Spring 2024 update on
UK visa processing

Once you have submitted an application for a UK visa, your application and supporting documents will be reviewed by Home Office caseworkers, who will assess your eligibility and suitability for the category you are applying under. The Home Office will then make a decision on whether or not to grant you a visa and notify you of the outcome in writing.

The time it takes to receive a decision is known as your visa’s ‘processing time’. The Home Office has agreed customer service standards in place for visa processing times and aims to provide a decision on most applications within these set timeframes.

Home Office customer service standards

Your visa’s processing time starts once you have submitted your application online and verified your identity either by attending an appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) or by using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, and ends when you get an email or letter from the Home Office notifying you of the outcome.

For entry clearance applications submitted from outside the UK, the Home Office aims to process non-settlement applications within 15 working days (3 weeks) and settlement applications within 120 working days (24 weeks) under standard processing times.

However, there are occasions where it may take longer to get a decision on your application. This includes when you need to provide further evidence or attend an interview, and when the Home Office decides that your application is “not straightforward” and therefore it is not possible to decide your application within the customer service targets. If this happens, the Home Office will usually notify you by email.

Current UK visa processing times

We are currently in the midst of an extremely busy period for UK visa applications, as employers and individuals rush to secure visas before higher salary thresholds and minimum income requirements for work and family routes come into effect in April. At present, the department is receiving on average 12,000 entry clearance applications per week.

As a result of this high demand, applicants should be prepared for possible delays to processing times for entry clearance applications, and be aware that the Home Office is applying extra scrutiny during the decision-making process.

Smith Stone Walters is observing a growing number of applications being labelled as ‘not straightforward’ by the Home Office despite all required information and supporting documentation being provided.

In some cases, this has turned out to be a ‘false alarm’ and the applicant has ultimately received a decision within the standard processing times after receiving an email advising them it may take longer. In other cases, delays have occurred even for Priority applications, and requests for further information are becoming more frequent.

According to the UKVI website, current processing times for applications made outside the UK are as follows:

  • Work visas – 3 weeks
  • Temporary work visas – 3 weeks
  • Visit visas – 3 weeks
  • Student visas – 3 weeks
  • Family visas – 24 weeks
  • Ukraine visas – 3 weeks
  • British National (Overseas) visas – 12 weeks.

Priority and Super Priority services

Depending on service availability and the visa category you are applying under, you may be able to pay for a faster decision using the ‘Priority’ or ‘Super Priority’ services.

With Priority service, you will usually receive a decision within 5 working days, or 30 working days for Family visa applications from outside the UK. Using the Super Priority service for visa and settlement applications means you’ll usually get a decision by the end of the next working day.

Due to high demand, the Home Office will be making more priority appointments available for customers who wish to utilise this service.

How to avoid delays with your UK visa application

Even when using Priority services, processing times are never guaranteed and paying for a faster decision does not mean your visa will be granted.

However, if your application is urgent, Smith Stone Walters advises applicants to use the Priority and Super Priority services where available.

Most importantly, avoiding visa delays largely comes down to the quality and accuracy of your application. We strongly recommend double checking you have provided all the required information and supporting documents with your application, and that all details provided are correct.

Missing or incorrect information is a leading cause of visa processing delays and refusals and is often avoidable. Getting your application right the first time will give you the best chance of securing visa approval as quickly as possible.

If you require support with your UK visa application, Smith Stone Walters can help. To speak to a qualified immigration advisor about your requirements, please contact us today.

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