Current delays in UK visa processing are being attributed by the Home Office to the various visa schemes launched recently for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict in their country. As UKVI are prioritising applications from Ukrainian refugees under these new emergency routes, such as the Homes For Ukraine scheme, applications in other visa categories are experiencing longer processing times.
In addition to these category delays, protracted UK visa processing times are also notably being experienced by Russia & Belarusian applicants.
Additional security checks for Russian & Belarusian nationals
Nationals of Russia need a visa to enter or transit the UK ‘landside’, while nationals of Belarus need visas to enter or transit the UK. Landside transit passengers are those who need or wish to pass through the UK border and enter the UK, such as to change airport, to collect baggage or arrive at airports where no airside transfer is possible.
While applications from Russian and Belarusian citizens are still being approved, applicants are advised that they are likely to take longer for processing. This is due to applications from Russian and Belarusian individuals currently being subject to further security checks, both for entry clearance applications and in-country applications for extensions.
Enhanced security checks are the direct result of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian state. The security checks are being completed by a secure team within UKVI.
The Home Office has advised it will continue to accelerate these checks and process applications as quickly as possible.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “There are currently no restrictions or limitations for Russian nationals to work in the UK on long-term work visas.”
“We are prioritising Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine applications in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, so applications for study, work and family visas have taken longer to process.”
There is no general, legally enforceable timeframe during which the Home Office is compelled to process a UK visa application.
However, in response to the ongoing conflict within Ukraine, on 28 April 2022 changes to the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 took effect in the UK, allowing the Government to create new Immigration Rules that impose penalties on visa applicants from countries that it designates have undertaken action that endangers global peace and security. The visa penalties that may be imposed are:
- Requiring entry clearance not to be granted to nationals of a specified country before the end of a specified period;
- Suspending the Home Office’s power to grant entry clearance in respect of such an application;
- Requiring such an application to be treated as invalid; and/or
- Requiring such an applicant to pay an additional fee of £190 (or other amount if approved under regulations).
The Government had initially indicated that the new rules would be put into effect immediately on visa applications from Russian nationals. However, there has been no official confirmation of any new rules or penalties being in force, except for the delayed application processing for Russian and Belarusian nationals, which are being attributed to the enhanced security checks.
The Home Office is obligated to provide reasonable notice of any intention to impose such visa penalties under the new legislation. The penalties cannot be applied retrospectively to applications made before the any new rule comes into force.
Russian and Belarusian nationals planning to make a UK visa application are therefore advised to submit their applications as soon as possible, before any such new rule or penalties are potentially imposed.
Compounding the delays due to security checks, Russian and Belarusian applicants are also facing issues booking the required tests for their UK visa applications.
For example, Russian visa applicants, as with other visa applicants, must meet all requirements under their visa classification, which may include English language requirement and TB testing. However, UKVI-approved test providers have announced that they are pulling out of Russia. Residents of Russia with UK visas must also undergo TB testing in accredited facilities, where appointments are also noticeably delayed.
DavidsonMorris’ immigration lawyers have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate UK visa for your circumstances and have the insight to make the process as smooth as possible. We have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice to suit your needs.
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Last updated: 24 June 2022