Home Office decision making is sometimes delayed and many have experienced delay during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Delays in UK visa and immigration decision making may cause significant prejudice, for example, not being able to commence a course of study, not being able to work or travel when there is a family emergency and may impact on an individual's health and mental well being.
For a long time there have been reports on the delay in the immigration system and we have written previous posts on the issue.
As most applications are time sensitive, processing times will be an important consideration. Government advice is always not to book any travel before applying or a decision is made.
In this article we will explore standard processing times and what action you may be able to take if there is a delay in your application.
Applying from inside the UK
Service standard processing times
Service standard processing times for standard applications are 6 months or 8 weeks. The processing times will start from when the application is received, although correspondence suggests it is from when an application is accepted as valid.
The government website specifies that the waiting time for Graduate visa applications starts when you've applied online and either attended your appointment at a visa service centre or submitted your documents using the ID Check app. It further specifies that those switching to a Start-up visa or switching to or extending a Health and Care Worker visa should have a decision within 3 weeks once an application is made online.
Those applying to settle in the UK or those making a No Time Limit (NTL) application can expect to wait up to 6 months for an application to be processed. Those applying to extend or applying for leave to remain on a temporary basis can expect to receive a decision within 8 weeks.
There are priority services available for an additional fee meaning a decision should be made within 5 working days or if using the super priority service, the next working day. When using the priority services the processing time runs from when biometrics and supporting evidence are provided. Waiting time ends when a decision is received.
Waiting times do not include the time it takes to issue and send a biometric residence permit. A BRP should be sent by courier and cannot be collected. It should usually be received within 7-10 days of any decision. If you do not receive a BRP you can report this: here.
What may delay a decision?
UKVI expects an application to be made before leave expires, the correct form to be used and relevant declarations to be completed accurately, provide all evidence required by the application and guidance, enrol biometrics and respond to requests for further information promptly. Not providing this information or following this guidance can cause delay.
What happens if there is a delay?
If there is a problem or the application is considered complex and will not be decided during the usual period, an Applicant should be written to within the usual service standard time.
We have experienced of late many Applicants being written to as a matter of course from the outset, before even providing documents, to confirm that it will not be possible to deal with their case within the service standard time.
EU Settlement Scheme
The government website suggests that applications under the EU Settlement Scheme should take around 5 working days for complete applications to be processed but it can take up to a month.
It can take longer than a month if further information is required, for example you apply as a minor and the application is not linked to an adult, you have a criminal conviction or you are a non EEA or non Swiss citizen and you are applying but have not made a previous application.
Processing times start when using the ID Document Check app, or when submitted online or if using post, when documents are received. If you are required to provide fingerprints the processing time starts once fingerprints are scanned and received.
The website caveats the information by stating that this is an estimate and therefore by no means a commitment. Further, the information does not specify what you can expect if your application falls outside the one-month period or rather what you should be entitled to expect.
Applying from outside the UK
When does my waiting period commence?
Different waiting times apply for applications outside of the UK. Once you have submitted your application online, the waiting time starts when you either attend an appointment to provide your biometric information at a VAC (visa application centre) or when you verify your identity using an ID check App.
Waiting time ends when you receive a decision.
If you are visiting the UK or intend to transit the UK, are studying in the UK, working or investing in the UK, applying as a Commonwealth Citizen (Ancestry), Returning Resident or for a biometric replacement, or transferring a visa or applying for a certificate of entitlement you should receive a decision within 3 weeks.
If you are applying to join a family pursuant to Appendix FM or on the basis of Family Reunion standard processing times are 12 weeks.
Are there priority services?
There are priority services available for an additional fee. Whether you can use them will depend on what visa you are applying for and whether they are available at the VAC you are using. The services range from super priority (next day collection), to priority (5 working days) and priority settlement (30 working days).
Priority services are not always recommended if for example there are criminal convictions or an adverse immigration history that needs to be addressed.
A list of visa application centres can be found: here.
Most visa application centres have resumed service where local restrictions do not prevent it, but you will need to check this when you submit your application.
Why do I need to wait longer?
UKVI specifies that you may need to wait longer if your application is not 'straightforward'.
Examples given include because an interview is needed, supporting documents need to be verified or because you have a criminal conviction.
Even if you have used priority or super priority services and the application is not deemed to be straightforward, the application will still be at the front of the queue and UKVI will try to process within the standard timescales.
What can I do if a decision on my application is delayed or I need an urgent decision?
You can consider contacting the Home Office (by phone, in writing or both) to request an update. You may wish to consider providing evidence of how the delay is impacting you, for example if you do not have a right to work or study. If there is an urgency or the standard processing time has passed it is possible to ask for the matter to be escalated.
When making enquiries always take care to make clear that you are not intending to withdraw your application.
If there are still no responses you may consider a further legal avenue of challenge. There is no appeal when there is no decision but you may consider judicial review proceedings. You would be asking a judge to review the failure of the authorities to act and make a decision.
If this is a route you are considering you will need to ensure that you have evidence of all stages of your attempts to obtain a decision. Keeping a written record and details of any Home Office 'ticket' numbers you are provided. The steps you have taken to obtain a decision and the reasons why one is required will be relevant considerations.
Before commencing proceedings you will need to follow a pre-action protocol process. This will give UKVI the opportunity to consider the position before you commence proceedings.
Judicial review proceedings can be legally complex, costly and time consuming. You may consider seeking legal advice before commencing any proceedings.
Delay Following an Allowed Appeal
Others may be experiencing delays in the implementation of an allowed appeal, which is equally frustrating and has implications for the everyday life of an individual. We examined this in a previous post where we considered the Implementing allowed appeals, published guidance dated 04 August 2020 written for Home Office staff who implement an allowed appeal.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.