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Home Office UK visa processing delays

*** NB The Home Office has reintroduced the super priority visa application service since this article was written - see here for details ***

The Home Office is struggling to meet its service standards for the processing of applications both within and outside the UK. Throughout 2022, the length of time taken to receive a decision on an application has slipped to what are presently dire standards.

When applying for a visa, or to naturalise as a British citizen, you must first submit an online application form. This is the application date, but it is not the date from which the Home Office start to consider your application.

The waiting time starts once after submission of the online application once you have submitted your documents AND attended a biometric appointment or used the ID Check app to verify your identity.

The waiting time ends for all applications when you get a letter or an email with a decision on your case.

Applicants who apply from within the UK, can stay here until they have been given a decision, so long as they applied before the expiry of their last visa.

Applicants who apply from outside the UK will normally be unable to enter the UK until they receive a decision.

Whilst processing times can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the case, the volume of applications received at any one time, and the current Home Office staffing levels, what follows below are the current rough guidelines.

Earlier this year, the Home Office announced that waiting times for decisions would lengthen due to staff being relocated to deal with an anticipated increase in applications from Ukraine. However, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) believes that the current delays are “of an entirely different nature”, not least IT problems.

In a letter to the Home Office, signed by members of the legal profession including this firm, ILPA stated:

“Matters have reached such a state that representatives are informing applicants not to trust the Home Office’s service standards; applicants are deciding not to come to the UK, and have taken jobs or opened businesses elsewhere; and families are separated. Some applicants who have handed in their notice, and are changing employment, find themselves without any remuneration for months whilst their application is pending. In addition, in-country applicants are unable to travel outside the UK while decisions on their applications are delayed.”

The delays are proving truly chaotic for businesses and individuals alike. The table below shows a rough approximation of the current timelines but note that these are subject to change.

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