When overseas applicants accept their offer from the University, that isn’t the end of their application process. Next, they need to apply for a visa to study in the UK. The University has to manage the visa application process, following a procedure laid down by the Borders Agency, and obtain a range of additional evidence from the student before they are granted a document called a CAS. The student travels on with their CAS to the UK and their visa is granted once they arrive in the UK to study. One of the results of Brexit has been a fall in the number of applications from the EU, so more of our international students come from outside the EU and require more extensive verification checks before they are granted a visa, and thereby substantially increase the workload of our immigration service.
Until last spring, that process of requesting, obtaining and verifying the additional documentation was done via email, with electronic images of documents being sent via email and then uploaded into SAMIS before checking. Most applications for ‘CASes’ are relatively straightforward but if one case gets complicated it gets ‘really complicated.’ Our immigration service wanted a solution that would allow them to manage the increase in demand from outside the EU, deal with the simple cases quickly and efficiently, and give them the time to focus on the more complex cases.
The delivered solution automates the request for information to the applicant and allows them to upload documentation via the applicant portal. The system sends chasing emails to remind the applicant what evidence is outstanding. When all the documentation has been uploaded, staff are notified that a CAS application is ready for review. They can then review the evidence and approve it or ask for further information where the evidence does not meet the required standard. The reporting also provides management with a much better overview of the caseload that was previously possible.
Before Christmas, the University had an audit of its UKVI process. The auditors were full of praise for the solution which gives us much better control of our CAS processing than other Universities.
During the project, we actively had to ‘reign in the scope’ to ensure we could deliver on time and really focus on processing the easier cases as efficiently as possible. The minimum viable product solution allowed around 90% of cases to be dealt with quickly and easily, allowing staff to focus on the more complex cases. This spring, we are expecting to enhance the solution to increase the volume of applications that can be processed without significant staff involvement.