Cheryl Ma, Senior Immigration Caseworker
It has now been four weeks since the BNO visa scheme opened on 31 January 2021. According to media reports, nearly 5,000 BNO applications had been submitted a fortnight after the scheme opened and, before the scheme’s launch, 7,000 BNO passport holders had already been admitted in the UK at discretion, known as ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ (‘LOTR’).
It would not be surprising if the processing times for UK visas are delayed due to a high volume of applications from Hong Kong or within the UK, in addition to the impact of coronavirus. Nevertheless, a number of applications had already been decided within 3 weeks of the scheme starting – whereas the current published service standard is actually within 12 weeks. It is noteworthy that the UK government is also being very thoughtful to rename and endorse the visa sticker with a generic title – ‘Residence Visa’.
The UK government launched the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ smartphone App on 23 February 2021 to enable BNO applicants to scan their biometric passport and complete the visa process without needing to attend a visa application centre. However, there have been some technical issues that still need to be resolved. The Home Office confirmed they are continuing to test the technology and we look forward to seeing the development and improvement of the App. The Home Office will hopefully soon achieve their ambition to move to a wholly digital system, where UK visa applicants would be able to apply for a UK visa through a smartphone and have online access to their immigration status.
The Immigration lawyers at Quastels are available to assist on all personal and business immigration matters, including BNO Visas.
Please note – this article does not constitute legal advice.