Home Office Delays in Spouse Visa Application Processing
Immigration solicitors will tell you that even the best immigration lawyers are currently finding it difficult to get quick immigration and visa application decisions out of the Home Office. In this article we consider the reasons behind the Home Office delays, whether the delays are likely to improve any time soon, and what you can do about it.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Lawyers and Spouse Visa Solicitors
Why are we waiting?
Perhaps the better question is why are you waiting? Whilst it is frustrating for Spouse Visa Solicitors if a spouse visa application or family visa extension application doesn’t get approved quickly and efficiently by a Home Office official when they have all the right paperwork , that is nothing to your feelings of anxiety and frustration at Home Office delays.
Many spouse visa applicants report that the wait for their spouse visa makes them feel as if they are in ‘suspended animation’ – in limbo as they can't get on with lives until they know that their visa application or spouse visa extension has been successful. That’s understandable as despite the assurances of your Spouse Visa Solicitors that all your immigration paperwork is in order, the delay can make you think that there must be something about you or your Home Office application that is causing the hold up. That’s not necessarily the case.
Why you are waiting longer for visa application processing, including spouse visas, family visas and work visas, is down to a variety of factors, including:
- The Home Office prioritisation of applications for the Ukrainian Family Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme
- The after effects of COVID-19 ( some would also say the impact of civil servants working from home)
- Priority service applications for family visa applications (and other types of immigration application) being suspended in March 2022
The Home Office has increased its time estimate for processing spouse visa applications from 12 to 24 weeks. Those timescales are not guaranteed.
Looking to the future, there is some doubt that the timing of immigration decision making will improve quickly. That’s partially because the government has announced a plan to lose around 91,000 civil servants through job recruitment freezes. The reduction in numbers won't just affect the Home Office but it is bound to have an impact on visa application turnaround times.
When you have paid the Home Office application fees, it is infuriating when delays in visa processing are holding up your plans. There are some things that you can do to try and make sure that your application for a spouse visa, partner visa, spouse visa extension or to convert your spouse visa status to indefinite leave to remain, are processed by the Home Office as quickly as possible.
Do not delay
The crucial point that Spouse Visa Solicitors make is that you should not delay in making a spouse visa application or extension application or indefinite leave to remain application because you think there will be Home Office delays in deciding your application.
If you delay in making a spouse visa application from within the UK or from overseas you may find that your sponsoring spouse or partner no longer meets the financial requirement or that the spouse visa immigration rules change and there is an aspect of the spouse visa eligibility criteria that you no longer meet.
If you are in the UK on a work visa and want to switch to a family visa you will be classed as an overstayer if you let your existing visa lapse before you make your spouse visa application. Likewise, if you don’t apply for your spouse visa extension before your current visa expires, the Home Office can treat you as an overstayer. Even if the application is only a few weeks late it can affect your immigration record and your prospects of getting a spouse visa extension. The same advice applies to an ILR application if you are nearing the end of your spouse visa; you must apply for indefinite leave to remain before your family visa ends.
If you aren’t sure about visa deadlines then check your paperwork or speak to our Spouse Visa Solicitors.
If you submit an application for a spouse visa, an extension or for indefinite leave to remain before your current visa expires you can stay in the UK whilst the Home Office process your application. That’s the case even if their processing time is very slow. However, Spouse Visa Solicitors recognise that the Home Office delays can make you feel unsettled and may even affect your family life because of the stress of waiting for the Home Office to decide your future in the UK.
If the eventual answer from the Home Office is a refusal or rejection of your spouse visa or indefinite leave to remain application then this can be devastating, especially if during your wait you have put down roots in the UK and you’ll find it harder to leave the UK because of the length of your wait for a decision.
If you are applying for a spouse visa from outside the UK then the wait may have far more impact on you and your family life if you can't be with your sponsor because they are already in the UK and they need to stay in the UK for work purposes whilst you wait overseas for your spouse visa or family visa to be processed.
What can you do about Home Office delays in visa processing?
If there has been an unreasonable delay by the Home Office in processing your spouse visa or indefinite leave to remain application then contact your Spouse Visa Solicitors if you are suffering a detriment because of the ongoing delay.
To try and make sure your spouse visa application proceeds smoothly you should:
- Get expert legal advice from Spouse Visa Solicitors well in advance of your spouse visa application or your intended application to convert to indefinite leave to remain status. An immigration solicitor can talk you through the best timing for your application and the documents you will need to support your application. In some situations, it can take time to get the right paperwork together. For example, if your sponsor is self-employed and their annual accounts have not been completed or if you are relying on evidence of cash savings to meet the spouse visa financial requirement.
- Make your spouse visa application as water tight as possible. You may think that it is obvious that you should be given a spouse visa or that you meet the eligibility criteria for indefinite leave to remain but it may not be immediately obvious to a Home Office official. Try to make sure the application and supporting paperwork are as clear as possible and that you explain any discrepancies or potential confusion. For example, if your sponsor is meeting the financial requirement through part time employment in two jobs.
- If you don’t have a clear immigration record there are more likely to be delays and questions from the Home Office about your application. Speak to your immigration solicitor about what can be done upfront to clarify any issues with your application. For example, if you have been overseas for significant periods whilst on a spouse visa and are applying for indefinite leave to remain. You may need to justify your absence (for example, bereavement or looking after an ill relative) or ask the Home Office to exercise discretion.
What happens if the delay is detrimental to you
If you think the delay in sorting out your spouse visa application or indefinite leave to remain application is detrimental to you or your family then speak to a Spouse Visa Solicitor.
An immigration solicitor can look at the option of sending the Home Office a pre-action protocol (PAP) letter to Home Office. This letter warns of the potential for a judicial review application.
The purpose of a pre-action protocol letter is to try to resolve an immigration dispute before the start of judicial review proceedings. In the case of a delay in the determination of an application you are challenging the omission of the Home Office to determine your application within its accepted timeframe because of the detrimental impact the Home Office delay has had upon you.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Lawyers and Spouse Visa Solicitors