Good news if you've been planning a visit to the UK but have been dreading the lengthy visits to the UK visa and immigration centres in order to get the paperwork done.

A new online application service called Access UK has been launched for South Africans.

The simple to use online application service is now live in SA, after being successfully rolled out in China and India earlier in February.

When compared to the old system Visa4UK, the UK home office says Access UK has a shorter application form, with questions logically ordered and dynamically based in that it asks relevant questions related to your previous answers.

Seamless and dynamic questioning

Added to this, you can review, edit and download your partially completed application at any point before submission, with the application fee displayed in Rands. Thereafter you will be able to seamlessly apply, book your Visa Application Centre (VAC) appointment as well as pay online - with you only needing to submit biometrics in order to complete the application. Priority visa applications and payments for this can also be done through the new online service. 

South Africans are able to apply for the following via the new service:

- Visitor (Standard)

- General & Family

- Child

- Business

- Entrepreneur

- Religion

- Sportspersons

- Creative

- Private Medical Treatment (6 months)

- Other: Visitors undertaking the PLAB test, Objective Structured Clinical Examination, Clinical Attachment and Dental Observations

- Visitor (Marriage & Civil Partnership)

- Visitor (Permitted Paid Engagement)

UK visas not cheap

The cost of the UK visas vary. A standard visitor visa costs £87 or about R1 891 @ R21, 74/£. The fee for a long-term visit visa depends on its length:

- 2 years - £330 or about R7 174 @ R21, 74/£
- 5 years - £600 or about R13 044 @ R21, 74/£
- 10 years - £752 or about R16 348 @ R21, 74/£

And when they say online they mean all devices including mobile smartphones or tablets. Ease of application extends to Schengen applications in that it allows you to partially auto-completed Schengen application forms with your UK visa info which is then available to download and print. The Schengen visa will need to be completed separately with your first point of entry country's embassy. 

Currently, for customers wishing to apply for a visa to visit the UK, Access UK is available in English, Chinese, Russian and Turkish. The new service is available in parallel with Visa4UK, which is not expected to be decommissioned. New applicants will simply be directed to the new, improved Access UK service and changing services will have no charge attached to it, say the British home office.

Easy access - #eHomeAffairs

South Africa has also cottoned on to the ease of online with the launch of a piloted eHomeAffairs passport and smartcard ID applications, facilitated through local banks. The online service includes submitting application forms, uploading supporting documents, making online payments, and scheduling Home Affairs Branch visits in relation to your respective application in order to submit biometrics as well as have your photograph taken. The service is currently being tested on citizens aged 30 to 35 years.

The capturing of biometrics is also being rolled out at South Africa's international airports as part of the department’s enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) Biometric Pilot programme, it is currently in place at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. At OR Tambo International Airport, there has been a specific focus on capturing of biometrics in the transit area, meaning travellers using this port of entry, no longer need a Transit Visa

While South Africa has been rolling out its digital strategy in phases, many a traveller cannot wait for the dawning of eVisas, making access to travelling and exploring the globe a few simple clicks and scans away.