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UKVI prioritises new study and work visa applications amid backlog

The UK Visas and Immigration's (UKVI) announcement that priority services are being reinstated for new study and work visa applications is “hugely valuable”, according to one legal expert.

The UKVI, a division of the Home Office, said that under its ‘priority service’, new visa applicants could expect to receive a decision within five working days – or by the end of the next working day as part of its ‘super priority service’. Whether an applicant can get a faster decision depends on what type of visa they apply for and whether they prove their identity at a visa application centre or by using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app.

Shara Pledger of Pinsent Masons said: “When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, UK Visas and Immigration were quite quick to divert resources for visa processing away from normal routes towards the Ukraine visa schemes. The effect of this was that priority services were withdraw from all overseas visa categories, scaled back for in-country applications, and processing times generally increased.”

She added: “That change created a backlog with processing, and it’s common now to plan for a worker’s start date 1-2 months after their visa application can be made. The announcement will be welcomed by lots of applicants, as the standard processing time for work visas has been around four weeks. A service reducing that to one week is hugely valuable.”;

Applicants who submitted their visa application prior to UKVI’s announcement cannot be upgraded to benefit from the priority service, although they can withdraw their applications and reapply under the priority route. However, doing so could result in the loss of some application fees, and it may mean re-completing the sponsorship process.

The UKVI said family members can also benefit from priority services, but that every family member who wants this service needs to apply and pay the appropriate fee. It added that priority services are not available in all locations so applicants should to check with their chosen centre.

Pledger said: “Priority services will also be reintroduced for visit visa applications – but at a reduced rate – so it will take some time for visit visa application processing times to fall. Other immigration categories, such as family applications, continue to be suspended from the priority offerings altogether.”

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