As of 16 September 2019, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have launched a documents reduction pilot for Settlement Appendix FM spouse and Partner applications (to include applications made by children who are applying at the same time as the main applicants). UKVI have advised the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) that the pilot will run in two phases:
Phase one has launched at 6 Visa Application Centres in India (South Mumbai, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, and North Mumbai). Phase one will trial the pilot before it is extended to other centres and is expected to last around 8 weeks.
The idea of the pilot is to reduce the amount of supporting evidence submitted with these applications and has been introduced as UKVI indicate that ‘customers often tell us that it is difficult to be sure which documents to provide in support of a settlement visa application’.
Information released suggests the following documents will not be accepted; greeting cards, phone cards, letters from friends, call logs, money transfers, wedding receipts or invitations, USB/DVD’s and newspaper clippings. Limited evidence of WhatsApp and social media will be accepted and a limit of 10 photographs is being introduced.
Settlement Appendix FM spouse and Partner applications are often document heavy as the applicant intends to show that their relationship is ‘genuine and subsisting’ and wants to avoid any doubts that this is not the case. Whilst it is obviously a growing issue that too much information is being submitted, this pilot increases the risk of refusal on the basis of a lack of evidence. UKVI indicate that should evidence be missing from an application which is required for it to be considered, then UKVI will contact the applicant to obtain additional documents – but is this guaranteed?
ILPA raised various concerns with UKVI and as a result of this, UKVI confirmed that applicants would not be prevented from submitting additional evidence. If the applicant insists on including this as part of their application, however, there are concerns that this additional evidence will not filter through and certain evidence will simply not be accepted.
Once the initial 8 week trial has concluded, consideration will be given to the success of the pilot and as to whether it should be extended or made permanent. UKVI indicate that the pilot would be introduced with ‘incremental increases’ before proposals to make the scheme permanent are considered in 2020.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.