will inform the applicant of the correct premium application fees. The original documents will need to be presented at the public enquiry appointment.
Aim of service
The service is aimed at giving the applicant reassurance and peace of mind that his or her application is complete and correct. The United Kingdom Border Agency has stated that it has found that applications received through the settlement checking service are generally faster to process and this is due to the fact that fewer cases are rejected or delayed due to incomplete or missing documents.
However, it should be noted that using the checking service does not guarantee that an applicant's application will be successful and the United Kingdom Border Agency may still need to make further enquiries when considering his or her case. Also, the service is not available at all local authorities.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a chartered arbitrator. Email: email@example.com