UK fiancee, partner and spouse visa applications are processed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), formerly UK Border Agency (UKBA), under the same category – settlement. Therefore, there is no difference in processing time between these types of visas. The actual length of time it takes the immigration authorities to process a UK marriage visa application varies from country to country and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Complex settlement applications involving applicants with prior criminal, visa refusal or entry denial records typically require further administrative processing which may cause significant delays in the UKBA assessment process. Some straightforward cases may also be put on hold as all UK visa applications are processed in the order received.
The UKBA service standards for settlement applications are outlined in the official guide to visa processing times. According to the guide, UKBA visa-issuing offices overseas aim to process 95 per cent of partner, spousal and fiancee visa applications within 12 weeks of submission, and 100 per cent within 24 weeks from the date the application is accepted for processing. However, the actual processing time may vary depending on a range of factors, including individual circumstances and the overall complexity of a specific case, as well as the country of application; thus sometimes causing regional backlogs. Some British Consulates, Embassies and High Commissions are more efficient than others with most settlement applications being processed within six to eight weeks.
UKBA settlement priority service
In some countries visa applicants can take advantage of the UKBA premium service. This additional service was first introduced by the UK Border Agency on 16 June 2010. For the relatively affordable fee of approximately £551 (in most countries it must be paid in US dollars), straightforward settlement visa applications can be processed ahead of any other ‘non-premium’ applications. The average turnaround time varies from 10 to 15 working days. However, the UK Border Agency does not guarantee that paying £551 on top of the application fee will result in a faster approval. The immigration authorities reserve the right to defer a premium application if additional administrative processing is required. This may include situations where the foreign fiancee, partner or spouse has been previously refused a UK visa, denied entry into the UK, overstayed, deported, removed or otherwise required to leave the UK. Having a prior criminal record may also prevent an applicant from being able to use the priority service.
The settlement priority service is currently available in the US, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. Our team of family immigration experts can provide the most up-to-date information on UKBA requirements and participating countries.