11 January 2023
The current situation in Ukraine resulted in UK family visa applications being put on hold and the UKVI decision times vastly delayed. Most of the UKVI staff were diverted from their usual roles to support the government response. This resulted in the UKVI priority services being suspended and doubling of processing time for family settlement route applications, including partner, fiancée and spouse visas, from usual 60 days to 240 days.
The recent long-awaited announcement by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) confirms that an organised operational recovery service has been offered by means of a priority visa service for applicants with existing undecided applications. Essentially, the UKVI Visa Status and Information Services staff will assess the queue of applications submitted and contact existing applicants by email in date order oldest to most recent. The UKVI priority service will offer the applicant the opportunity to pay an additional fee of £573.00 to have the application decided within 15 working days, as opposed to the usual 30-day priority service which is normally purchased before submitting the applicant’s biometrics at the local VFS or TLS application support centre. The UKVI priority service will be offered first to existing applications with the Home Office. Thereafter, the usual priority service will be opened for new partner and marriage visa applications submitted from outside the UK.
This service is not mandatory and applicants can choose to opt out of this by simply confirming they would not like to proceed with the priority service and maintain their place in the queue with the understanding that a UKVI caseworker will make a decision on their case, as and when they get to it or when it is selected from the electronic queue. If the applicant confirms in their email response that they would like to purchase the priority service, the UKVI will provide further instructions explaining how to make a payment. The payment date will be the start date of the 15-day countdown for family visa applications.
The UKVI priority service does not guarantee the visa application will be successful, only that a decision to grant or refuse the application will be made by a UKVI caseworker within 15 working days. If the application is complex or high-risk, it may fall outside of the 15-day remit and the fee for the priority service will not be refunded. Once a case is assessed as complex it will be given to a technical executive officer as a caseworker or higher executive officer as a case manager specialising in “complex” or “high risk” cases.
The UKVI decision making centre in Sheffield is currently processing settlement fiancee, partner and spouse visa applications submitted week commencing 12 September 2022.