Rising cost of UK visa appointments due to Covid-19 forcing families inside the UK to live without legal status.
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UK Visa appointments increased fee
Lawyers in the UK, have warned Migrants residing in the UK lawfully are being left with no proof of their immigration status due to increasing charges for visa appointments during the covid-19 pandemic.
Legal migrants and Refugees in the UK have been denied of access to public services because they have been incapable of affording visa appointments to get the obligated documentation since visa centres started reopening from June 2020.
Many visa applicants spent thousands of pounds on appointments being presented at a higher than usual amount, out of fear that any interruption in providing their biometrics will put their application at risk.
A private firm Sopra Steria runs the UK visa centres, after the company took on a Home Office deal in the 2019. While visa applicants could previously visit their local post office to give biometric data such as fingerprints free of charge, at present they attend one of six “core centres” across the UK which provide a free service, or another 51 locations which generally charge a fee beginning from £69.99.
All UK visa application centres within the UK temporarily closed in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sopra Steria publicized at the end of May 2020 that a phased reopening of visa centres was to begin from 1 June 2020, however it mentioned that the service was functioning at a “lower capacity than normal”, with lesser service points open across the UK.
Ever since the UK visa centres have initiated to reopen, immigration solicitors exclaim they have tussled to find free of cost appointments at the six core centres on Sopra Steria’s online booking system, while the paid-for routes are charging significantly more than usual.
A Sopra Steria representative mentioned: “We recognise it has been a difficult time for people unable to access appointments because of the global pandemic.”
They stated that the firm had made “significant progress” in lessening the number of customers waiting for an appointment and that, under guidance from the UK Home Office, it was functioning to provide as many new appointments as possible while taking into consideration the safety of customers and workforce.
The Sopra Steria spokesperson added: “During this period, we have continued to generate more than half of our appointments at core sites available for free, between 9am-7pm Monday to Friday. As predicted, there has been extraordinary demand for these free appointments and visa customers with urgent or unique cases can contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) using the Covid-19 Immigration Team helpline.”
Furthermore in order to decrease the number of applicants demanding to attend a service point and reduce waiting times for appointments, Sopra Steria was looking to introduce a new process which will help the UK Home Office reprocessing previously provided biometrics for some customers, adding: “We look forward to delivering more information on this very soon.”
A UK Home Office representative stated: “We are dedicated to offering a world class service and visa applicants still have the choice to book a free appointment at six core centres across the UK including Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, London and Manchester.”
They further stated that other UK visa centres were reopening “as early as they can, corresponding to public health guidance, to deliver more appointments for visa applicants inside the UK”.
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