UK visa decision in 24 hours:
Reality check

When one of our clients needed to secure his UK visa urgently in order to transfer from Canada to a new employment position in UK, Smith Stone Walters advised the Canadian national to file his Tier 2 application using the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) Super Priority Visa service.

According to the official website for filing UK immigration applications in Canada, the Super Priority Visa service is the fastest way to secure a visa decision.

Specially crafted, to ‘ease your visa application process’, the Super Priority Visa route doesn’t come cheap. The service costs US$1,324 (approximately £1,000) on top of the standard visa fee but entices applicants by offering to provide ‘eligible customers a visa decision within one business day’.

Whether it be to attend a wedding, funeral or to start a new employment or training position on time, there is no shortage of individuals seeking to secure a UK visa at very short notice.

Even when the additional charge spirals to US$5,296 for a family of four, the cost of this UKVI service provision is considered a price worth paying by many UKVI customers, including our Canadian client.

Living up to expectations?

Having filed his Super Priority Visa application and paid the additional fees, our client’s expectations were set. Anticipating a 24 hour turnaround, plans were made in relation to his family’s imminent move to the UK. What could go wrong?

Well, regrettably, this Super Priority Visa application could not be completed within one day. Our client had no option but to wait patiently in a Toronto hotel room along with his young family for news of his ‘pending’ application.

Eventually, five business days after submission of his application, our client received his family’s passports back from the UKVI processing centre in Toronto. Did the UKVI Super Priority service live up to its slogan? Sadly not.

Let’s be honest. Processing a visa application within five days is still impressive and should be applauded. However, it is not the timeline sold under the Super Priority Visa service and, as a consequence, the service provided to our client fell a long way short of both his expectations and his needs.

Unfortunate episode or regular occurrence?

Having witnessed the anxiety, frustration and disruption caused to our Canadian client, we could not help but wonder if this unfortunate episode was just an exception to the norm. A Freedom of Information (FoI) request asking how long each Super Priority case took to complete was therefore despatched to settle our curiosity.

Fast forward two months and the findings shared in the FoI response were, sadly, less than impressive. It revealed that the majority of Super Priority Visa applications processed out of Toronto are not completed within the 24 hours.

Over the four months between April and July 2018, only 38 out of 105 Super Priority Visa cases were successfully resolved within 1 business day. 30% of these applications took longer than three days to be completed; some took as long as a week to process.

There are probably a whole host of reasons why the UKVI were only able to complete 36% of these decisions within 1 business day and, perhaps, the delivery of this service is significantly better in other UKVI global offices or regions.

Either way, when our client selected and purchased the Super Priority visa option, he should have been made aware of the odds he was facing. In reality, our client had purchased a UKVI lottery ticket with a one in three chance of his case being completed within the declared ‘1 business day’.  However, unlike a lotto ticket, the odds of winning were not disclosed to our client. This is inexcusable and needs to change.

The ability for UKVI customers to make informed decisions and manage expectations is not too much to ask. The stakes are simply too high to expect customers to blindly accept that the UKVI’s chargeable added-value services offer no guarantee and regularly fall short of their marketed benefits.

The sooner the authorities recognise the value of being open, honest and upfront with their customers in matters such as these, the closer they will move towards delivering a trusted and truly valued immigration service.

We live in hope.

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