UK Visa Processing & Decision Waiting Times - Work Visas - UK (2022)

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UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has published service standardsfor waiting times for decisions on visa and immigrationapplications. UKVI also publishes up-to-date information on currentprocessing times for visa and immigration applications submittedboth within the UK and outside the UK.

In this post we take an in-depth look at UK visa processingtimes, including the Home Office service standards for waitingtimes, current Home Office visa processing times, options forsecuring a faster decision on a visa or immigration application andhow to challenge a delay in the processing of a UK visa orimmigration application. We also answer some frequently askedquestions relating to UKVI visa processing times and look at someof the factors to consider when timing an immigrationapplication.

UKVI Visa Processing Standard Processing Times

If a UK visa application includes all relevant information andsupporting documents (and the Home Office does not need to requestfurther evidence or explanation) then the following waiting timecustomer service standards should apply:

  • Non-settlement visa applications submitted outside the UK: 90%to be decided within 3 weeks; 98% within 6 weeks and 100% within 12weeks of the application date (where 1 week is 5 workingdays);
  • Settlement visa applications submitted outside the UK: 98.5% ofsettlement applications to be decided within 12 weeks of theapplication date and 100% within 24 weeks of the application date(where 1 week is 5 working days);
  • Applications for leave to remain submitted within the UK,including as spouses, workers and students: 8 weeks to bedecided;
  • Applications for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) submittedwithin the UK: 6 months to be decided;
  • Applications for no time limit (NTL) submitted within the UK: 6months to be decided;
  • Organisations seeking to sponsor a worker: 8 weeks;
  • Organisations updating their sponsor licence details: 18weeks.

The processing time standard for applications submitted via thepriority service and super-priority service is 5 workings days andthe next working day respectively, where these services areavailable (see further below). Applications for a sponsor licencesubmitted via the pre-licence priority sponsor licence serviceshould be decided within 10 working days.

These service standards are the visa processing times that UKVIaims to deliver on for the processing of straightforward, completeapplications, based on its customer charter. Actual UK visa processingtimes can vary considerably.

What Factors Affect UK Visa Processing Times?

There are a number of factors which can delay UK visa processingtimes including:

  • The complexity of the case, for example if it involves anassessment of Article 8 ECHR rights or derivative rights of EEAextended family members;
  • Concerns regarding suitability requirements such ascriminality;
  • Consideration of any adverse immigration history;
  • Any concerns regarding the authenticity of documents;
  • The volume of documents provided;
  • Whether further investigations are required or an interviewscheduled;
  • The capacity of caseworkers; and
  • The time of the year.

There is no published service standard for waiting times formore complex applications and UKVI has a wide margin ofappreciation with regard to the timing of their decisions.

Home Office decision-making is sometimes delayed. In the lastcouple of years, many UK visa applicants have experienced extendedwaiting times during the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, as weoutline below, decisions on some UK visa applications are beingdelayed again as the Home Office seeks to prioritise Ukraine Visa Scheme applications in responseto the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

To discuss your UK visa or immigration application withone of our immigration barristers, call us on 0203 617 9173 orcomplete the enquiry form below.

What Are the Current Home Office UK Visa Processing Times?

The Home Office publishes visa decision waiting times forapplications submitted outside and inside the UK. From thisinformation it is possible to ascertain approximately how long itshould take for a pending visa application to be decided.

The information provided below assumes that the application has,or will be, submitted via the standard service and that a priorityservice or super-priority service, where available (see furtherbelow), has not been used.

Work in the UK

The UK offers a range of sponsored and non-sponsored work andbusiness immigration routes, including:

  • Long Term Work Visas (including Skilled Worker, International Sportsperson and Minister of Religion)
  • Short Term Work Visas (including Creative Worker)
  • Business Visas (including Innovator)
  • Global Business Mobility Visas (including Senior or Specialist Worker)
  • Talent Visas

You can apply for a UK work visa up to 3 months before the dayyou are due to start work in the UK.

