Important Changes to Premium Services in Croydon PEO
Letter from Sonia Dower Deputy Director, Operations. UKBA in which she sets out the forthcoming changes to the PEO service in Croydon and the impact that will have on rep cases.
"I am writing to keep you updated with some of the changes which are taking place across the PEO network and how you and your clients may be affected.
You will be aware that from 29 February legislation will take effect that will require all forms of leave to remain granted to non-EEA nationals to be evidenced by a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
Further to this, we are beginning the introduction of online forms and rolling out Front Office Services which will expand our capacity to capture biometrics via our commercial partner, the Post Office.
This will mean a greater convenience for postal customers and remove the pressure on biometrics capture within the PEO network. You may also be aware of the actions we have taken to prevent the restrictive practices of speculative and block booking appointments and we have made changes to both our guidance and the Terms and Conditions on the online system to prevent these practices from continuing.
Following these changes, representatives will still be able to create online accounts and book appointments on behalf of their clients, but this will need to be for the named client who will attend the PEO, and reps will not be able to substitute one client for another – if you wish to change appointments for your clients, you will need to cancel the incorrect appointment and search for a new one at a convenient time.
This is in the interest of fairness to all users of the service and will mean that customers, including representatives, will know immediately if they have secured an appointment.
You can see that we are introducing a number of positive changes that will benefit our customers including online forms, providing further sites for postal enrolment outside of the PEO and taking action against those who abuse our services that will all benefit our applicants.
Owing to this increased demand for biometric appointments, from February 29 it will no longer be possible for representatives to present cases in any PEO on behalf of their clients without their clients (and their dependents) also attending to provide biometrics.
Premium Customer Service for Sponsors
You may also be aware of plans to introduce a new, charged Premium Customer Service for sponsors in Tier 2 and Tier 5 from April 2012. This will offer sponsors the opportunity to apply for a range of benefits including priority access to premium appointments at our PEOs. We are exploring these options and may, for example, allow premium sponsors to access appointments further in advance than other users. We are also looking into the possibility of enhanced service levels for decisions within the standard route for premium sponsors.
I know that a number of representatives are engaged by employers or other sponsors who are likely to be eligible for the new premium customer service, and that greater certainty about when applications can be submitted or will be concluded is an area of great interest to you, so I hope you will be encouraged to hear about the direction of travel with these developments to UK Border Agency’s services. We will provide more information about these services in due course.
Impact in Croydon Public Enquiry Office
These changes mean that from 29 February, despite our original intention to continue this service, Croydon PEO will no longer be able to offer “regular slots” to any representatives. All appointments will need to be booked at a designated date and time to ensure the even flow of customers through the fifteen biometric booths that are available in Croydon PEO and to avoid long delays for customers.
It is our intention to ensure that it is as efficient as possible for representatives to act on behalf of their clients in Croydon PEO. As such, from 29 February we will be removing past restrictions which prevented representatives from leading the interaction with the caseworkers on counter, and from inviting their clients to leave the PEO once the biometric results were received at Croydon PEO. Representatives will, therefore, be able to arrange for their clients to leave the PEO once their biometric results are received and to see their clients’ cases through to conclusion in the PEO, with appropriate authorisation from the applicant.
We are aware that demand for PEO appointments is currently greater than our capacity. We expect to increase staffing levels and consequently available appointments in Croydon PEO during the summer.
We will consider the results of these changes within the Croydon PEO and look to expand them across the entire PEO network in the near future. Guidance will be available on the changes that I have outlined and what these mean for applicants. Our website also shows information about each PEO and the services that they offer.
I would like to reassure you that our PEO network remains committed to providing the highest standards of customer service and case work to our customers – those who use representatives and those who present their own applications. While I realise that some representatives, particularly those who have had regular, non-biometric slot allocations, may be disappointed to hear that these changes will be coming into effect, I hope that it is clear from the explanation provided here that the rationale for the changes is to make the appointment booking process as straightforward, fair and transparent to all our customers as possible.
We look forward to continuing to work with you."