To obtain a UK visa, settlement or citizenship, you will need to make an application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). You will also need to apply to UKVI if you are looking to sponsor overseas workers or students.
In this guide for applicants, we explain what UKVI is and how you will need to use UKVI services to make your application.
What is UK Visas & Immigration?
UK Visas & Immigration, also commonly referred to as UKVI, is the division of the Home Office responsible for the UK’s visa system. Established in 2013 out of the UK Border Agency department that previously administered the visa system, UKVI currently has a workforce of approximately 7,500 people based in locations around the UK and overseas.
UKVI staff are responsible for managing around 3 million immigration and citizenship applications from foreign nationals every year. They are also responsible for determining applications from UK-based businesses and educational institutions in the UK who are looking to become licensed sponsors for foreign workers or students.
UK Visas and Immigration is a key governmental body with the following responsibilities:
- to run the UK’s visa service, where UKVI is responsible for making millions of decisions each year about who is allowed to visit or stay in the UK in the short and long-term
- to consider applications for British citizenship from overseas nationals who wish to settle in the UK on a permanent basis and hold a British passport
- to run the UK’s asylum service, offering protection to those eligible to stay in the UK under the 1951 Geneva Convention
- to decide applications from UK employers and educational establishments who want to join the online register of Home Office approved sponsors
- to manage any reviews and appeals from unsuccessful visa and immigration applicants.
UKVI’s decision-making remit covers a whole host of different kinds of applications from foreign nationals, including applications to visit the UK, to undertake employment or study in the UK, to join family or to settle in the UK permanently, and to become a British citizen.
How do you use UKVI services?
You may need to apply to UKVI for a visa to come to the UK to either visit, study, work or live. There are various different visas depending on where you are from, the reasons for your stay, the length of stay and your personal circumstances. Before you apply to UKVI, you must check if you need a visa and what type you need. You may be eligible to travel visa-free, depending on your nationality and reason for travel. However, in cases where a visa is required, your application must first be approved by UKVI before you can travel. You will also need to apply to UKVI for permission to remain in the UK, either as an existing visa-holder or as an asylum seeker, or if you are wanting to live in the UK indefinitely or to obtain citizenship.
You can apply and pay for most UK visas online although, if you have dependants who want to accompany or follow to join you in the UK, each person will need to apply and pay separately. When using UKVI services and to ensure the best possible outcome, you should:
- apply online where at all possible, but where your application is made on paper you must ensure that you use the correct form, that the form is signed and dated, and that you include the correct payment for the application fee
- provide complete and correct information at all times, ensuring your online or paper application is completed accurately
- submit the correct supporting documentation, including any required photographs, as well as evidence of funds to maintain yourself, if this is a requirement of your application
- enrol your biometric information where required at an overseas visa application centre or at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point
- respond to any requests from UKVI for further information by the dates asked of you
- contact UKVI immediately if your circumstances change or you have special requirements.
When applying for an extension of stay, you must also ensure that you submit your application prior to expiry of your existing visa. In this way, you will be permitted to stay in the UK pending the outcome of your application and a written decision from UKVI.
For those of you applying for a sponsor licence, the process can be complex, with detailed documentation in support, so expert advice and assistance should be sought.
How long does UKVI take to make decisions?
If you are applying to come to or remain in the UK and your application is straightforward, where UKVI can make a determination without asking you for more information, a decision will be made within standard processing times. The published processing times are available on UKVI’s ‘About our services’ page at GOV.UK. Note that these times are subject to change and delay due to circumstances such as COVID backlogs and prioritising Ukraine visa schemes. Standard , for those applying for a visa from outside the UK, 90% of applications will be decided within 3 weeks, 98% within 6 weeks and 100% within 12 weeks, where 1 week is 5 working days. For those applying to remain in the UK on a temporary basis, the standard processing time is 8 weeks, whilst for those applying for indefinite leave to remain, the standard processing time is 6 months.
Depending on the nature of your application and where you are applying from, UKVI also offers two types of priority service: the 5 working day priority service and the next working day super priority service, where these times will run from when you complete your appointment to enrol your biometric information and submit your supporting evidence. For weekend appointments, the appointment will be deemed as attended on the next working day, which in most cases will be a Monday, but a Tuesday where there is a bank holiday.
If your application is straightforward, UKVI will make a decision on it within the standard processing time, where there is no need to contact them to ask for progress on it. If there is an issue with your application or if it is complex, UKVI will write to you to explain why it will not be decided within the normal service standards, explaining what will happen next. If you have paid for either a priority or super priority service, UKVI will contact you within the service standard timeframes if your application is likely to be delayed.
Updating your UKVI account
You will have a UK Visas and Immigration account if you have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme or for a visa and used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document on your phone. If you have an UKVI account set up, it is important that you keep this up-to-date. This means that you must log on and amend your details if you have changed your mobile phone number, your email address, your UK address, your name or your identity document, such as your passport or national identity card.
