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UK visa processing times: FAQ

This article was written in 2020.  For the latest information on UK visa processing times, please read: UK Visa Processing & Decision Waiting Times

In this post we address some of the common questions relating to Home Office UK visa processing times and some of the factors to consider when timing an immigration application. 

What are UK visa processing times?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is responsible for processing immigration applications. UKVI publishes standard processing times for applications on its website in accordance with their customer charter.  The processing time will depend on the type of immigration application submitted and if it has been submitted within the UK or outside of the UK.

The service standard processing times vary according to the type of application. These times are set out on the UKVI website pages here and here. The published processing times are indicative but not determinative, as some applications will fall outside of the processing time. 

UKVI’s up-to-date records show that for straightforward applications from outside the UK:

  • Non-settlement visa applications: 90% to be decided within 3 weeks;
  • Non-settlement visa applications: 98% to be decided within 6 weeks;
  • Non-settlement visa applications: 100% to be decided within 12 weeks;
  • Settlement applications: 95% to be decided within 12 weeks; and
  • Settlement applications: 100% to be decided within 24 weeks 

When does UK visa processing begin?

Processing for priority services will begin from the date you provide biometric information and supporting evidence at your booked appointment. The processing time will end when your passport is ready for collection.

What UK visa priority services are available?

You may be able to select a priority service when making your application and/or when booking your biometrics appointment. This will reduce the standard visa processing time. Please note that it is not available for all immigration applications or in all countries. 

A standard priority service offers a visa processing time of 5 working days of your appointment at a visa application centre. A super priority service offers a visa processing time of 24 hours of your biometrics appointment. Each visa application centre should be able to confirm which priority services are available and the relevant fees. Priority services are available in most countries. 

Priority services may not be appropriate for complex applications which cannot be processed expediently. In these cases, your application will be put at the front of the queue at each decision-making stage but this still may exceed the priority timescales. These 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 complex applications are timed strategically and sensibly. 

What factors affect UK visa processing times?

There are a number of factors which can delay 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 applications that are not straightforward and UKVI have a wide margin of appreciation with regard to the timing of their decisions. 

Will my Dependants’ visas be processed within the same time frame?

These visas should be processed within the same time frame as the main application and dependants should receive their decision at the same time. Dependent visas will not be issued before the main applicant has received their decision. Where a dependant applies after the main applicant has received a positive decision, this may shorten the time to receive an outcome.

Can I travel while my visa application is being processed?

The general rule if you have submitted a visa application from within the UK you must not travel as your 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 as examples.

What do I do if a decision hasn’t been made in time?

If UKVI may not be able to process your 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 UKVI you can contact them directly to request an update on the application status, to request that the application be escalated as a priority, or to make a complaint.

When you have paid for a priority or super-priority service you may also be able to request a refund if a decision has not been made in the standard processing time. 

Please note that UKVI has discretion to treat incomplete applications, for example not including mandatory documents, outside of the standard service processing times.

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