Checking visa processing times
A simple online tool provides you with a quick way to find out how long your visa might take to be issued. Note this is a general guide, and a wide range of results can be returned depending on where you’re applying, and what type of visa you want.
Priority visa processing
This is offered by many visa issuing offices overseas. It is a premium service, and costs can be high. See for example the range of services offered on behalf of UKVI by VFS in the United States.
Tracking your visa application
An online tool on the gov.uk website offers a couple of options, if you have submitted a visa application either in the UK or abroad, and are waiting for a decision. Unfortunately, when you click through the questions it usually takes you to general contact information for the various UKVI departments, such as European or asylum casework. Phone numbers are provided, but beware: calling these numbers can be expensive, and when your call is answered, the information you receive is likely to be limited, often to the point of being no help at all. Spending time on hold, to be told your application is “under consideration”, is of little use to anyone.
The online visa status tool does return better results if you’ve applied for a UK visa from abroad. As well as taking you to a general enquiries phone number, the option of a paid email enquiry appears. You can access this service directly here. The current cost is £5.48, and a reply is promised within 2 working days. Our experience is that the paid email option (there is a paid call option also available, which is less effective) allows your enquiry to reach the casework team dealing with your case, and can lead to a quicker decision if you have a good reason, eg a medical emergency requiring urgent travel.
Premium Service Centres
For in-country visa applicants, UKVI has a small network of PSCs where you can submit your case in person, and if all is in order, get a decision on the same day. Appointments can be difficult to obtain, especially in popular categories such as Tier 2 sponsored work. You can find details of the PSCs here. On this webpage, note the list of excluded categories of application. So, for example, a Tier 1 Entrepreneur cannot use a PSC, presumably because their cases are complex in nature. For such applicants, a super-premium service exists – costs are extremely high, but it is possible to book an appointment and join with other applicants in order to spread the cost. Contact us if you would like to know more about this service.
Note that, from Autumn 2018, UKVI is planning to phase out its PSC network, in favour a more localised system of locations where you can submit your application in-person. Details will appear here when they are published.
Priority Postal Service
One step down from the premium service centres is this useful option for those applying for a visa from within the UK. It is only available in the Tier 2 (main applicants and their dependants) visa category, and capacity is limited to 60 cases per working day. A decision is promised within 10 working days.
Faster Reply Service
For those inside the UK who have already made a postal application to UKVI, this useful service offers the possibility of an expedited decision, subject to payment of an additional fee. It is only available if you’ve applied on the following forms:
- SET (AF)
- SET (F)
- SET (LR)
- SET (M)
- In some circumstances SET (O)
You can check if you’re eligible here. Note that this is a very limited scheme at present; it is necessary to email UKVI a completed form, and only 5 cases are accepted each working day.
Local Authority Checking / Passport-Passback Service
If you are applying from inside the UK, this option is only available for certain categories of case; it allows you to submit a completed application in-person at a designated local council office, where your papers are reviewed, scanned then forwarded to UKVI for processing. Crucially, you retain your passport while your application is being considered. Currently, only applicants for naturalisation, settlement as a partner (5-year route) and for certain EEA residence documents are able to make use of this service. A small additional fee is payable.
If applying for a UK visa from abroad, many application centres offer passport-passback as a premium service option.
Need your passport back in an emergency?
As a last resort, you may need to do this, but remember if you have made an application for limited or indefinite leave to remain from within the UK, the effect will be to automatically withdraw your application. You must, therefore, think very carefully about going ahead with the passport return service, which you can access here.
How we can help
At Latitude Law, our lawyers handle several hundred applications a year on behalf of the widest possible range of clients, from businesses to individuals. We maintain up-to-date, expert knowledge of UKVI processing methods, and can advise you on the best way to achieve a quick decision, or to ensure that you retain your important personal documents wherever possible.
Why choose Latitude Law?
Our specialist migration lawyers have the expertise to advise the optimum approach to your Home Office application, and to provide you with effective advice and support if circumstances change and you need your documents back urgently. If you are interested in using any of these services get in touch with a member of our team on 0161 234 6800 (Manchester and London) or 0151 305 9600 (Liverpool).