The length of time it takes for your application to be processed can be an important factor in deciding when to apply and when to make travel arrangements. But UK visa processing times vary considerably, depending on factors such as the type of visa being applied for, the country or Embassy where the application is made and the applicant’s own individual circumstances and eligibility.
UK visa processing times are slowly returning to pre-COVID levels, although processing across many in-country and out of country applications remains delayed. Visa applicants are therefore advised to take guidance on the current processing timescales for their specific type of application.
UK visa processing service standards
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is the Home Office department responsible for the UK’s visa system. UKVI specifies standards for processing times of UK visas.
The processing date is typically counted from when the applicant has attended their biometric appointment, or when using the UKVI’s visa processing app, once ID checks have been completed and the application is submitted.
Note that these standards do not apply to issuing Biometric Residence Permits (BRP). BRPs are usually received within 7 working days of the decision on your application.
The Home Office website states the following standard processing times:
|Non settlement visa applications from outside the UK *see below update on latest UKVI processing status||90% of non-settlement applications within 3 weeks, 98% within 6 weeks and 100% within 12 weeks of the application date (where 1 week is 5 working days)
|Settlement applications from outside the UK||98.5% of settlement applications within 12 weeks of the application date and 100% within 24 weeks of the application date (where 1 week is 5 working days)|
|Applications to remain on a temporary basis including as spouses, workers, entrepreneurs, students and organisations seeking to sponsor a worker *see below update on latest UKVI processing status||8 weeks (5 working day priority or the end of the next working day super priority services – please check your application type for available priority services)|
|Organisations updating their sponsor licence details||18 weeks|
|Customers applying in the UK for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or no time limit (NTL)||6 months (the end of the next working day super priority service)|
* Current processing status
UKVI’s most recent service updates advise the following visa application processing times:
- Work visas should take 3 weeks after the visa application centre appointment or use of the ID Check app.
- Visit visa processing should take 3 weeks after attending the visa application centre appointment or using the ID Check app.
- Student visa applications are being processed within 3 weeks after attending the visa application centre appointment or using the ID Check app.
- Family visa applications are currently taking 24 weeks from visa application centre appointment for applicants of the spouse, partner or family visa. The Home Office has stated it is endeavouring to reduce processing to 12 weeks.
- In-country family visa applications are now currently taking 9 months.
Priority & fast-track services
Priority service and super priority services for applications being made from outside the UK are available for work, business and family visa routes.
The family visa priority processing service is now available after a temporary suspension to new visa applications made outside the UK from 20 February 2023. It provides a three-week turnaround from the date of biometric enrolment for a fee of £573 per priority visa.
Where available, priority processing allows applicants for certain work and settlement routes such as the Skilled Worker visa to pay an additional fee for fast-tracked processing. Priority processing provides a decision within 5 working days, while super-priority is for a decision by the end of the next working day
Priority processing is only available to certain applicants, notably those proving their identity by attending an appointment at a UKVCAS centre or those using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. If available to you, you will be notified when making your application and given the option to purchase faster processing.
The fees for priority and super-priority processing are as follows:
|Priority Visa service – settlement made out of country||£573|
|Priority Visa service – non-settlement made out of country||£250|
|Super Priority Visa service – out of country||£956|
|Super Priority service – in-country||£800|
|Expedited processing – Priority service – in-country||£500|
Processing times for Certificate of Sponsorship requests & Changes of Circumstances
UKVI is currently experiencing significant delays in processing CoS applications under the standard service. Sponsors should note that CoS allocation requests are currently taking several weeks, and in some cases months.
Priority processing remains available to A’ rated sponsors for fast-tracked CoS allocation and other Change of Circumstances requests, for a fee of £200 per application. The priority requests are generally processed within 5 working days.
What is the difference between UKVCAS and Home Office processing?
One factor that may affect the UK visa processing time is whether the application has to be made through UKVCAS.
UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service) was introduced in November 2018 to handle certain UK visa, settlement and citizenship applications made from persons already in the UK. Since its introduction, there have been continued reports of delays in application processing and difficulties for applicants to schedule an appointment at a UKVCAS centre.
You will be advised when making your application if you must go through UKVCAS in order for your application to be processed.
How might the time of year and other factors affect your UK visa processing time?
There are other factors that may affect the processing time of your UK visa application. These include:
Summer is generally the busiest time for UKVI, but applicants should also note that, given the current changes in the UK immigration system, particularly resulting from the recent introduction of the EU settlement scheme, processing is taking longer than in previous years due to the surge in UKVI workload.
