The Home Office has recently confirmed that, effective from 09 January 2023, spouses, partners, unmarried partners and other family members of a British citizen or a settled person who have been waiting for a decision on their visa application from outside the UK will be offered the option to retrospectively choose a priority service. The priority services were temporarily suspended for overseas applicants following the introduction of Ukraine visa schemes.
Proactive Home Office action
Applicants are being contacted by email and offered the option to purchase this extra service for an additional fee of £573. Those who can afford to upgrade their applications should then receive a decision within 15 full working days from receipt of the fee. We are pleased to confirm that our clients have started to receive such emails.
This measure will certainly be welcomed by many overseas applicants who are eager to join their family members in the UK, although it is a unsatisfactory that so many other applications remain in a queue.
Priority and super priority services remain temporarily suspended for those needing to make a new family visa application from abroad. For these applications the standard processing time is 24 weeks but it can take longer. We are hopeful that priority services will be reinstated and the standard processing time reduced to 12 weeks later this year.
Tips to challenge a visa delay
Applicants who have been waiting for a decision for a long time may wish to consider a challenge to the Home Office’s delay in processing their applications. This applies to decisions on applications submitted both inside and outside the UK.
For a legal challenge to be successful, the applicant will have to show that the delay is unlawful. To prove this, they will be required to provide evidence of the detriment caused to them because of the unreasonable delay. Before considering this course of action, we recommend that applicants take a few steps to document their attempts in trying to secure an update or a decision from the Home Office.
- Contact the Home Office and request an update
Applicants should first try and contact the relevant Home Office team from inside or outside the UK and request an update on their applications.
For further information please visit: Contact UK Visas and Immigration for help – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Make a complaint
If the delay is long and the Home Office does not provide a satisfactory answer or a reasonable timeframe for a decision, applicants may want to consider making a complaint regarding the failure to make a decision in a timely manner.
For further information about how to make a complaint, please visit: Complaints procedure – Home Office – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Contact the relevant Member of Parliament (MP)
In addition to the above steps, the family member who is sponsoring the applicant to come to the UK could also contact their Member of Parliament (MP) and ask them to contact the Home Office regarding the delay in processing their family visa application. Applicants should keep a record of all the correspondence between their MP and the Home Office, as it may be useful in the event of a potential legal challenge.
You can find MP’s contact details here: Find MPs – MPs and Lords – UK Parliament
- Make a complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Applicants can also make a complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. As a matter of law, the Ombudsman may only investigate complaints about UK government departments if an MP refers the complaint to them. Applicants can complete the complaint form on their behalf and request their MP to sign it and send it.
For further information, please visit: Making a complaint | Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)
- Consider initiating legal action
If, after trying all the above steps, the decision is still pending, applicants may want to consider seeking legal advice on the merits of initiating judicial review proceedings. It must be noted that judicial review is a remedy of last resort. It is an expensive, complex and time-consuming process that involves challenging the Home Office’s delay before a judge. Before initiating judicial proceedings, it is crucial that applicants engage in Pre-Action Protocol correspondence. This involves sending a letter before claim to the Home Office setting out the grounds on which they plan to challenge the delay.
How our immigration solicitors can help
If you require legal advice on a potential judicial review claim, please contact us or complete the enquiry form below.