According to Home Office service standards, applicants applyingfor a work visa from overseas in any of the above-mentionedcategories should normally receive a decision on their applicationwithin 3 weeks.

However, the Home Office is currently advising that applicationsfor work visas in the above routes submitted from outside the UKmay take longer to be processed than the published standardprocessing time. The Home Office has not published an up-to-dateaverage processing time for work visa applications, but is advisingthat it is prioritising Ukraine Visa Scheme applications.

The standard processing time for an application to switch intoor extend a stay in the UK on a work visa route is 8 weeks. Thisservice standard is currently being met in practice. Applicationsto switch into a Start-up visa and to switch into or extend aHealth and Care Worker visa are generallybeing processed within 3 weeks currently.

If you are applying for settlement on a work or business routeyou should usually receive a decision within 6 months.

Join or Stay With Family in the UK

You can apply for a family visa to live in the UK with yourBritish or settled family member as a:

  • Spouse
  • Civil Partner
  • Unmarried Partner
  • Fiancé(e)
  • Proposed civil partner
  • Child
  • Adult dependent relative

Applications for partner and family visas can be submitted up to3 months before the intended date of travel.

The published service standard for deciding an application fromoutside the UK to settle in the UK as the spouse, partner or familymember of a British citizen or settled person is 12 weeks. However,the Home Office is currently advising that applications for familyvisas submitted from outside the UK may take up to 24 weeks toprocess whilst it prioritises Ukraine Visa Scheme applications.

An application from within the UK to switch into or extend as aspouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, fiancé(e) orproposed civil partner, child or adult dependent relative shouldstill be processed within 8 weeks.

If you are applying for an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit, the HomeOffice is currently advising that you will receive a decision assoon as possible after proving your identity and providing yourdocuments.

There are no standard processing times for applicationssubmitted as a partner, parent or on the basis of private life(10-year routes or 5-year parent route to settlement). The averagewait time for a decision on a private life application is currently11 months.

If you are applying for settlement you should usually receive adecision within 6 months.

Visit the UK

The UK offers a range of Short Stay Visit Visas, for purposes suchas:

  • Visiting friends, family and/or for a shortholiday;
  • Short-term unpaid business activity;
  • Unpaid creative activities;
  • Short courses of study or research;
  • Unpaid sporting activities;
  • Receiving private medical treatment;
  • Marriage or civil partnership in the UK;

Applications for a UK visit visa can be submitted up to 3 monthsbefore the intended date of travel.

Visitor visa applications submitted from outside the UK arecurrently taking an average of 6 weeks to process. This is longerthan the 3-week service standard.

Most visitors cannot extend their stay from within the UK, butif you are a patient receiving medical treatment, an academic whostill meets the eligibility requirements or a graduate doing aclinical attachment or retaking the PLAB test and you wish toextend as a visitor then you should usually receive a decisionwithin 8 weeks.

Visitors are not eligible to apply for settlement.

Study in the UK

The Student visa is for individuals who are aged16 or over and who wish to study on a further or higher educationcourse in the UK. The Child Student visa route is for children agedbetween 4 and 17 who wish to study at an independent school in theUK, which is a Home Office approved student sponsor. The Short-term Student visa is a route for personsaged 16 and over who want to study an English language course inthe UK for between 6 and 11 months without a student sponsor but atan accredited institution.

If applying from outside the UK, applications for UK Studentvisas can be submitted up to 6 months before the start date of thecourse. The customer service standard for receiving a decision is 3weeks.

The Home Office is advising that applications for study visas inall of the above routes submitted from outside the UK may currentlytake longer to be processed than the published standard 3 weekprocessing time. The Home Office has not published an averageprocessing time, but has advised that it is prioritising UkraineVisa Scheme applications.

If applying from inside the UK to switch into or extend aStudent or Child Student visa, an application for permission tostay can be submitted up to 3 months before the start date of thecourse. The customer service standard for receiving a decision onsuch an application is 8 weeks and decisions are currently beingmade within this timeframe.