Where you apply from
The country that you apply for your UK visa from may affect the processing time for several reasons, including the relationship and arrangements between the UK and your country, the administrative systems within each country, current conditions within either country, endorsing documents from your country or finding their equivalent in the UK, whether that country is part of the EEA and so on.
It is always advised to check with the UK embassy or consulate in your country for any such issues that could lead to visa processing delays.
Insufficient or incorrect information
Where your application includes incorrect information or the documentation you supply is insufficient, the processing time may be longer than expected if UKVI pause processing to request further information from you in order to make a decision.
The best way to avoid this is to check your application thoroughly and ensure that you have all the necessary documentation to hand before you apply.
What are the different types of UK visa applications?
The type of UK visa that you apply for will be the main deciding factor in how long it takes to process your UK visa application. The UK visa that you choose will depend on your reason for visiting the UK and how long you wish to stay.
Work in the UK
There are many types of short-term and long-term work visas including:
- Skilled worker visa
- Temporary worker visas
- Global Business Mobility visas
- Domestic workers in a private household visas
- Sportsperson visa
- Graduate route
- High Potential Individual visa
- Global Talent visa
- Scale up visa
- Innovator Founder visa
Each type of visa will carry its own eligibility, conditions and application requirements.
The Skilled Worker visa, for instance, is open to non-UK residents with a job offer from a licensed sponsor for skilled employment in the UK.
The processing time for the Skilled Worker visa is generally no longer than 3 weeks once the applicant has attended their appointment.
Holiday, family visit or business trip
The Standard Visitor visa is generally suitable for tourism, holidays, visiting and to receive short-term medical treatment. It replaces:
- Business visitor and prospective entrepreneur visas
- Family visitor visa
- Child visitor visa
- Sports and entertainer visitor visas
- Private medical treatment visitor visa
- Approved destination status visa
- General visitor visa
Under the standard visitor visa, you can usually stay in the UK for up to 6 months.
Your application for a Standard Visitor visa should be made no earlier than 3 months before you intend to enter the UK, and it will generally take no more than 3 weeks for the visa application to be processed and a decision made after your appointment.
Under current processing times, visitor visa applications from outside the UK are taking six weeks instead of the usual three.
Studying in the UK
Should you wish to study in the UK, there are 3 visas available for this purpose, depending on your individual situation:
- A short-term study visa is suitable for a 6 month stay in the UK to attend a course. For students over 16 who wish to attend an English language course, it may be possible to use a Short-term study visa for a stay of up to 11 months.
- A general study visa is suitable for a longer course of study in the UK as long as the student has a confirmed place on a course and is sponsored by a licensed university or college.
- 4 to 17 years old wishing to study at an independent school should apply for a child student visa.
Apply for the appropriate student visa no earlier than 3 months before you intend to enter the UK. Once you have attended your appointment, it will generally take no more than 3 weeks to receive a decision.
Entrepreneurs & investors
The primary route for people coming to the UK to set up or run a business is the Innovator Founder visa. While no up-front investment is required under this route, there are many eligibility criteria that will need to be satisfied by both the applicant and the business. Endorsement will also be required before the visa application can be made.
Processing for business visas can take longer than other categories due to the complexity of the application documentation and evidence. Again, the earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel.
Joining family in the UK
The Family visa will generally allow you to join certain family members who already live in the UK if you wish to remain in the country for more than 6 months, such as spouses.
If the visa application is made from outside the UK, the processing time will generally take up to 24 weeks.
To get married in the UK
If you intend to visit the UK to get married, you should generally apply for a Marriage Visitor visa. This visa is also suitable for civil partnership ceremonies in the UK.
This visa doesn’t allow you to remain or settle in the UK after the marriage or civil partnership ceremony.
Processing, once an appointment has been attended, should ordinarily take no more than 3 weeks.
Travelling through the UK
There are two types of Transit visa. If you will be passing through UK border control and staying in the UK no more than 48 hours, then you should apply for a Visitor in Transit visa. If you will not pass through UK border control, then you should apply for a Direct Airside Transit visa.
If you will be staying in the UK for longer than 48 hours, it will be necessary to apply for a Standard Visitor visa.
At DavidsonMorris we 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.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, 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. Contact us for advice.
Last updated: 19 May 2023