UK visa processing times

By Jacinda Olivier

Breytenbachs get frequent queries from clients about the current processing times of UK visa applications. Unfortunately, we can never provide clients with a definite timeline, as different factors can influence the processing times. Furthermore, the Home Office also changes its Service Level Agreements from time to time.

It is therefore always best to rely on the latest information provided by your Breytenbachs consultant.

Below we have provided some guidance on UK Visa processing time.

When does a UK visa application waiting time starts?

Firstly, knowing when you can start the clock on your waiting time is important.

According to the Home Office, the waiting time on a UK visa starts once you have submitted your visa application online and when you either:

  • attended your biometric appointment where you provided your biometric information OR
  • verified your identity using the UK Immigration ID check application.  

The waiting time ends when you receive the email confirming the decision on your visa application.

UK visitor visas

The previous Service Level Standard of the Home Office for visitor visas to the UK was three weeks. Currently, they are working on seven weeks to process. However, they still warn clients that it can even take longer.

In some countries, it will be possible to apply for a priority service on the UK visitor visa application. A priority service means that you will get a faster decision on your application. However, the availability of priority and super priority services often change, and are only available in certain countries.

It is best to speak to your Breytenbachs consultant in this regard and plan ahead!

UK transit visas

The current processing times for UK transit visas are a hefty seven weeks. It is thus crucial for travellers passing to the UK to plan ahead.

However, the Home Office did indicate that they are working hard to get the service level back to three weeks. A priority service might also be available in some countries. Please speak to your Breytenbachs consultant, as the availability of priority services is also subject to change.

UK student visas

The Home Office is currently working on a processing time of three weeks for student visas to the UK.

Work visas for the UK

Applications to work in the UK, including the skilled worker visa application, currently take about four weeks to process. 

A priority service might also be available in some countries. Please speak to your Breytenbachs consultant, as the availability of priority services is also subject to change.

Joining family in the UK

Unfortunately, the processing times for applications to settle in the UK as the spouse, partner or family member of someone who has British citizenship or settled in the UK can take a lengthy 24 weeks.

Breytenbachs realise this is impacting heavily on families and individuals, and we do everything we can to expedite such applications.

UK ancestry visa applications

The Home Office indicates three weeks’ processing time for the UK ancestral visa applications.

Returning resident applications and certificate of entitlement

Persons applying as returning residents to the UK and those applying for a certificate of entitlement should get a decision within three weeks.

What are the priority and super priority services?

A priority or super priority service means that you will get a faster decision on your UK visa application. There is, of course, an additional cost for all priority services.

However, this service is only available for certain types of visa applications. Furthermore, the availability also differs from country to country. It is best to speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for the latest update in every instance.

A priority service means you can collect your visa within five working days.

A super priority service usually means a decision by the following day.

The Home Office has suspended the priority services for all new family visa applications. There is also a reduction in the availability of visitor visa applications.

Longer waiting times for decisions on your UK visa application

It is important to note that all the processing times indicated by the Home Office can take longer than they suggest.

Sometimes, you might wait longer for a decision as your application might not be straightforward and more information might be required. Even if you have opted for and paid for priority service, it can still take longer if your application is not straightforward.

The following factors might impact processing times:

  • The Home Office might need to verify your supporting documents.
  • You need to attend an interview.
  • Your personal history and circumstances. This might include factors such as your criminal records, adverse immigration history etc.
  • The capacity of caseworkers
  • Events such as the prioritising of the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme. This is currently a huge factor in the delay of the processing of UK visas.

How Breytenbachs can help you

The Home Office can consider expediting a case in cases where there are extremely compassionate or compelling circumstances. However, this bar is very high and will be for instances such as medical emergencies. Please speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for more information on this.

Furthermore, we cannot guarantee the processing time for any visa, as this is unfortunately out of our hands. We strongly advise that travellers plan ahead so we can submit their applications in time for their planned travel.

Always speak to your Breytenbachs consultant for the latest update on rules and processing times, as this can change daily.

Please email Breytenbachs at info@bic-immigration.com or visit our website for more information. You can also phone your nearest Breytenbachs on the following numbers: Durban – 031 880 2777, Cape Town – 021 830 5246 or Pretoria – 021 460 9959, or our London office at +44 207 442 2160.

Please note that the information in this article does not constitute professional advice. It is provided for general information purposes without any warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. 

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