Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law
New guidance for people unable to travel to enrol biometrics
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The Home Office has now published caseworker guidance on requests from applicants not to attend Visa Application Centres overseas to submit their biometrics data, or alternatively to delay attending a centre, where it is not safe to do so.
Usually, an application for a UK visa will not begin to be processed until biometrics data is submitted, as this data is used to verify the claimed identity of the applicant and help conduct background checks on them. This is still predominantly done by attending a local Visa Application Centre, though for European nationals, it is now possible to complete this online. But for individuals residing in dangerous countries, or who are in hiding, travelling to a centre may not be a safe option.
Requests can be submitted to waive the biometrics requirement or to defer it to a later date, and for the application to continue to be processed in the meantime. The Home Office have now helpfully published guidance on how decision makers may handle these requests.
The guidance confirms the steps the applicant must take to try to resolve any difficulties they have travelling to a centre, including delaying their journey, using an alternative centre, paying for priority services, or additional services including keeping their passport during the application process. Applicants requesting a waiver or delay must set out their reasons, and provide evidence to support their request. A request will only be approved in exceptional circumstances, and there are four criteria decision makers will consider:
- Individuals must satisfy a decision maker about their identity to a reasonable degree of certainty before coming to the UK.
- They must provide evidence they need to make an urgent journey to a VAC that would be particularly unsafe for them based on the current situation within the area they are located and along the route where they would need to travel to reach a VAC to enrol their biometrics, and they cannot delay their journey until later or use alternative routes.
- They must demonstrate their circumstances are so compelling as to make them exceptional. which go beyond simply joining relatives who are living in the UK, for example, their UK based sponsor requires full-time care and there are no other viable alternatives to meet the sponsor’s or their young children’s needs.
- They must confirm they are able to travel to any VAC if they want their application to be predetermined, or where they are requesting decision makers to excuse them from the requirement to attend a VAC to enrol their biometrics, they need to explain why they cannot attend any VAC, but are able to travel to the UK.
These criteria are explained in greater detail in the new guidance, which may be particularly relevant for individuals making family reunion applicants, as well as those in countries such as Afghanistan, where it may be particularly unsafe to travel for certain people.