Recent reports suggest that private firms could be raking in millions of pounds as a result of the Home Office's outsourcing scheme for UK visas. The news from the industry suggests that people applying for UK work permits are being forced to travel for miles and pay considerable costs to apply for UK status. As a result,
UK immigration lawyers have warned that legal migrants could end up in a hostile environment now that the UK visas processing service has been outsourced to Sopra Steria - a French firm.
The people affected by the change to the UK work permit include people requesting settled status before Brexit, despite the government claiming that the application is free. In the past, people applying for a UK work permit could go to the local post office and provide documents or biometric data. However, today, Immigration UK processes have changed. This means that people are required to attend one of 6 centres across the country, offering a free service. There are another 51 immigration UK locations that charge a fee for applications.
Appointments at Sopra Steria start for £200, and the firm apparently made millions of pounds over the last year, according to data taken from a Freedom of Information request. UK immigration lawyers have said that applicants have not been able to get free appointments due to a lack of availability so far.
Some have also been forced to travel hundreds of miles and pay excessive fees so that they can submit applications on time.
Applicants for the UK work permit are also frequently met with a significant amount of misdirection and misinformation as they attempt to complete new online application forms.
According to UK immigration consultants, this can lead some people to either make mistakes with their applications or abandon the process completely. Law society presidents like Christina Backlaws have said that the current system could lead to incorrect decisions about applicants caused by inaccessible services and inflated pricing.