Students are not eligible to apply for settlement.

Hong Kong British National (Overseas)

The Hong Kong BN(O) Status Holder Visa is animmigration route for Hong Kong British National (Overseas)citizens to live, work and study in the UK. The Hong Kong BN(O) Household Member Visa is animmigration route for adult children (aged 18 or over) of a BN(O)Status Holder or a BN(O) Status Holder's partner, born on orafter 1 July 1997, to live, work and study in the UK.

If you apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) Status Holder visa or HongKong BN(O) Household Member visa from overseas then you shouldreceive a decision within 12 weeks. The same processing timecurrently applies to applications to extend a Hong Kong BN(O) visafrom within the UK.

If you are applying for settlement on the Hong Kong BN(O) routeyou should usually receive a decision within 6 months.

UK Ancestry

If you are a Commonwealth citizen and have a grandparent who wasborn in the UK, you may be able to live and work in the UK on thebasis of your UK Ancestry. A UK Ancestry visa can only be obtained fromoutside the UK.

If you are applying for a UK Ancestry visa you should receive adecision within 3 weeks once you attend your appointment at thevisa application centre. If you apply to extend an Ancestry visafrom within the UK then you should usually receive a decisionwithin 8 weeks.

If you are applying for settlement you should usually receive adecision within 6 months.

Returning Residents

If you are a non-UK citizen and are not currently in the UK, buthave previously been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK,you may be eligible to return to the UK for settlement on the basisof a returning resident visa. When you apply for a Returning Resident visa from overseas youshould normally receive a decision within 3 weeks currently.

Our immigration barristers assist individuals andbusinesses across the globe to prepare and submit successful UKvisa and immigration applications. Call us on 0203 617 9173 orcomplete our enquiry form below to find out more.

UK Visa Decision Waiting Times: Frequently Asked Questions

When Does the UK Visa Application Processing Time Start andEnd?

For UK visa applications submitted outside the UK, visaprocessing time will start from either the date you provide yourbiometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) at a visaapplication centre or, if eligible, the date you verify youridentity using the UK Immigration: ID Check app. The waiting timewill end on the date when you receive an email with a decision onyour application.

For a UK immigration application submitted from within the UK,the waiting time will generally start from the date when you submityour application online. An exception is made for Graduate Immigration Route applications, wherethe waiting time starts from the date when the applicant attends anappointment at a visa service centre or submits their documentsusing the UK Immigration ID Check app. In all in-country cases thewaiting time will end on the date when you receive either a letteror email with a decision.

The service standard does not include the time taken to issueyou with your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). You will usuallyreceive your BRP within 7 working days after a decision has beenmade on your application. If you do not receive a BRP you can report it.

Will My Dependents' Visas Be Processed Within the SameTime Frame?

Dependent visas should be processed within the same time frameas the main applicant's visa and dependents should receivetheir decision at the same time. Dependent visas will not be issuedbefore the main applicant has received their decision. Where adependent applies after the main applicant has received a positivedecision, this may shorten the time to receive an outcome.

Can I Get a Faster Decision on My UK VisaApplication?

UK Visas & Immigration offers a 'priority service'and a 'super priority service' for applicants who, for anadditional fee, wish to receive a faster decision on their UK visaapplication. Selecting one of these premium services will ensurethat an application is placed at the front of the queue at everystage of the decision-making process.

Eligible applicants who apply via the priority service shouldreceive a decision within 5 working days of their appointment atthe visa application centre (for overseas applicants) or within 5working days of either the day of their appointment at a UKVCASappointment centre or the working day after having finisheduploading documents if using the UK Immigration: ID Check app (forin-country applicants).

Eligible applicants who apply via the super priority serviceshould receive a decision by the end of the next working day aftertheir appointment at the visa application centre (for overseasapplicants) or their appointment at a UKVCAS appointment centre(for in-country applicants) or within 2 working days if theappointment is at the weekend. In-country applicants cannot use thesuper-priority service if applying using the UK Immigration: IDCheck App to confirm their identity.

