From 14 March 2022, UKVI priority and super-priority visa processing services have been suspended for all applications made from outside the UK. The change comes as the Home Office focuses processing resources on the “humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine” by prioritising Ukraine Family Scheme applications.
The suspension is impacting applications under the Skilled Worker and Intra-Company routes, which can now take more than three weeks, while Visit visa applications are now taking six weeks instead of the usual three.
Priority services for applications made within the UK remain available, but this may well change as the Home Office moves to further ease resource pressures.
What is UKVCAS?
The UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) is the system for processing UK visa, settlement and citizenship applications made within the UK.
Processing is handled by a private company, Sopra Steria, on behalf of the Home Office.
Under the new system, applicants making a UK immigration application ‘in-country’ are required to attend a single UKVCAS appointment at a local service point to have their identity confirmed, enrol any biometric information that may be required, and submit their supporting documentation.
Following your appointment, UKVCAS will then submit your biometric information and supporting documentation to UKVI for a decision to be made.
Standard processing can take anywhere between eight weeks to six months, depending on the type of application you have made (naturalisation for example will usually take longer to process than a points-based Skilled Worker visa).
For some types of application, expedited processing is available using the UKVCAS super priority or priority services.
What is the UKVCAS super priority service?
The super priority service is just one of a number of ‘user-pay’ services offered by UKVCAS.
The super priority service costs £800 in addition to the standard application fee for a decision by the end of the next working day following your UKVCAS appointment.
Another option for fast-tracked processing is the priority service that will provide you with a decision within five working days, at a cost of £500 on top of the standard application fee.
These priority services will run from the date of your UKVCAS appointment, whereby you will get a decision within one working day if your appointment is on a weekday, or in two working days if your appointment is at the weekend.
Which applications can be fast-tracked?
UKVCAS super priority and priority services provide fast-tracked processing of certain UK visa and settlement applications, including:
- Skilled Worker visa applications
- Student applications
- Intra-Company visa applications
- ILR (settlement) applications
Note that priority and super priority services are currently suspended as the UK prioritises applications from Ukrainian family members and refugees.
How will I receive my application decision using the priority services?
Once a decision has been made by UKVI on your application, you will receive an email, followed by a decision letter in the post. However, the email will only give you the outcome of your application if it has been approved. If it is refused, you will not find out until you receive your letter.
Thereafter, you should receive your biometric residence permit (BRP) within seven to ten days of your decision. If it does not arrive by this date, you can report your missing BRP online. Your BRP will be sent to the address you provided in your application. If you want it to be sent elsewhere, you will need to update your address before any decision is made by UKVI.
What are the pros and cons of the UKVCAS super priority service?
Same day or next day appointments can help applicants where there are time pressures, albeit subject to availability at the service point of choice.
It is also possible to book a time slot outside of standard office hours, such as early morning, evenings and at weekends.
That said, even where you opt and pay for a fast-tracked or out of hours UKVCAS appointment, and even where you have also paid for a priority service with UKVI, this does not guarantee that your application will be processed within that timeframe, nor that your biometric residence permit will be received quickly.
Reports of delays are common, even where expedited processing has been paid for. Appointment shortages are also a widespread issue, impacting applicants’ options when making their UKVCAS appointment.
Note that UKVCAS are only responsible for forwarding your supporting documentation and submitting your biometric information to UKVI, and not for making the application decision or providing you with your permit.
Are there any other premium services offered by UKVCAS?
Chargeable out of hours appointments at core service points on weekdays before 10:00 and after 16:00, and all day at weekends, range in price from £50 up to £100 per person, depending upon time and location.
If you opt for an enhanced service centre point there is currently a charge of £60 per person during normal office hours, and £125 outside of normal office hours, i.e. before 10:00 and after 16:00.
UKVCAS also offer a premium lounge service point, based in the City of London, providing a personalised customer experience in a high quality setting, with appointments during normal office hours costing £200 per person and £260 per person outside of normal office hours, i.e. before 10:00 and after 16:00.
In the event that you do not wish to pay for a chargeable UKVCAS appointment, free of charge appointments are offered at the six core service points located across the country. These can be booked 28 days in advance. You will, however, still be required to pay £19.20 to enrol your biometric information.
In addition to the same day, next day, out of hours or weekend appointments, UKVCAS offer an on-demand pop-up service for large groups. Here UKVCAS will set up a service point on your premises or a location convenient to you for organisations with more than 10 applicants.
UKVCAS also offer an exclusive VIP service 24/7, 365 days a year, whereby they will attend at a location of your choice, including your home and office, to complete your identity check, biometric enrolment and any document scanning.
The price for the pop-up and VIP services are subject to quote, having regard to the duration of appointment, the number of applicants and the travel time.
How do I book a UKVCAS super priority service?
When you submit your online application and have paid the fees, you will be emailed an access code. Use this code to book your UKVCAS appointment.
UKCVAS processing is subject to change and applicants are advised to check centre locations, facilities, opening hours and fees on the the UKCVAS website.
Last updated: 18 March 2022