As all of our government’s  best ideas, the “UKVAS” (actually, Sopra Steria) -led new application system, introduced universally from December and with which I once vowed not to have anything to do and yet here I am, had quickly turned from bad to disastrous, leading to complete chaos and confusion among applicants and  thousands of pounds in application fee losses (the latter being the aspect the Home office usually shrugs off as being just natural).

When we all filled out applications by hand, the application date was the date of posting — old common law “postal rule” applied. When premium service centers (formerly PEOs) existed, one booked appointment online but the application date was the date you actually showed up at a PSC to enrol biometric and turn in your docs. While there was always confusion in the language of the Rules, it was quite easy to tell when application was or was not submitted — it was whatever moment after which the fee became nonrefundable. Which was either when you posted it, or, if some appointment, in country or at a VAC, was required – after such appointment,

When the govt went to the dreaded inept online application system and UKVAS/Sopra Steria service, what many applicants saw was sort of the same PEOs but now run by a private firm. No one REALLY explained the difference and crucial changes in the system to them. In fact of course, they were anything but same. You made the application online and for a while had a choice of “old process” when you post the documents, and “new process” when you go to Sopra — it is now only “new process”. All the same, changes introduced in December meant that APPLICATION DATE was now online application date — fee became non-refundable after that! And your only remedy if you change your mind  became to not enrol biometrics to cause application to  be rejected as invalid.

But that had another implication too, which an ordinary self-representing client completely failed to grasp.

Most of the rules require that certain conditions be fulfilled for a period of time BEFORE APPLICATION DATE. So clients who treated online application just as appointment booking tool, for example if their previous application was overseas or at a PSC 2.5 years ago – and THEN went to get , say, bank statements to evidence Appendix FM financial requirement, in time for Sopra appointment, all got cheerful refusals.

I had recently represented a family in a re-application back to 5-year route who had ample funds to show fi rec based on savings, but the whole thing went like this.

1) Wife transfers long-existing savings all to one account so it will be all pretty and easy to show, on 6/9/18.

2) ON 21/2/19, thinking she is just booking an appointment, she fills out an online application. Books appointment for 7/3/19. Pays for premium (24 hrs).

3) on 7/3/19 in the morning before the appointment, she goes to the bank and gets a statement that shows funds from 6/9/18 to 7/3/19 — she is very happy, this is 6 months, right? what can go wrong?

4) on 11/3/19 receives a cheerful refusal where it says that she failed to evidence the financial requirement at ALL. In this case she gets not a refusal, but a grant of leave on a 10-year route which she does not want at all as she has extant leave and can re-apply (this is a subject for a separate post). But the bottom line is, NO ONE explains to her what ACTUALLY happened — she and her husband start writing frantic letters to MPs and such because they think that their financial statement was overlooked. They never heard of proper avenues of redress. An illiterate MP tell them thich is an Article 8 violation (it is not – she got LEAVE — and even a refusal woudl not have been, since she also had extant leave). Small problem = big mess, half of which could be avoided if they  were actually TOLD WHAT WAS WRONG. Took even me a bit of time to guess. Funds are required to be there 6 months before application date. Application date was 21/2/19, NOT 7/3/19. We reapplied 2 weeks later with exactly the same bank statement!

Whether such a minor discrepancy was worth a refusal of course is beside the point – I am 100% certain this is a deliberate trap policy that allows the govt to keep thousands of pounds. This family luckily at least got Premium fee refunded cus was not actually withing 24 hours.

This is a typical example of an application date trap. I must say I had, before I actually realised what was happening myself, filed another one, “old route”,  where statement date ended up postdating application date — there was a huge rush to achieve application dates before IHS went up early January – but in that case funds had been held fro years and the statement mercifully covered a year, so it was granted as normal. Lucky for the lady, she had no child and 10-year route would not have happened here.

I had another case – where overzealous CW trapped a woman in the same trope while in fact in HER case it should not have mattered what a statement date was, I believe. Fin Rec was rental income.

Statements postdated the application date (I represented her, but was not my fault — she sent me COPIES of statement to work off — and said originals were coming from HSBC< so I naturally assumed they’d be for the same period!!!! HSBC never sent anything – so HSBC stole 5 years of this woman’s life now, as she decided not to fight this because she does not fully understand the implications IMHO). But this was mid-December when I admit I myself wasn;t sure of the implications of the new application date yet — my gut told me to stay away from Sopra Steria system, so I should have!!

Anyhow, requirements are that non -employment income be EARNED in 12-month period prior to application date, and it was. Table of rental payments received showed last payment ON APPLICATION DATE — because file was actually assembled later, it was also postal – but that last payment wasn’t really needed as there was 18600 without it. I think it was an unlawful refusal, although sadly also a confused demoralized applicant who decided to just stay on a 10-year route, and disorganised not very responsible husband sponsor..

But again no reason  at all was actually given, I already speculate what happened based on other cases which I know have become pandemic in Dec-March. They say “not evidenced financial requirement” and it takes me great strength to actually NOT think as applicants do, that this means their fin rec evidence was ignored. Sure practitioners now learned the new application date trap, what about a DIY applicant who last did it 2.5 years ago? they stand no chance.

Stand by part II is coming on HO using the concession to grant 10-year leave instead of 5-year leave as a malicious weapon against families with extant leave, robbing them of 5 years of their lives and prospectively thousands of pounds.

Comments are closed.