"Anyone who submits avisa applicationfrom within the UK is set to face difficulties when providing their biometric information."
Making a visa application from inside the UK is now costing more than ever
Anyone wishing to make a visa application from inside the UK faces new challenges - and likely additional costs - since the Home Office began outsourcing parts of the application process to the French IT services company Sopra Steria in March.
Currently there are worries that the company are already struggling with the workload of UK student visa applications, with fears that the pressure will cause even more trouble come September when an influx of overseas students will send in applications to study in the UK.
However, it is not just student visa applicants that are being, and will continue to be affected due to the Home Office’s decision to outsource. Anyone who submits a visa application from within the UK is set to face difficulties when providing their biometric information. Applicants previously would receive a letter requesting that they visit a Post Office branch to provide the fingerprints and photos necessary for a successful application. However, since March it has become protocol that applicants book an appointment to do so.
A fundamentally flawed system
The appointment system seems, so far, to be fundamentally flawed. It is nigh on impossible for anyone to get an appointment within a reasonable amount of time, and free appointments are rarely available. Because they do not want to wait a ridiculous amount of time, more and more people are resorting to booking the “enhanced” appointments, which cost £100. These appointments don’t seem to be anything special either, which suggests that the only reason they come with a fee is to make money off applicants with no other choice.
Not only are applicants finding themselves paying for “enhanced” appointments due to lengthy waiting times, but with there being only six Sopra Steria core centres across the UK, many are having to pay for travel costs too. And for international students, not only are they now having to fork out for these expenses, but let’s not forget the immigration health surcharge that doubled this year meaning they also have to pay £300 per year for access to the NHS.
Will the improvements be ready in time for a new student surge?
The service has been dubbed “shoddy” by shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who also affirmed her belief that the treatment of international students living in the UK to be hostile. According to Sopra Steria, they have plans to adapt the service, and are working closely with the Home Office to do so. However, thus far it seems that the service will see no improvement before September, meaning that only more trouble is to come for student visa applicants, as well as others applying from inside the UK who will no doubt feel the knock-on effect.