Insights

Nighat Sahi

Published 19 September 2023
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Navigating UK Visa Processing Times

Waiting for a visa application to be determined and navigating UK Visa processing times can be an extremely anxious and difficult time for those concerned and the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) system can feel overly complicated and very slow.

If you apply to come to or remain in the UK and your application is considered straightforward, it will be decided within UKVI’s customer service standards. UKVI does have published waiting times for standard decisions on visa and immigration applications. They also regularly publish the latest actual processing times for both visa and immigration applications submitted both within the UK and outside the UK.

However, working out how long an application should take will depend on a number of factors so in this post, we’ve provided an overview of the main provisions to help you navigate the complex UK visa processing times.

Factors that will affect the processing time of your application

The main factors that will affect the processing time of your application:

  • Whether it is a straightforward application that can be dealt with via the standard service.
  • Where additional documentation or an interview is required.
  • Whether you have used an expedited service.
  • Whether your application is made from within or outside the UK.
  • The type of application – visitor, student, family, skilled worker, temporary worker, work visas that don’t require a job offer, visas to start a business, work visa for an overseas employer, etc.
  • Where UKVI are experiencing high demand.
  • The country you apply from.
  • Whether there are any Article 8 ECHR rights, concerns regarding criminality, or you have an adverse immigration history.
  • The capacity of caseworkers and the time of the year.

There is no published service standard for waiting times for more complex applications. 

Standard processing times

The current processing times should then be as follows:  

Skilled Worker visas

The are a number of different sponsored and non-sponsored work and business immigration routes (long- and short-term visas, skilled workers, entrepreneurial, international sportsperson, etc.) and it is important to check what the provisions are for the type of visa that applies to your situation. You can apply for a UK work visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK. The standard processing times are:

  • Applications by skilled worker and health and care worker from inside the UK – 8 weeks.
  • Applications by skilled worker and health and care worker from outside the UK – 3 weeks.
  • If you are applying for settlement on a work or business route you should usually receive a decision within 6 months.

Student visas

  • For either a child or an adult and made from within the UK – 8 weeks.
  • Made from outside the UK – 3 weeks.

Visit visas

  • Made from within the UK – 8 weeks.
  • Made from outside the UK – 3 weeks.

These service standard times do not include the time taken to issue you with your Biometric Residence Permit which you should receive within 7 working days after a decision has been made on your application.  

To get a decision within 5 working days

If you’re eligible you can choose the ‘priority service’ when you apply. You’ll need to pay £500 in addition to the application fee. You’ll get a decision within 5 working days.

To get a decision by the end of the next working day

Again, if eligible, there is also a ‘super priority service’. You’ll need to pay £800 in addition to the application fee, but you’ll get a decision:

  • by the end of the next working day after your appointment, if your appointment is on a weekday.
  • 2 working days after your appointment, if your appointment is at the weekend or on a bank holiday.

Priority processing is only available to applicants who can prove their identity by attending an appointment at a UKVCAS centre or those using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. If available to you, you will be notified when making your application and given the option to purchase faster processing. However, you cannot get a decision by the end of the next working day if you use the UK Immigration: ID Check app.

The family visa priority processing service was suspended in February 2023 in respect of new visa applications made outside the UK but has now reopened. The processing time is 3 weeks for a fee of £573.

Priority processing also remains available to some A-rated sponsors for fast-tracked requests, for a fee of £200. These are generally processed within 5 working days.

Processing start times

If you apply from outside the UK, your visa processing time will start from either the date you provide your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) at a visa application centre or, if eligible, the date you verify your identity using the UK Immigration: ID Check app. 

For an application submitted from within the UK, the waiting time normally starts from the date when you submit your application online (although different rules apply for the Graduate Immigration route).

Comment

There is no denying that it’s a complex and overworked system. Making the right application with the right supporting evidence is vital to the speed and success of your application. If any of the above affects you, or you would like to discuss what you need to do to apply, please call 020 3988 0170 or email us at nighat@rswlaw.co.uk. We will also keep you informed of any further actions that are introduced.

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