South Africa’s UK visa offices are open again – here are the new procedures

South Africans in the process of emigrating, have been living in limbo as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world.

However, as restrictions ease in Europe, visa offices are opening – and although South African borders are still closed, would-be emigrants are able to pick up the process again, say immigration specialists Sable International.

Sable said that the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) division has implemented a controlled, phased, re-opening of service points.

This means that a reduced number of locations are operating at a lower capacity than usual, in the interests of the safety of customers and staff.

Ongoing global restrictions mean some UKVI services will remain closed. However, the visa centres in South Africa are open to for new applications, said Sable.

This means that if you have an existing UK visa or British appointment that you have not been able to attend due to the pandemic, you will now be allowed to re-book.

“We are able to book appointments for new applications, but there is a lower number of appointments available, due to the restriction on the number of people they are safely allowed to see each day,” said John Dunn, director of citizenship & immigration at Sable International.

“The Home Office has also made an adjustment to the length of the initial visa that they issue. They have gone from issuing 30-day visas to 90-day visas, in order to accommodate travel restrictions, and to give people more time to get to the UK.

The South African government has opened the borders to people who have work and study commitments abroad.

“This includes those on the student visas and who have work permits that have been approved before or during this time. However, the borders are unlikely to open in full for other travel before October,” said Dunn.

Dunn noted that the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) will honour existing payments, and applicants will not be charged again and no appointment prices will be displayed for rebooking.

Certain short stay categories like the visit visa and EEA family permit that are issued for six months but have expired, will not be renewed or extended. They will have to be resubmitted in full, and government fees must be paid again.

Arriving in the UK

Dunn said the UK borders were never officially closed and are set to remain open.

However, he noted that passengers arriving in the UK will need to spend 14 days in self-isolation, and will need to fill in a locator form upon arrival, detailing where they plan to spend those 14 days.

“When you arrive in the UK, you will not be allowed to leave the place where you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK (known as ‘self-isolating’) unless you’re arriving from an exempt country,” said Dunn.

“All South African visitors to the UK will need to complete the public health passenger locator form 48 hours before arrival.

“You must present these details on your arrival in England.You may be refused permission to enter the UK (if you are not a British citizen), or fined if you do not to provide your contact details or do not self-isolate, unless you arrive in the UK from an exempt country.”

Dunn said you should self-isolate in one place for the full 14 days, where you can have food and other necessities delivered, and stay away from others.

You must self-isolate at the address you provided on the public health passenger locator form.

“You cannot go out to work or school or visit public areas, go shopping or go out to exercise. If you require help buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, you should order a delivery.

“If you cannot safely self-isolate for 14 days, you should tell Border Force Officers when you pass through UK border controls.

“They will provide you with details of a booking service which you can use to obtain accommodation and self-isolate in at your own expense.”

Read: A look at South Africa beyond 2020

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South Africa’s UK visa offices are open again – here are the new procedures