UK Visa Processing & Decision Waiting Times
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has published service standards for waiting times for decisions on visa and immigration applications. UKVI also publishes up-to-date information on current processing times for visa and immigration applications submitted both within the UK and outside the UK.
In this post we take an in-depth look at UK visa processing times, including the Home Office service standards for waiting times, current Home Office visa processing times, options for securing a faster decision on a visa or immigration application and how to challenge a delay in the processing of a UK visa or immigration application. We also answer some frequently asked questions relating to UKVI visa processing times and look at some of the factors to consider when timing an immigration application.
UKVI Visa Processing Standard Processing Times
If a UK visa application includes all relevant information and supporting documents (and the Home Office does not need to request further evidence or explanation) then the following waiting time customer 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 12 weeks of the application date (where 1 week is 5 working days);
- Settlement visa applications submitted outside the UK: 98.5% of settlement applications to be decided within 12 weeks of the application 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 be decided;
- Applications for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) submitted within the UK: 6 months to be decided;
- Applications for no time limit (NTL) submitted within the UK: 6 months to be decided;
- Organisations seeking to sponsor a worker: 8 weeks;
- Organisations updating their sponsor licence details: 18 weeks.
The processing time standard for applications submitted via the priority service and super-priority service is 5 workings days and the next working day respectively, where these services are available (see further below). Applications for a sponsor licence submitted via the pre-licence priority sponsor licence service should be decided within 10 working days.
These service standards are the visa processing times that UKVI aims to deliver on for the processing of straightforward, complete applications, based on its customer charter. Actual UK visa processing times can vary considerably.
What Factors Affect UK Visa Processing Times?
There are a number of factors which can delay UK visa processing times including:
- The complexity of the case, for example if it involves an assessment of Article 8 ECHR rights or derivative rights of EEA extended family members;
- Concerns regarding suitability requirements such as criminality;
- 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 interview scheduled;
- The capacity of caseworkers; and
- The time of the year.
There is no published service standard for waiting times for more complex applications and UKVI has a wide margin of appreciation with regard to the timing of their decisions.
Home Office decision-making is sometimes delayed. In the last couple of years, many UK visa applicants have experienced extended waiting times during the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, as we outline below, decisions on some UK visa applications are being delayed again as the Home Office seeks to prioritise Ukraine Visa Scheme applications in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine.
What Are the Current Home Office UK Visa Processing Times?
The Home Office publishes visa decision waiting times for applications submitted outside and inside the UK. From this information it is possible to ascertain approximately how long it should 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 priority service or super-priority service, where available (see further below), has not been used.
Work in the UK
The UK offers a range of sponsored and non-sponsored work and business immigration routes, including:
- Long Term Work Visas (including Skilled Worker, Scale-up, International Sportsperson and Minister of Religion)
- Short Term Work Visas (including High Potential Individual and Creative Worker)
- Business Visas (including Innovator)
- Global Business Mobility Visas (including Senior or Specialist Worker and UK Expansion Worker)
- Talent Visas
You can apply for a UK work visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK.
According to Home Office service standards, applicants applying for a work visa from overseas in any of the above-mentioned categories should normally receive a decision on their application within 3 weeks. This service standard is currently being met in practice.
The standard processing time for an application to switch into or extend a stay in the UK on a work visa route is 8 weeks. This service standard is generally being met in practice currently. However, due to the war in Ukraine and high global demand for visas, applications to switch into or extend a Skilled Worker visa are currently taking, on average, 9 weeks to be decided.
Applications to switch into or extend a Health and Care Worker visa are generally being processed within 3 weeks currently.
If you are applying for settlement on a work or business route you 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 your British or settled family member as a:
- Civil Partner
- Unmarried Partner
- Proposed civil partner
- Adult dependent relative
Applications for partner and family visas can be submitted up to 3 months before the intended date of travel.
The published service standard for deciding an application from outside the UK to settle in the UK as the spouse, partner or family member of a British citizen or settled person is 12 weeks. Following a reduction in the backlog of Ukraine Visa Scheme applications, the Home Office has recently announced that standard family visa applications are now being processed within 60 working days.
An application from within the UK to switch into or extend as a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, child or adult dependent relative should still be processed within 8 weeks.
If you are applying for an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit, the Home Office is currently advising that you will receive a decision as soon as possible after proving your identity and providing your documents.
There are no standard processing times for applications submitted as a partner, parent or on the basis of private life (10-year routes or 5-year parent route to settlement). The average wait time for a decision on a private life application is currently 9 months.
