The Home Office currently require all visa applicants to undergo a biometric application where fingerprint information and a photograph is taken. This is currently outsourced to a private company, VFS global, who currently process visa applications for 62 different countries.
It has been found that third party agents are pre-booking slots for the biometric stage of a visa application and reselling them at a premium. Slots are typically priced at around £40 and being resold up to £800. The scam targets foreign workers and students who are typically unaware of the process.
The scam is centred around applications from Pakistan. The Courier found several websites based in Islamabad pretending to be official visa application services. One promised to run a “priority visa appointment service”, a service not currently offered by VFS global. In response, the Home Office released a statement where they promised to tackle “abuse of the visa appointment booking process”.
The investigation comes in what is already a complex situation to obtain international visas to the UK. In the 2021/22 academic year 19% of Newcastle University students were international. One international student from the United States described the process as “overly complicated” and involved a “lot of paperwork”. They noted that some stages of the visa application could not be completed until the summer before they were due to start at Newcastle.
Student visas in the UK may become less appealing. The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman recently promised to ban international students, including postgraduates, from bringing family with them from overseas during the course of their visa.