Return of passports for in-country Tier 2 ICT applications: a welcome concession or empty gesture?
It seems the UKBA have finally realised the impracticality of its in-country postal submission route, at least for Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Migrants. A trial solution has been introduced to remedy this burden, however it may not be as helpful an answer as it seems.
A pilot passport return service for Tier 2 (ICT) applicants applying in the UK was launched on 22 July 2013. This service will see applicants' passports being returned within 7-10 days of their application being received by the Home Office. ICT applicants will now be able to travel and continue to use their passports during the application process. Applicants will only be able to travel, however if they have valid leave that covers the period they intend to be out of the UK.
A stumbling block in the service is that if an applicant's leave expires whilst their application is being processed they will not be able to travel, as they will not be able to evidence their right to return to the UK. With current postal processing times taking as long as six months, this service may be more superficial a gesture than it first appears. Postal applications can be submitted a maximum of three months before an applicant's leave expires. The lengthy processing times may therefore still render applicants UK bound for months.
Notwithstanding the above, the introduction of this service is certainly an improvement on the current process. Tier 2 (ICT) Long Term Staff migrants in particular will benefit from the additional flexibility. For Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term Migrants applying via the Premium Same Day Service may still be the most practical option, especially for those with assignments that are 6 months or less.
It is not clear as of yet whether this new service will be preferable, at least for Long Term Staff Migrants, over electing the Same Day Service. Although it is an improvement on the current postal submission process, there is still a danger of applicants being unable to travel for extended periods of time and businesses may not be able to justify the impracticality this over a saving on application fees.