If you are applying for settlement you should usually receive a decision within 6 months.
Visit the UK
The UK offers a range of Short Stay Visit Visas, for purposes such as:
- Visiting friends, family and/or for a short holiday;
- 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 months before the intended date of travel.
Visitor visa applications submitted from outside the UK are currently taking an average of 3 weeks to process. This is in line with the 3-week service standard.
Most visitors cannot extend their stay from within the UK, but if you are a patient receiving medical treatment, an academic who still meets the eligibility requirements or a graduate doing a clinical attachment or retaking the PLAB test and you wish to extend as a visitor then you should usually receive a decision within 8 weeks.
Visitors are not eligible to apply for settlement.
Study in the UK
The Student visa is for individuals who are aged 16 or over and who wish to study on a further or higher education course in the UK. The Child Student visa route is for children aged between 4 and 17 who wish to study at an independent school in the UK, which is a Home Office approved student sponsor. The Short-term Student visa is a route for persons aged 16 and over who want to study an English language course in the UK for between 6 and 11 months without a student sponsor but at an accredited institution.
If applying from outside the UK, applications for UK Student visas can be submitted up to 6 months before the start date of the course. The customer service standard for receiving a decision is 3 weeks.
The Home Office is currently advising that Student visa applications are taking on average 3 weeks to process. This is in line with the service standard. Short-term study visas are also currently taking on average 3 weeks to process.
If applying from inside the UK to switch into or extend a Student or Child Student visa, an application for permission to stay can be submitted up to 3 months before the start date of the course. The customer service standard for receiving a decision on such an application is 8 weeks and decisions are currently being made 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 an immigration 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 an immigration route for adult children (aged 18 or over) of a BN(O) Status Holder or a BN(O) Status Holder’s partner, born on or after 1 July 1997, to live, work and study in the UK.
If you apply for a Hong Kong BN(O) Status Holder visa or Hong Kong BN(O) Household Member visa from overseas then you should receive a decision within 12 weeks. The same processing time currently applies to applications to extend a Hong Kong BN(O) visa from within the UK.
If you are applying for settlement on the Hong Kong BN(O) route you should usually receive a decision within 6 months.
If you are a Commonwealth citizen and have a grandparent who was born in the UK, you may be able to live and work in the UK on the basis of your UK Ancestry. A UK Ancestry visa can only be obtained from outside the UK.
If you are applying for a UK Ancestry visa you should receive a decision within 3 weeks once you attend your appointment at the visa application centre. If you apply to extend an Ancestry visa from within the UK then you should usually receive a decision within 8 weeks.
If you are applying for settlement you should usually receive a decision within 6 months.
If you are a non-UK citizen and are not currently in the UK, but have previously been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you may be eligible to return to the UK for settlement on the basis of a returning resident visa. When you apply for a Returning Resident visa from overseas you should normally receive a decision within 3 weeks currently.
UK Visa Decision Waiting Times: Frequently Asked Questions
When Does the UK Visa Application Processing Time Start and End?
For UK visa applications submitted outside the UK, visa processing time will start from either the date you provide your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) at a visa application centre or, if eligible, the date you verify your identity using the UK Immigration: ID Check app. The waiting time will end on the date when you receive an email with a decision on your application.
For a UK immigration application submitted from within the UK, the waiting time will generally start from the date when you submit your application online. An exception is made for Graduate Immigration Route applications, where the waiting time starts from the date when the applicant attends an appointment at a visa service centre or submits their documents using the UK Immigration ID Check app. In all in-country cases the waiting time will end on the date when you receive either a letter or email with a decision.
The service standard does not include the time taken to issue you with your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). You will usually receive your BRP within 7 working days after a decision has been made on your application. If you do not receive a BRP you can report it.
Will My Dependents’ Visas Be Processed Within the Same Time Frame?
Dependent visas should be processed within the same time frame as the main applicant’s visa and dependents should receive their decision at the same time. Dependent visas will not be issued before the main applicant has received their decision. Where a dependent applies after the main applicant has received a positive decision, this may shorten the time to receive an outcome.
Can I Get a Faster Decision on My UK Visa Application?
UK Visas & Immigration offers a ‘priority service’ and a ‘super priority service’ for applicants who, for an additional fee, wish to receive a faster decision on their UK visa application. Selecting one of these premium services will ensure that an application is placed at the front of the queue at every stage of the decision-making process.
