Misinformation and misdirection in outsourced UK visa services

The personal information of people who have applied for UK visas must have gold-plated protection, the Law Society of England and Wales said as news broke that Home Office contractor Sopra Steria has ended a subcontract with premium service provider BLS.

"Contracted UK visa and immigration services have been a can of worms from the very start," Law Society president Simon Davis said.

"While it is good news that a relationship which had all the hallmarks of conflict of interest and unfair competitive advantage has been terminated, the lack of oversight allowing such a situation in the first place is a serious concern.

"What's needed now is concrete assurance from government that the highly sensitive personal information, right down to their DNA, applicants have provided to BLS is safe.

"Even once the subcontracting issues have been dealt with, a maze of misinformation and misdirection in the new contracted system could all too easily lead to unlawful or incorrect decisions for applicants, delays for others and some may be excluded from the system because of inflated prices, knock-on costs and inaccessible services.

"There is a real risk of an increase in Home Office refusals based on a lack of evidence simply because the subcontractor has rejected, failed to request or to transfer the relevant evidence from applicants to the Home Office.

"These grave problems in our immigration system undermine the rule of law, while also damaging our country's reputation for justice and fairness.

"We need an immigration process that is fit for purpose – that makes lawful, timely, consistent decisions that, after all, have a profound impact on people's lives."

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | harriet.beaumont@lawsociety.org.uk | 020 8049 3854

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