UK Visa Decision Waiting Times: Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

However, the Home Office has announced that both priority and super priority visa services are currently temporarily suspended for new family visa applications submitted outside the UK whilst it prioritises Ukraine Visa Scheme applications.  This suspension has been in place since 14 March 2022. For work (except Innovator, Start-up 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 time.

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 Solicitors

For expert advice and assistance regarding a UK visa application, contact our immigration solicitors on 020 8240 9018 or via the enquiry form on our website.