Many employers have struggled with the challenges caused by delayed VISA applications of their workers and a lack of priority appointments in all but a small number of visit visas. This has made it very difficult to reasonably plan when workers can start or remain in the UK for work. Here we analyse the reason for the delays, the current guidance from the Home Office and what employers can do to mitigate risks to their business and workers.
Why are UK visa applications taking so long to process?
Delays caused by Covid seem to be a thing of the past but the ongoing conflict and invasion of Ukraine has caused a shift in priority to those applying to come to the UK to avoid the conflict.
Current guidance from the Home Office
The Home office has assured us that they are doing everything they can to improve the visa processing times:
"Most work and invest visas, including skilled worker visa applications, are currently taking on average 4 weeks to process. We are working hard to process applications to get back to the 3 week service standard."
What do employers need to do?
It is essential that employers plan for potential delays and plan the applications in good time. The best way to reduce the time it takes to obtain worker visas is to mitigate any risks of delaying the application. Expert advice and application management should be sought to ensure the process runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. We have an excellent track record for obtaining UK visas for the businesses, read more about our Business Immigration services here.
Applying from the UK
The time to receive a decision is 8 weeks for applications made in the UK. The good news is that priority slots are available. These are generally offered at the start of the day and so if they are missed it may be worth waiting until the next day to complete the application.
Most in-country applicants can use the ID check app which can speed up the process as it means biometric appointments do not need to be booked.
There is one major issue that in country applicants have to bear in mind. They cannot leave the country while the application is pending. That means once it has been submitted, they have to wait until the application is granted before they can travel outside the UK. The reason is that by virtue of paragraph 34K of the Immigration Rules, an application for leave to remain in the UK is held to be withdrawn if the applicant leaves the UK before a decision is made. Those nearing the end of their visas should make sure they take into account the likely time it will take for a decision to be made before they plan any international travel.
Applying from abroad
Those applying from outside the UK may have to wait twice as long to get a decision - six weeks for a Skilled Worker visa rather than the standard three weeks. Priority slots are not available in most cases, which could cause further delays to the visa application process. It is important that employers plan for much longer waiting times and seek advice to ensure that applications are accurate and likely to be approved the first time.
Employers should check that they have planned effectively and are aware of when their sponsored workers' visas will end or when they want to make new hires. You can see the most up-to-date guidance on waiting times here:
For out of country applications: Visa decision waiting times: applications inside the UK - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
For in country applications: Visa decision waiting times: applications outside the UK - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Speak to an expert about your business' visa requirements
Find out more
This article was produced by Jonathan Martin, Partner, at Abbiss Cadres, England, UK, a CELIA Alliance member firm.
CELIA Alliance members are identified here. Members of the CELIA Alliance are each independent law firms and do not practice law jointly with any other member of the CELIA Alliance. "CELIA Alliance" and "CELIA" are not trading names. For more information about the CELIA Alliance click here.
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