You can also amend your date of birth on your UKVI account, add an extra nationality, add an additional identity document, change your photo if your appearance has changed, give someone else access to your visa application if you would like them to help you apply and give someone else ownership of the account if you set this up on their behalf.
Your details must be up-to-date so that you can view and prove your immigration rights to others, for example, employers or landlords, and for you to be contacted by UKVI with a decision, if you are waiting for one. If your contact details are incorrect, you might not receive your decision. You will also need to keep you details up-to-date on your UKVI account to be able to travel with your current identity document. Importantly, you cannot change your identity document or name if you are waiting for a UKVI decision.
If you went to an appointment at a visa application centre when you applied, there is a different way to update your details. To report changes to your contact details, you must complete a change of circumstances form. If your stay in the UK is longer than 6 months and you change your name, you must transfer your visa to a biometric residence permit.
UK Visas and Immigration contact details
You can contact UKVI from inside or outside the UK about various matters, including general queries about applying for a visa, questions about the progress of your application, technical problems with your application, if you have made a mistake in your online application, problems logging into your account or with making a payment to UKVI online.
To contact UKVI from outside the UK, you can use its online form, although you will be charged £2.74 (GBP) for each enquiry raised. UKVI should reply within 5 working days, and you will not be charged for any follow-up emails relating to the same matter.
For more urgent queries, you can phone the UK Visas and Immigration Contact Centre on +44 (0)300 790 6268, selecting option 1, or +44 (0)203 875 4669 if you cannot use UK 0300 numbers. You can get help on the phone with English-speaking and bi-lingual staff, but they cannot give you advice about your personal circumstances. You can also contact UKVI about various other matters using this phone number, including help with technical problems using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, any problems with your online immigration account, or help with viewing and proving your immigration status, or your right to work or right to rent online. You will need to select option 3 in these instances.
For help with extending your stay in the UK, and with general visa and immigration enquiries from within the UK, you should again dial 0300 790 6268, selecting option 2.
For help applying to the EU Settlement Scheme and for problems in using the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ app you should contact the EU Settlement Resolution Centre using an online form or by calling +44 (0)20 3080 0010. For help with citizenship applications, you should telephone +44 (0)300 790 6268, selecting option 2, or email the Citizenship and Nationality Enquiries Team on email@example.com.
How do you make a complaint to UKVI?
Under the UKVI customer charter, or its customer commitments, it sets out various things that you can expect from them by way of a promised ‘high-quality service’, including:
- making its application processes clear and simple
- responding to your enquiries in full
- making correct decisions based on policy and law in the context of your circumstances
- explaining its decisions clearly and, if needed, helping you understand what to do next
- treating you with respect and being sensitive to your situation
- keeping your personal information, and anything you tell them, safe and secure
- seeking your feedback to continually improve its service
- having a simple to use complaints process that puts things right if mistakes are made.
As such, if you have a complaint about the service provided by UKVI, or the professional conduct of any one of its staff, and the incident happened within the last 3 months, you can submit a complaint using either the online complaints form or in writing. Complaints should be made no more than 3 months after the date of the incident, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Any written complaint should be posted to: Complaints Allocation Hub, Central Point of Receipt, 7th Floor Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, Croydon, CR9 2BY. For anyone aged under 18 wanting to submit a complaint about the service or professional conduct of UKVI, you should email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints do not affect UKVI’s decision-making process and making a complaint does not mean that your application will be dealt with more quickly or slowly. However, UKVI will only respond to enquiries using the online complaints form or written complaints posted to the Complaints Allocation Hub that are considered ‘complaints’. This does not include, for example, general updates on the progress of an application, or where you are not satisfied with a decision that UKVI has made and are looking for a review, or to appeal, that decision. There are different ways of contacting UKVI in these types of circumstances.
UKVI will usually investigate your complaint and reply to you within 20 working days, although they will contact you if more time is needed to investigate the matter. UKVI aims to respond to any allegations of serious professional misconduct within 12 weeks.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For expert advice on UKVI applications, contact us.
How do I contact my UK Visa and Immigration?
There are various ways to contact UK Visas and Immigration, although the way you do this will depend on the nature of your enquiry. You may be able to use an online contact form, email or call UKVI by telephone.
What are the requirements to immigrate to UK?
The requirements to immigrate to the UK vary depending on the basis of your application, for example, whether this is family-based or employment-based. It is best to seek specialist advice when looking to live in the UK indefinitely.
What are the types of visa?
The different types of visa available from UK Visas and Immigration are varied, from allowing you to visit the UK for up to 6 months for tourism to allowing you to work or study in the UK over several years.
Last updated: 9 November 2022