The entry clearance application process involves the submission of an online application and the physical attendance of an applicant at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) for enrollment of their biometrics and submission of their passport. The method of submission of the supporting evidence varies from place to place. In some countries, the requirement is for the applicant to submit the document at the VAC following biometrics. In others, the supporting evidence is required to be posted to Sheffield following biometrics at their local VAC. As of 13 March 2017, the evidence for settlement applications is required to be sent to Sheffield. Their note of procedural change can be found here.
Notably, there is now a new submission method available in China. For standard settlement applications, an applicant can opt to have their evidence scanned and electronically transmitted to Sheffield. As expected, there is an additional fee of 300 RMB for this.
This submission method has been available since 10 February 2017. It is now available at 12 Visa Application Centres in China. The documents once scanned will be returned to the applicant in most cases. In others, they will be retained at the Visa Application Centre. To ease processing, they require the documents to be prepared in line with their guidance.
Whilst this innovation is helpful in terms of real-time return of documents, it remains to be seen how it will roll out in practice. With due emphasis on the format of documents in Appendix FM-SE, thorough checks would need to be put in place by the checking team to ensure that documents submitted are in the original format even where accompanied by a photocopy for ease of processing. Failure to conduct proper checking at the point of receiving document and checking would mean that those submitting photocopies without the original may go unnoticed. It would be interesting to hear comments from those who have used this service.