UK visa application services resume in USA and Canada

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

The closure of UK visa application centres has delayed UK visa applications by a number of months.  Surely, there should now be a review on how to simplify the system and make it cheaper for applicants.  It is confusing for people to have to use multiple websites.  Why not have one site that enables applicants to make applications through to completion.  

If UK Visas and Immigration use a subcontractor then is it not possible for the Government system to make all service options available via the subcontractor on their own UK visa site?  Is it really necessary for people to have to create new accounts with VFS Global?  The current system is confusing and makes it too easy for sub-contractors to charge excessive fees.  People end up paying more money than they have to because it is difficult finding better value for money services.

UK Visa and Immigration are also it seems intentionally making it difficult to apply for the Van der Elst visa under EU law.  There is no option to apply for this using the latest UK visa online system.  This is useful for EU employers to be able to send staff to work on a short-term basis in another EU Country.  Until the end of the Brexit transitional period the on 31 December 2020 you should still be able to apply for this to work in the UK.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is a former US citizen, announced today that some easing of coronavirus COVID-19 related restrictions would be delayed.  Unfortunately, in parts of the World the pandemic seems to be on the up again.  Will there be a second lockdown in future which will again affect UK visa services?

UK visa application centres in Canada and the US have started a phased reopening. Applicants for UK visas in the US can now schedule a biometric appointment at US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Application Support Centres (ASC) or VFS Global Premium Application Centres (PAC).

Having closed in March, ASCs and PACs began reopening on 13 July 2020. Despite reopening, officials have warned that appointment availability remains limited ahead of more ASCs opening in the coming weeks. Walk-ins will not be accommodated.

Officials have said that only the visa applicant can attend a scheduled biometric appointment. If there is more than one applicant in a family, then individual appointments have to be booked, although a parent may accompany a minor.

US premium appointment services

It’s understood that all VFS Global PACs will reopen, except those in Seattle and Los Angeles, which were forced to close again by order of the federal government.

Any appointments that were cancelled due to coronavirus lockdown measures will be rescheduled by VFS and UK visa applicants will be notified of their new appointment date and time.

VFS Centre officials have said that only Bronze premium services are available. Gold and Silver packages are suspended until further notice. It’s understood that standard services will take 15 business days, excluding mailing time.

Applications will need to be mailed to the scanning hub in New York using a FedEx or UPS courier service with a return label attached.

No in-person document collection is allowed. Documents will be returned to UK visa applicants using UPS. Fees for courier services are included in the Bronze package.

Canada application services

In Canada, VAC appointments have also resumed, with four centres reopening on 17 July 2020.

Applicants arriving at VACs in Canada must wear face masks and abide by social distancing rules. Officials have warned that applicants may be subject to additional protocols and travel restrictions in accordance with local guidelines.

For PAC appointments, only the applicant will be granted entry, although parents accompanying a minor or those with a translator or accompanying an elderly or disabled person will be permitted entry also.

Validity of UK visas

Upon retrieving their passport from a VFS Centre, applicants will be issued with a vignette visa, which will allow entry to the UK for 30 days. All UK visas issued with a start date of 24 January 2020 or later, qualify for a free replacement, with a 90-day vignette issued prior to the end of 2020.

UK Visas and Immigration is expected to announce further details on replacement vignettes in the coming weeks.

Visiting the UK

Online applications to visit the UK, managed by Access UK, is now holding applications for an increased duration of 240 days. This will mean that applications will remain live and valid in support of biometric data once services fully restart.

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