UKVI: UK Visas and Immigration Applicants’ Guide

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UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is the government department responsible for deciding who has the right to visit or stay in the UK.

In the following guide, we explain what UKVI is, including the role that it plays and the services it provides. We also look at how to create an UKVI account and check your online immigration status, together with UKVI’s processing times and the ways in which you can contact UKVI if needed.

 

What is UKVI?

UKVI, the acronym for UK Visas and Immigration, is the division of the UK’s Home Office responsible for the issuance of visas and British citizenship decisions, as well as approving UK-based organisations to sponsor foreign workers and students. This is the department that applicants will need to directly liaise with when making these types of applications.

UKVI’s primary role is to adjudicate the validity, suitability and eligibility of applicants applying for visas, settlement, citizenship and sponsorship. The official UKVI webpage at GOV.UK advertises its’ ethos and approach to these decisions as having a firm emphasis on national security and on a culture of customer satisfaction for people coming here legally.

 

UKVI services

UKVI has a workforce of approximately 7,500 people, where its staff work on high volume services and more specialist casework, with responsibilities to:

  • run the UK’s visa service, managing around 3 million applications each year from overseas nationals who wish to come to the UK to visit, study and/or work
  • consider applications for British citizenship from overseas nationals who are looking to settle in the UK on a permanent basis and to obtain a British passport
  • run the UK’s asylum service, offering protection to those eligible on this basis
  • decide applications from employers and educational establishments who want to join the register of UKVI-approved sponsors
  • manage immigration appeals from unsuccessful applicants.

 

How do you create a UKVI account?

You may be asked to create a UKVI account when you make an application. You can use this account to sign in to UKVI services which will allow you to view and prove your online immigration status, also known as an eVisa, and to keep your details up-to-date.

If you do not yet have a UKVI account, you should be able to register for one in due course, where UKVI is rolling out a digital-by-default system throughout 2024 so that almost all visas will soon become eVisas. In this way you can sign in to the online ‘View and Prove’ service using your UKVI account details. You can then use this service to view your eVisa and check what rights you have in the UK, including your right to work and rent. You can also use this service to prove your status to others, such as employer and landlords, by generating an online share code which gives them time-limited access to the relevant data.

You can update personal information through your UKVI account, where you must notify UKVI about any important changes to things like your contact and travel document details. You will need to update your account details if there are changes to:

  • your name or nationality
  • your home or postal address
  • your ID document, passport or travel document
  • your account sign in details (email address and phone number)

 
It is important to keep your details up-to-date so that you can continue to access your immigration status online and to ensure that your passport is linked to this account, in this way minimising the possibility of any delays when you travel in and out of the UK. If you have an UKVI account, your information will be digitally checked on your return.

 

How to check your UKVI immigration status

If you have been told that you can view your UK immigration status online, you can use the ‘View and Prove’ service at GOV. UK to do any of the following:

  • generate an online share code to prove your status to third parties
  • update personal and travel document details
  • check what rights you have in the UK, such as the right to work or rent.

 
If you need help accessing or using your UKVI account, including accessing and proving your online immigration status and conditions of stay, you should contact the UKVI Resolution Centre which provides telephone and email support to all account-holders. This support includes helping you access or recover your account, helping you update your relevant details, and sharing your status on your behalf, if unable to do so yourself.

 

UKVI processing times

In making decisions on the different applications within its remit, UKVI will do so within certain customer service standards. As such, if you apply to come to or remain in the UK and your application is considered by UKVI to be straightforward (typically where a decision can be made without asking for more information) it will be decided within these standards. Service standard processing times will start to run when you make an application, prove your identity and provide your supporting documentation.

You can find out how long it should take UKVI to process applications inside or outside the UK in line with customer service standards at GOV.UK. These are divided into various categories, including family, students, settlement, visitors and transit, and work.

For example, in accordance with the latest customer service standards, the partner or spouse of someone settled in the UK applying on the family route can expect to wait up to 24 weeks when applying from outside the UK and up to 8 weeks when applying from inside the UK. In contrast, a foreign student or worker can expect to wait up to 3 weeks when applying from outside the UK or up to 8 weeks when applying from inside the UK.

If UKVI cannot make a decision within the service standards because there is a problem with your application, for example, if it is incomplete or complex, they will write to explain to you why it will not be decided within the normal standard. This letter will explain what will happen next. If you have applied for the priority or super priority service, UKVI will contact you within the service standard if there is a problem with your application.

 

Can you pay for UKVI to make a faster decision?

You may be able to pay for a faster decision on a visa or settlement decision, depending on your category of visa and where you are applying from, where you will be told if this is the case when you apply. You may be able to pay for either the priority or super priority service.

