Should You Consider Using the UK Immigration Priority Application Service?
Anyone who has applied for a Visa or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) will understand the frustration of waiting for weeks or even months for a final decision. The decision made by the Home Office will likely have significant implications for your life, family, and employment. For this reason, opting for a priority processing service for your immigration application can be of considerable value. There are additional costs, but simply having the confidence that your application will be handled within a set timescale can be highly advantageous.
What are the types of priority service available?
Priority services are provided by UK Visa and Citizen Application Services (UKVCAS) which is operated by an external company called Sopra Steria on behalf of the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
There are two tiers of priority service; the standard 'Priority' service and the 'Super Priority' service. The Priority service costs £500 in addition to your standard application fee and will ensure a decision is made within five working days (i.e. not weekends or bank holidays). The Super Priority service costs £800 and a decision will be made by the end of the next working day after your appointment with UKVCAS. If your appointment is on a weekend day, the decision will be made two working days later.
Can I use the priority service?
The priority service is not available to all UK immigration application types. Priority processing is available to those applying for (please note this list is not exhaustive):
- Indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
- Tier 2 or Tier 4 Visas
- Dependants of Tier 1, 2, 4 or 5 visa holders
- Leave to remain in the UK - whether through the family life as a partner or private life routes
Unfortunately, this service is not available for all ILR routes; for example, there is no priority or super-priority service available to Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa holders applying for ILR.
How do I apply for the UKVCAS priority service?
Having prepared your application and accompanying documentation/evidence, you will need to book an appointment with your local UKVCAS service point. These are spread across the UK - to find your nearest service point, refer to the UKCVAS website.
According to the UKCVAS website, appointments can be booked in two ways:
- online - you will need to create a UKVI online account
- phone - by calling UKVCAS on 0900 165 6600 (Note: calls cost £2.50 per minute)
There are three types of service point available depending on your specific needs:
- core service points - these provide free of charge appointments and out of hours appointments bookable for a fee
- enhanced service points - these provide additional services including document checking in advance of your appointment and document scanning
- premium lounge - this is based in London and offers a more "personalised customer experience", according to UKVCAS
Appointment slots can be booked up to 28 days beforehand, and subject to availability can be for the same day or next day, including outside standard working hours and weekends.
It is highly recommended that prior to attending your appointment, your accompanying documents are all uploaded online with your application.
What happens at the UKVCAS priority appointment?
At your appointment, you will first be asked to show your appointment confirmation (showing the QR code on your appointment letter) and ID. You will then enrol your biometric information, including fingerprints, photograph and digital signature. UKCVAS will then ask for any additional supporting documents which yet to be scanned and uploaded.
To your appointment, you will need to take:
- Your passport
- Confirmation of appointment letter with QR code
- Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- Your completed application form
- Any supporting documents for your visa application - you should always take originals
Your appointment with UKCVAS should take no longer than 30 - 60 minutes; the time will be reduced if all of your documents have already been uploaded.
What happens after your priority appointment?
Following your appointment, you should receive a decision on your case by case within the target timescale. You will then receive your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 7 - 10 days. It is recommended that you are at home to receive and sign for your BRP when it arrives.
What if my priority Visa or application is delayed?
Using the Priority and Super Priority services does not guarantee your application will be handled in the timescale stated. There have been many cases of (often serious) delays. Delays are not typically related to UKCVAS, as their role is to ensure the required information is sent to UKVI who will make a decision on your application. In one case reported in the Guardian, a Canadian migrant who used the Super Priority service had to wait 38 days to receive their BRP (this should have been completed in 7 - 10 days).
The UKVI terms and conditions for the Super Priority service state "The super-priority visa service fee is non-refundable once your biometrics have been enrolled. It will not always be possible for UK Visas and Immigration to process applications within 24 hours. In these circumstances, we will let you know when you can expect your decision and whether your super priority visa service fee can be refunded. The amount paid for the super-priority visa service will not be refunded if the visa is refused".
As such, if your decision or paperwork is delayed, it may not be immediately clear if you will receive a refund as this is at the discretion of UKVI. Likewise, while they state they will let you know when a decision will be made if it is delayed, there are many examples of where no such communication has been received. In such circumstances, you can escalate the matter directly with UKVI or engage the services of immigration Solicitors who can take the matter up on your behalf.
While they offer no guarantee, the Priority and Super Priority services do have considerable benefits and will in most cases bring about a decision in a much tighter timeframe than it would otherwise. For this reason, we strongly advocate for their use where necessary and feasible. If you need assistance with using the Priority or Super-Priority services, we can help you with each stage of the process.
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