In a move that will hopefully mark the resumption of its faster processing services, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will be writing to existing marriage and family visa applicants, offering them the chance to ‘upgrade’ to a priority visa. Since April 2022, it has not been possible to use the priority processing service when applying for a spouse visa due to the need for staff at the Home Office to focus on the Ukraine Family Scheme.
In April 2022, Immigration Minister Kevin Foster stated, “UKVI is currently prioritising applications made under the Ukraine Family Scheme, following its launch and in response to the humanitarian crisis arising from the invasion of Ukraine”. He went on to explain that “as a result, UKVI has temporarily suspended paid for priority and super priority services for the new study, work, and family applications”. According to the current decision time guidance published by the Home Office, out-of-country family visa applications, including for spouse visas, are currently taking up to 24 weeks to process, double the previous 12-week timescale.
Option To Upgrade To Spouse Visa Priority Processing
As of January 2023, spouse visa priority and super priority processing services remain suspended. In early 2023, however, the Home Office plan to start writing to those with pending spouse visa applications, offering them the chance to upgrade to the priority process service. Those who accept the offer and make the required payment will have their applications placed towards the top of the queue. It is expected that upgrade offers will be made in order of who has been waiting for the longest for a decision. Within the email, the Home Office will also provide the likely waiting time if not using the priority service, allowing applicants to make a fully informed decision.
Applicants who chose not to accept the Home Office’s upgrade offer will still have their spouse visa case considered based on the order that it was received.
Spouse Visa Priority Processing Time & Fee
Applicants who accept the upgrade offer will have their spouse visa case processed within 15 days. This was previously 30 days under the older priority visa scheme. The 15-day period will start the day after the upgrade fee is received by the Home Office. The fee for the spouse visa processing upgrade will be £573, and the Home Office will explain how payment can be made within the invitation email.
Paying for the priority service does not guarantee that a case will be successful, but it does mean that it will be decided much faster than the current 24-week waiting time for out-of-country applications. In addition, any priority cases that are complex or where information is missing may take longer than 15 days to fully process.
The plans by the Home Office to allow existing family visa applicants to secure a much faster decision will come as welcome news to many applicants waiting to join their loved ones in the UK. At this stage, only those who are invited to upgrade will be able to do so. It is hoped that the full priority service for family visa applicants will resume later in 2023.
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