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Are VACs Now Accepting New Applications or Only Applications Made Prior to Temporary Closure?

Since March 2020, the closure of service points and visa application centres (VACs) due to COVID-19 in the UK and around the world has posed a considerable challenge for many thousands of people in the process of applying for or renewing visas. Many immigrants and prospective immigrants with existing appointments had their bookings postponed. Now several weeks later, many VACs have reopened, to the relief of many. In this article, we will explain the current status of VACs in the UK and worldwide, and whether they are processing new applications yet.

The phased reopening of UKVCAS Service points

According to the latest information published on 12th June, 2020 by Sopra Steria who operates the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS), service points across the UK are being reopened in a controlled and phased way. The following service points were opened on 1st June:

  • Birmingham (Core)
  • Birmingham - Premium Lounge
  • Chelmsford
  • Exeter
  • Leeds
  • London - Croydon (Core)
  • London - Premium Lounge (Mark Lane)
  • London - ESP (Mark Lane)
  • London - Victoria
  • Manchester Fountain Street ESP
  • Manchester - Premium Lounge
  • Sheffield
  • Southampton

And on 22nd June, service centres in Belfast, Cardiff Bay, Edinburgh, and Glasgow will open.

UKVCAS and UKVI are currently only processing the backlog of existing immigration applications (i.e. those made prior to the temporary closure of the UKVCAS offices). This is also due to reduced capacity and to allow UKVCAS to follow the health and safety guidelines. According to the UKVCAS website, “Our priority remains the safety of customers and staff and to ensure we deliver an effective service that meets public health guidelines. This means that initially we can still only offer our service at a reduced number of locations, and at a lower capacity than usual and unfortunately if you did not have an existing appointment prior to the suspension of the service, you will not be able to book an appointment at this time”.

As of 13th June 2020, all existing applicants in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales should have received an email offering a new appointment slot. Those in England, if they have not already, can expect to receive theirs soon. There will be no charge for an appointment that had to be rebooked due to closure of UKVCAS service points.

In the next phase, UKVCAS service points will start to allow bookings by visa applicants who did not have an appointment prior to lockdown. It is expected this will start from 22nd June 2020.

Reopening of international visa application centres (VACs)

Visa application centres are operated by TLS contact if those in Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East, and by VFS global for all other countries.

According to the TLS contact website, VACs in Belarus, Germany and Ukraine have already opened, and the following VACs will be opening on 22nd June 2020:

  • Azerbaijan (Baku)
  • Belgium (Brussels)
  • Egypt (Alexandria, Cairo)
  • France (Paris)
  • Gambia (Banjul)
  • Jordan (Amman)
  • Portugal (Lisbon)
  • Serbia (Belgrade)
  • Spain (Barcelona, Madrid)
  • Switzerland (Geneva)
  • Tunisia (Tunis)
  • Turkey (Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir).

On 29th June 2020, the following VACs plan to open:

  • Albania (Tirans)
  • Angola (Luanda)
  • Armenia (Yerevan)
  • Austria (Vienna)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo)
  • Botswana (Gaborone)
  • Bulgaria (Sofia)
  • Cyprus (Nicosia – South)
  • Czech Republic (Prague)
  • Denmark (Copenhagen)
  • Ethiopia (Addis Ababa)
  • Georgia (Tbilisi)
  • Greece (Athens)
  • Hungary (Budapest)
  • Iceland (Reykjavik)
  • Ireland (Dublin)
  • Israel (Tel Aviv)
  • Italy (Rome)
  • Kazakhstan (Almaty, Nur Sultan)
  • Kenya (Mombasa, Nairobi)
  • Kosovo (Pristina)
  • Lebanon (Beirut)
  • Macedonia (Skopje)
  • Madagascar (Antananarivo)
  • Malawi (Lilongwe)
  • Montenegro (Podgorica)
  • Morocco (Rabat)
  • Mozambique (Maputo)
  • Namibia (Windhoek)
  • Netherlands (Amsterdam)
  • Norway (Oslo)
  • Occupied Palestinian Territory (Jerusalem)
  • Poland (Warsaw)
  • Romania (Bucharest)
  • Russia (Ekaterinburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Rostov, St Petersburg)
  • Rwanda (Kigali)
  • Sweden (Stockholm)
  • Tanzania (Dar es Salaam)
  • Turkey (Antalya)
  • Uganda (Kampala)
  • Zambia (Lusaka)
  • Zimbabwe (Harare)

TLS contacts have confirmed that most offices will only be opening for the return of passports, but some will be starting to process new applications from 22nd June, those being:

  • Azerbaijan (Baku)
  • Belgium (Brussels)
  • Egypt (Alexandria, Cairo)
  • France (Paris)
  • Gambia (Banjul)
  • Jordan (Amman)
  • Portugal (Lisbon)
  • Serbia (Belgrade)
  • Spain (Barcelona, Madrid)
  • Switzerland (Geneva)
  • Tunisia (Tunis)
  • Turkey (Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir).

VFS Global has also confirmed that as of 22nd June 2020, the following VACs will be open:

  • Australia
  • Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan)
  • Cambodia (Phnom Penh)
  • China (Changsha, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Kunming, Nanjing, Shenyang, and Shenzhen)
  • Japan (Tokyo and Osaka)
  • New Zealand (Auckland)
  • South Korea (Seoul)
  • Thailand (Chiang Mai)
  • Vietnam (Danang, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City).

To check whether your local VFS Global VAC is currently only processing existing applications or is now allowing new ones, you will need to check the individual country website as the situation is constantly changing. It does appear that most, if not all that are open, are allowing those who were unable to attend previous bookings due to the Coronavirus lockdown to now book a new appointment, and as of 22nd June 2020 are accepting new bookings; the VFS website states, “Customers who were unable to attend an earlier appointment, will be able to log into their account to book a new appointment. Customers who have completed their application on GOV.UK, but didn’t previously book an appointment at the Visa Application Centre, can do so from today (22nd June 2020). To check the latest status for your country, visit the VFS Global website and select the relevant ‘applying from’ and ‘going to’ countries.

Final words

Over the next few weeks, many more VACs in the UK and worldwide will open and eventually resume normal service. Much will clearly depend on the extent and ongoing spread of COVID-19. New hotspots are constantly emerging, and while VACs may have reopened, they may need to close again in the future. It is crucial, therefore, to regularly check for announcements from the relevant VAC operator where you are applying. We still have a long way to go to return to normality, but at the moment, it seems as though we are making steps in the right direction, we can only hope it continues.

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