However, the Home Office has announced that bothpriority and super priority visa services are currently temporarilysuspended for new study, work and family visa applicationssubmitted outside the UK whilst it prioritises Ukraine VisaScheme applications. This suspension has been in place since 14March 2022.

The priority and super priority services are currently bothstill available to applicants who are applying for leave to remainand settlement in eligible routes from within the UK.

Overseas applicants should check with their visa application centre to see if the priorityvisa service or super priority visa service is available in thecountry they are applying from for their application type.

Applicants applying from within the UK can check the eligible visa and settlement applicationtables to confirm whether the type of application they aremaking is eligible for either the priority 5 working day or superpriority next working day service (note that there are separatetables for switching/extending applications and settlementapplications).

Priority and super-priority services may not be appropriate forcomplex applications which cannot be processed expeditiously. Inthese cases, your application will be put at the front of the queueat each decision-making stage, but a decision may exceed thepriority and super-priority timescales.

These premium services should also be considered carefully whenmaking extension applications or switching categories where thereis a risk of refusal. Specialist advice should be sought to ensurethat complex applications are timed strategically and sensibly.

Can I Stay in the UK While Waiting for a Decision on MyImmigration Application?

If you applied from within the UK before your last leave expiredthen you will be able to stay in the UK until you receive adecision from the Home Office, even if a decision is delayed.

Can I Travel Outside the UK While My In-Country ApplicationIs Being Processed?

If you have submitted a visa application from within the UK, thegeneral rule is that you must not travel outside the UK whilewaiting for an immigration decision. If you leave the UK, yourimmigration application will be treated as withdrawn and you willnot be able to request a refund of your application fee.

You may travel outside of the UK if you have submitted anaturalisation application or have applied for the EU SettlementScheme.

  • Travel outside the UK while waiting for animmigration decision

What Can I Do if a Decision Is Not Made in Time or I Needan Urgent Decision?

If UKVI is not able to process your visa application in time,due to its complexity for example, you should receive a letterexplaining the reasons and what will happen next. This lettershould be received within the standard processing time.

If you do not receive an update from the Home Office, you cancontact them directly (by phone, in writing or both) to request anupdate on your application status.

You may wish to consider providing evidence of how the delay isimpacting you, for example if you do not have a right to work orstudy. If there is an urgency or the standard processing time haspassed it is possible to ask for the matter to be escalated as apriority.

If you paid for a priority or super-priority service and adecision has not been made within the standard processing time thenyou may also be able to request a refund of the priority orsuper-priority service fee.

When making enquiries, always take care to make clear that youare not intending to withdraw your application.

Additionally you may also consider making a formal written complaint to UKVI. The complaintprocess can take up to 20 working days.

You may also consider contacting your local MP.

Please note that UKVI has a discretion to treat incompleteapplications, for example those that do not include all mandatorydocuments, outside of the standard service processing times.

How Can I Challenge Home Office Delay in Deciding MyApplication?

If there is still no response then you may consider a furtherlegal avenue of challenge. There is no right of appeal when thereis no decision, but you may consider judicial review proceedings as a way to ask ajudge to review the failure of the Home Office to act and make adecision.

If this is a route you wish to consider then you will need toensure that you have evidence of all stages of your attempts toobtain a decision. Keeping a written record and details of any HomeOffice 'ticket' numbers you are provided is highlyrecommended. The steps you have taken to obtain a decision and thereasons why one is required will be relevant considerations.

Before commencing proceedings you will need to follow a pre-action protocol process. This will giveUKVI the opportunity to consider the position before you commenceproceedings.

Judicial review proceedings can be legally complex, costly andtime consuming. You may wish to consider seeking legal advicebefore commencing any proceedings.

The content of this article is intended to provide a generalguide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be soughtabout your specific circumstances.

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