UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), a division of the Home Office, is now responsible for the UK visa system after the abolishment of the UKBA last year.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) was formed as an executive agency in 2008 through a merger of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), UK Visas, and the detection functions of HMRC. But, following a scathing report on the UKBA’s competence, it was announced in March 2013 by Home Secretary Theresa May that the agency would be abolished and its work returned to the Home Office.
The UKBA’s executive agency status was removed on 31 March 2013 and the agency was split into two new organisations: UKVI, and an immigration enforcement organisation.
According to May, “UKBA was given agency status in order to keep its work at an arm’s length from ministers. That was wrong. It created a closed, secretive and defensive culture.”
May also said that UKBA’s performance “was not good enough.” She identified four main problems with the agency – its size, its lack of transparency, its IT systems, and its policy and legal framework. She said that the UKBA has been a “troubled organisation” for so many years that it will take many more years to clear the 300 000 backlogs and fix the system.
UKVI have therefore taken over the following responsibilities:
- Running the UK’s visa service and managing around three million applications a year from overseas nationals who wish to come to the UK to visit, study or work
- Considering applications for British citizenship from overseas nationals who wish to settle in the UK permanently
- Running the UK’s asylum service, which offers protection to those eligible under the 1951 Geneva Convention
- Deciding on applications from employers and educational establishments who want to join the register of sponsors or gain “highly trusted sponsor” status
- Managing appeals from unsuccessful applicants