Using the priority service means that you will usually get a decision within 5 working days (or soon after), while using the super priority service means you will usually get a decision by the end of the next working day (or soon after). The cost of the priority service is an extra £500, in addition to the normal application fee, and an extra £1,000 for the super priority service. If it takes longer to get a decision on your application, for example, if UKVI needs to ask you for more information, you will not usually get your money back.

 

Can you minimise any risks of delay with UKVI?

UKVI’s customer charter sets out the service that it aims to provide its customers and what it expects from them. In line with this charter, and to help ensure that your application is considered within the service standards, you therefore need to make sure that:

  • you make an application before your visa expires, if you currently have one
  • your application is completed accurately and fully, including any required photos
  • you provide your biometric information, as requested, at an overseas visa application centre (VAC), a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point, a Service and Support Centre (SSC) or using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check app’
  • you upload or submit at your VAC, UKVCAS or SSC appointment the appropriate documentation required in support of your application
  • you respond to any requests made by UKVI for further information by the dates asked
  • if your application is made on paper, ensure that you use the correct form, and sign and date this form, including the required documents and your application fee.

 
It is also worth seeking expert advice from an immigration specialist to help ensure that you are eligible for the visa sought before applying, as well as to ensure your application is correctly completed and you have gathered all the necessary documentation in support.

 

How to contact UKVI

You can contact UKVI from either inside or outside the UK in relation to a number of matters and in various different ways. There is a dedicated webpage at GOV.UK by searching ’Contact UK Visas and Immigration for help’, where this will let you know the way in which you can contact UKVI, depending on your circumstances, including:

 

Inside the UK

  • Applying to continue living in the UK, including settled and pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • Viewing and proving your online immigration status, right to work or right to rent
  • Sponsoring an employee or student
  • Accessing your UKVI account
  • Updating your UKVI account details
  • Getting support as an asylum seeker
  • Ukraine Family Scheme visa
  • Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) visa
  • Ukraine Extension Scheme visa
  • Electronic travel authorisation (ETA)

 

Outside the UK

  • Applying for settled or pre-settled status under the EUSS
  • Using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app
  • Using the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ app
  • Accessing your UKVI account or updating your account details
  • Applying for British citizenship and nationality
  • Viewing and proving your online immigration status, right to work or right to rent
  • Applying for a Frontier Worker permit or Service Provider from Switzerland visa
  • Ukraine Family Scheme visa
  • Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) visa
  • Electronic travel authorisation (ETA)

Depending on the nature of the issue you would like to discuss with UKVI, you will be given the option to either raise an online inquiry, email the online help team or call the UKVI contact centre, although contact centre staff cannot advise on personal circumstances.

 

Is UKVCAS different to UKVI?

UKVCAS is the acronym for UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services which provide any necessary appointments for in-country immigration applications. This includes all visa extension applications and any switching between visa categories, as well as applications for settlement and citizenship. UKVCAS services, delivered by Sopra Steria (an official commercial partner of UKVI), was introduced in 2018 to streamline the process of obtaining further leave to remain, or other immigration entitlements, from inside the UK.

If you are applying to UKVI from within the UK, you may need to use UKVCAS to prove your identity, enrol your biometrics and provide your supporting documentation, where needed. You can provide your supporting documents by either uploading them into the UKVCAS online service or by having them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.

In some cases, you may also be able to use the ID Check app to prove your identity, as well as being able to re-use any biometric information already enrolled for a previous application. In these cases, an UKVCAS appointment will not be necessary. However, you will be told when you apply whether or not you need to attend a UKVCAS service point as part of your application and how to go about scheduling that appointment. Importantly, you can only attend a service point if you have a pre-booked appointment.

A standard UKVCAS appointment is free, although some appointments are chargeable, such as out-of-hours, weekend, next day and same day appointments. You can also opt to buy additional services at certain service points, such as advance or on-the-day document checking and document scanning, as well as document translation and interpreter services.

Once you have attended your UKVCAS appointment, you will not get a decision on your application on the day, where your information and documentation will be sent to UKVI for processing. The length of time it will take for a decision to be made will therefore depend on the type of application made and if you have paid UKVI for a priority service.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For advice on a UK visa, settlement or citizenship application, contact us.

 

UKVI FAQs

What does UKVI mean?

UKVI is an acronym that stands for UK Visas and Immigration. This is the division of the UK’s Home Office responsible for the issuance of visas and citizenship decisions, and for approving UK-based organisations to sponsor foreign workers and students.

How do I check my UKVI status?

You can check your online status with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) by accessing your UKVI account that you may have created when applying for your visa or applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

How do I contact UKVI?

There are various ways in which you can contact UKVI from both inside and outside the UK, including by telephone and email. You can find a dedicated webpage at GOV.UK by searching ’Contact UK Visas and Immigration for help’.

Does UKVI respond to emails?

In some instances, you can contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) via email although, depending on what you need help with, you may instead need to raise your query using a dedicated UKVI online contact page or by telephoning them.

 
Last updated: 13 November 2023

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