UK Visas and Immigration ('UKVI') took the decision to suspend priority and super-priority services for "applications for study, work and family visas", without notice, in March 2022. The rationale behind the suspension was "prioritising Ukraine Family Scheme applications in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine".
Priority and super-priority processing services for study and work visas were re-instated in September 2022, but these services have remained suspended for family visas. This means those who are applying from abroad to join a British or settled spouse, partner or family member in the UK, have been waiting between three and six months for their visa applications to be processed. The impact of the suspension of priority services on many families has been devastating, with lengthy periods of separation a natural consequence of the policy.
On 9 January 2023, the Home Office announced that those with pending family visa applications would be given the opportunity to 'upgrade' their processing service, such that a decision will be reached within 15 working days of payment for the service. The cost of this upgraded service will be £573, and we understand that individuals will be contacted directly by the Home Office, with an email including a link to the relevant payment page.
This change in policy, leaves an obvious gap in priority service provision for family members who submitted their visa applications after 9 January 2023, for whom the priority service is still not available. The Home Office are targeting 'early 2023' for the re-introduction of this service and for many global families, this cannot come soon enough.
If you require advice on upgrading the processing service on your pending family visa application, or on when make your family visa application, given the uncertainty surrounding priority processing for newly submitted applications, please do not hesitate to contact our immigration experts.