Eligible applicants who apply via the priority service should receive a decision within 5 working days of their appointment at the visa application centre (for overseas applicants) or within 5 working days of either the day of their appointment at a UKVCAS appointment centre or the working day after having finished uploading documents if using the UK Immigration: ID Check app (for in-country applicants).
Eligible applicants who apply via the super priority service should receive a decision by the end of the next working day after their appointment at the visa application centre (for overseas applicants) or their appointment at a UKVCAS appointment centre (for in-country applicants) or within 2 working days if the appointment is at the weekend. In-country applicants cannot use the super-priority service if applying using the UK Immigration: ID Check App to confirm their identity.
The Super Priority Visa is currently temporarily suspended for new Family Visa applications submitted outside the UK. However, the Priority Visa Service has, since 20 February 2023, now resumed for new Marriage and Family Visa applications submitted outside the UK. Applicants can expect to receive a decision within 30 working days.
Additionally, from 9 January 2023, existing applicants with a pending Family Visa application have started to be offered the option of upgrading to a 15 full working days/3 weeks Priority Service.
For work (except Innovator Founder and High Potential Individual), study and visitor visa applications, priority and super priority services are available in the majority of overseas locations on an appointment basis. However, there is a reduction in the availability of the priority visa service for visit visa applications.
The priority and super priority services are currently both still available to applicants who are applying for leave to remain and settlement in eligible routes from within the UK.
Overseas applicants should check with their visa application centre to see if the priority visa service or super priority visa service is available in the country they are applying from for their application type.
Applicants applying from within the UK can check the eligible visa and settlement application tables to confirm whether the type of application they are making is eligible for either the priority 5 working day or super priority next working day service (note that there are separate tables for switching/extending applications and settlement applications).
Priority and super-priority services may not be appropriate for complex applications which cannot be processed expeditiously. In these cases, your application will be put at the front of the queue at each decision-making stage, but a decision may exceed the priority and super-priority timescales.
These premium services should also be considered carefully when making extension applications or switching categories where there is a risk of refusal. Specialist advice should be sought to ensure that complex applications are timed strategically and sensibly.
Can I Stay in the UK While Waiting for a Decision on My Immigration Application?
If you applied from within the UK before your last leave expired then you will be able to stay in the UK until you receive a decision from the Home Office, even if a decision is delayed.
Can I Travel Outside the UK While My In-Country Application Is Being Processed?
If you have submitted a visa application from within the UK, the general rule is that you must not travel outside the UK while waiting for an immigration decision. If you leave the UK, your immigration application will be treated as withdrawn and you will not be able to request a refund of your application fee.
You may travel outside of the UK if you have submitted a naturalisation application or have applied for the EU Settlement Scheme.
What Can I Do if a Decision Is Not Made in Time or I Need an Urgent Decision?
If UKVI is not able to process your visa application in time, due to its complexity for example, you should receive a letter explaining the reasons and what will happen next. This letter should be received within the standard processing time.
If you do not receive an update from the Home Office, you can contact them directly (by phone, in writing or both) to request an update on your application status.
You may wish to consider providing evidence of how the delay is impacting you, for example if you do not have a right to work or study. If there is an urgency or the standard processing time has passed it is possible to ask for the matter to be escalated as a priority.
If you paid for a priority or super-priority service and a decision has not been made within the standard processing time then you may also be able to request a refund of the priority or super-priority service fee.
When making enquiries, always take care to make clear that you are not intending to withdraw your application.
Additionally you may also consider making a formal written complaint to UKVI. The complaint process can take up to 20 working days.
You may also consider contacting your local MP.
Please note that UKVI has a discretion to treat incomplete applications, for example those that do not include all mandatory documents, outside of the standard service processing times.
How Can I Challenge Home Office Delay in Deciding My Application?
If there is still no response then you may consider a further legal avenue of challenge. There is no right of appeal when there is no decision, but you may consider judicial review proceedings as a way to ask a judge to review the failure of the Home Office to act and make a decision.
If this is a route you wish to consider then you will need to ensure that you have evidence of all stages of your attempts to obtain a decision. Keeping a written record and details of any Home Office ‘ticket’ numbers you are provided is highly recommended. The steps you have taken to obtain a decision and the reasons why one is required will be relevant considerations.
Before commencing proceedings you will need to follow a pre-action protocol process. This will give UKVI the opportunity to consider the position before you commence proceedings.
Judicial review proceedings can be legally complex, costly and time consuming. You may wish to consider seeking legal advice before commencing any proceedings.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance regarding a UK visa application, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.