Recently, the UK immigration space has been one to watch with many changes as the remaining Covid-19 restrictions lift and following the invasion of Ukraine. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) regularly updates its rules and guidance, often without giving prior notice, and therefore it is crucial for businesses and their non-settled workers to remain hypervigilant to adhere to the Immigration Rules.
Priority and Super Priority visa services – overseas applications
Shortly after the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, UKVI announced a global suspension of Priority and Super Priority visa services for work and study routes, to allow for the prioritisation of visa applications from Ukraine. As of 12 August 2022, Priority and Super Priority visa services have now resumed for the majority of new work and study visa applications made overseas.
The availability of the visa services depends on the city and country of application, and applicants must always check on the relevant commercial partner’s individual country pages (VFS Global or TLS contact) before applying.
The Priority visa service expedites application processing times to approximately five working days following the date of the biometric appointment / all documents being uploaded to the online application portal (if the UK Immigration: ID Check app is used in place of a biometric appointment).
The Super Priority visa service expedites application processing times to approximately 1-2 working days from the date of the biometric appointment. The Super Priority visa service is unavailable if providing biometrics remotely via the UK Immigration: ID Check app.
The Priority and Super Priority visa services remain available for visit visa applications, but remain unavailable for family visa applications.
It is important to note that the Priority and Super Priority visa services cannot be purchased retrospectively for eligible out of country visa applications submitted prior to 12 August 2022, and therefore applications made while the visa services were still suspended are subject to standard visa processing times.
If these applicants wish to expedite their applications, they must cancel their current applications and submit new applications to be able to purchase the Priority or Super Priority visa service. The fees for the cancelled application should be refunded.
Visa processing times – overseas applications
UKVI’s customer service standard on standard visa processing times for out of country applications is normally three weeks. Due to the situation in Ukraine, standard visa processing times increased. Work visa applications are currently taking an average of four weeks to be decided, but in some cases may take up to six weeks.
Family visa processing times have been increased from 12 weeks to a staggering 24 weeks, with the possibility of expediting certain applications only when there are exceptionally compelling or compassionate circumstances. This is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Visa processing times can change from one week to the next, view the visa processing times on the Gov.UK website for up-to-date information.
Police Registration Scheme
The Police Registration Scheme, which required UK visa holders with certain nationalities to register with the police upon arriving in the UK, has been suspended with immediate effect in line with the Government’s decision to abolish the Scheme.
This means that even if a UK entry clearance vignette or UKVI approval letter states the requirement to register with the police within seven days of arriving in the UK, registering with the police is not required.
Sponsorship Pre-Licence Priority service
Businesses applying for a Worker or Temporary Worker sponsor licence to sponsor non-settled migrant workers, if applying via the standard service, can wait up to eight weeks for a decision on their application, which of course only delays the recruitment and onboarding process.
The Pre-Licence Priority service gives businesses the opportunity to request an expediting of processing times to 10 working days (from the date the request is accepted). This comes at an additional cost of £500 and is not as simple as merely paying a fee.
As of 1 August 2022, requests for the Pre-Licence Priority service are capped to 30 per day. Prior to this date, requests were capped to 10 per day. Even with the recent increase to the cap, with an average of 300 to 350 licence applications submitted every day, it can be extremely difficult to make a successful request to the service, especially if applying without legal advice or representation. Requests made without the necessary documents and information will automatically be rejected with no written notification.
We always advise businesses embarking on the convoluted process of applying for a sponsor licence to refrain from applying without the assistance of our UK immigration team, as the application fees are non-refundable and mistakes/omissions on applications are not taken lightly by UKVI. Our immigration lawyers can assist with the process of applying for the Sponsorship Pre-Licence Priority service, which on one occasion recently we have managed to obtain within 1 day of submitting the licence application.