Bishop & Sewell

The Home Office has reinstated its priority visa service for family members of British/settled people  returning or moving to the UK. That is good news, reuniting families faster, says Mariam Khaliq Partner and head of the Immigration team.

The new year has seen welcome news for family members moving or returning to the UK following the reinstatement of the priority visa service.

The Home Office priority visa services were suspended in March 2022 in response to the Ukraine conflict and the introduction of the Ukraine Visa Schemes. For nearly a year now, a number of visa applications (both made inside and outside the UK) have been subject to significant processing delays, supposedly on the grounds that caseworkers had been moved from other teams to assist with the Ukrainian visa schemes.

In August 2022, the Government reintroduced its priority visa route for study and sponsored work applications. It has now opened that priority route for family members who have a pending application with the Home Office with instructions on how to access the service.

There is, however, a considerable backlog of visa applications and the Home Office is first approaching those who have waited the longest, giving them the option to pay to upgrade to the priority service. Notifications are being sent to those eligible via email.

Before the Ukraine conflict, Marriage and Family visa applications typically took 12  weeks  to process (with the option to purchase the priority service for a decision within 6 weeks). That has increased to 24 weeks  since last March, causing upset and disruption for many separated families. We have seen cases where the father could not be present at their child’s birth as the couple were living in different countries and experiencing significant delays to the visa application of one of the couple. Also, children missing their joining dates for the school term job offers being pulled because the applicant or sponsor could not get to the UK in time.

The priority service will, for an additional fee of £573 on top of the standard fee of £1,650 see visa applications processed within 15 days. It should, of course, be noted that the priority service does not mean a visa will necessarily be granted, just the application considered.

Those with pending applications should look out for the email notification from the Home Office. If you wish to accelerate your application, you will need to confirm via email to the Home Office which will then send a link for payment. If you choose to continue with the standard application, then no action is required.

The Home Office has not yet confirmed when the priority service will be available to new applications, although they have suggested it will return in “early 2023”. For now, it is a case of watching this space.

Contact our Immigration team

For more information or guidance on your visa application contact Mariam Khaliq Partner and head of the Immigration team. Please email or contact us on 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to a member of the Immigration team

The above is accurate as at 01 February 2023. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times. The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 1st Feb 2023

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