Home Secretary admits
UK visa delays could
last for months

If you have recently applied for a UK visa, you will probably be aware that it may take longer to receive a decision on your application due to widespread delays currently impacting Home Office processing times.

Due to backlogs caused by the Ukraine visa schemes, it is currently taking the Home Office double the normal amount of time to provide a decision on other visa applications. The government is currently prioritising the processing of applications filed under the Ukraine visa schemes. For this reason, caseworking resources are stretched and the department has been forced to suspend priority services amid the delays.

When pressed on the issue, Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted that she was unable to give a date for when visa processing times could return to normal. In May, the Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee Dame Diana Johnson wrote to Patel to ask when she expected the timescale to return to the 60-day timeframe.

In response to the question, Patel wrote: “Our planning team has been fully committed to Ukraine reporting since the beginning of the invasion. Therefore, it has not yet been possible to fully model our recovery until the impacts of that support have ended and recovery prioritisation, particularly over the summer period, has been confirmed. We will keep this under review.”

Employers and applicants alike should be aware of the longer processing times and lack of priority services at present and factor this in when planning the recruitment timeline. If you are planning to apply for a UK visa in the near future, or if you have already submitted your application and are waiting for a decision, here’s how long you can expect to wait.

What are the current UK visa processing times?

The length of time you can expect to wait for a decision depends on the type of visa you are applying for. The average processing times for applications made outside the UK are as follows:

  • Work visas – Expected processing times for Skilled Worker visa applications have doubled from 3 weeks to 6 weeks. It is currently taking on average 6 weeks to process most of the ‘work and invest’ routes.
  • Family or marriage visas – Home Office guidance advises applicants for family or marriage visas to expect to wait up to 6 months for a decision, up from the service standard of 3 months.
  • Visitor and transit visas – Standard Visitor and Transit visa applications are currently taking on average 6 weeks to process, up from the 3-week service standard.

Priority and Super Priority visa services have also been temporarily suspended for new study, work and family visa applications, with no date confirmed for their expected return.

It is important to note that the above processing times are an estimate, and in some cases it may take longer to process your application, for example if the Home Office needs to contact you to request further information or documentation.

For up to date information on standard visa processing times for applications made outside the UK, please check the GOV.UK website here.

The impact

The ongoing delays are causing severe disruption and distress to those overseas nationals waiting to start work or join family members in the UK. Children of UK citizens married to overseas nationals have been separated from their parents for up to six months while applications are processed. Some employers have also complained about long waiting times of up to four months when hiring overseas workers or transferring existing employees to the UK.

After paying out thousands in visa fees, many applicants left waiting for a decision now face a great deal of uncertainty, unable to make firm travel plans and take important steps such as giving formal notice to their current employers and landlords until they have received their UK visa.

Critics have also warned that the backlog could cause the UK to lose its competitive edge in the fight for global talent, and economic recovery could be affected due to businesses being unable to recruit the overseas workers they need to grow.

Advice for employers and applicants

The guidance currently states that UKVI will continue to prioritise applications under the Ukraine visa schemes. With the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine still ongoing, the situation remains fluid and therefore Smith Stone Walters is regretfully unable to provide a definitive answer at this time on when processing times could return to normal.

Given the delays, employers should factor in additional time to the recruitment process, and be prepared for work start dates to be delayed. We recommend starting the visa application process as soon as possible if your business intends to sponsor workers from overseas. We strongly advise applicants postpone making any firm travel plans until your visa has been granted.

The Home Office has assured sponsors and visa applicants that they are working hard to clear the backlog and return to standard service. Whilst it may be tempting to contact the Home Office for a progress update, UKVI has advised sponsors not to chase up applications unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Help with your UK visa application

If you are applying for a UK visa and require expert advice and support in the process, Smith Stone Walters is here to help. Our team of qualified immigration advisors based in London, New York, Hong Kong and Mumbai are experienced in filing applications under a range of immigration routes.

To speak to an advisor about your requirements, please contact us today.

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