More than three months after priority processing services on all visa applications were suspended, they continue to be suspended for visa applications for work, family and student routes being filed from outside the UK.
As noted in our insight of 16 May, a combination of external pressures is placing added pressure on the UK immigration system, and the confluence of the resurrection of international travel post the height of the pandemic, the further impact of Brexit, and the war in Ukraine, together with an overhaul of the Points Based System earlier this year, have all led to increased pressure on Home Office caseworkers. That is compounded by a considerable number of caseworkers being reassigned to process visas under the Ukrainian Concessions and has thus resulted in backlogs for applications both being made within the UK and internationally.
Out of country applications
It should be noted that standard family visa applications are currently taking 24 weeks, student visas four weeks, work visas six weeks and visit visas six weeks. The usual standard processing times are half that and the delays are further compounded by the suspension of expediting processes and services.
If the 'Keep my Passport' facility is available in the country of application, it may be wise to consider making use of this service – although be careful if intending to travel to the UK before a decision is made, communicated and as appropriate the visa issued. If intending to travel, please contact one of the team for assistance.
In country applications
For applications filed within the UK, the current standard processing times are eight weeks if applying to switch to or extend a family visa, unless applying on the basis of private life, in which case there are no standard processing times. For many work visa routes, the standard processing times are eight weeks; student extensions or switches into the visa route are currently taking eight weeks also and other routes vary from 3-12 weeks or longer, such as when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement), which has a current standard service time of six months.
It is, however, possible for certain in-country applications to be expedited by paying for a priority service, in addition to the other filing fees. During the filing process applicants in qualifying visa routes will be advised if the application is eligible.
Once a visa application is submitted from within the UK, travel out of the UK may have a direct effect on the application. If you are intending to travel, please reach out to the team before making any plans to leave and ideally before the visa application is submitted.
Solicitors from Bindmans LLP, in conjunction with colleagues at other law firms and ILPA, have made representations to the Home Office to address and reduce these concerns and delays as a matter of priority. Visa applicants, sponsors, family members and others should all ensure that the processing delays are factored into relocation and travel plans and start dates on visas, work approvals and so on. Please contact our immigration team if you have any questions or require assistance in navigating the system, particularly with respect to travel dates, start dates for work assignments, university courses and so on.
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.