Entry clearance applications
Applications for permission to stay
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Home Office has been increasing its published visa decision waiting times as it prioritises the processing of applications under the Ukraine immigration schemes.
The service standards for entry clearance applications have increased significantly in recent months.
All priority services for entry clearance applications under the work, study and family routes have been temporarily suspended since mid-March 2022.
In addition, there have been delays with decisions on applications being notified to applicants, and with passports being returned or made available for collection with the relevant visa vignette endorsed.
Family visa applications
The most recent increase in waiting times, announced on 11 May 2022, has doubled the processing standard for family route applications from 12 to 24 weeks.
Work visa applications
Although the published processing standard for work visas remains at three weeks, work visa applicants are advised on gov.uk that applications may currently take longer to process. At some visa application centres, applicants have been advised of a processing time of six weeks. Processing times in practice, particularly for those who are not eligible to use the UK Immigration: ID check app, may be in excess of this.
Visitor and transit visa applications
Average processing times for visitor and transit visa applications have increased from three to six weeks; however, priority processing is still available in some locations.
Applications for Russian citizens
Russian citizens are still able to make UK entry clearance applications. However, in practice these applications appear to be more delayed than for other nationalities, for reasons that are not currently clear but may include additional security checks.
It should however be noted that sections 70, 71 and 73 of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 were brought into force on 28 April 2022. These provisions allow the Home Office to make changes to the Immigration Rules that impose visa penalties on any country the Home Secretary specifies as having taken action that:
- gives, or is likely to give, rise to a threat to international peace and security;
- results, or is likely to result, in armed conflict; or
- gives, or is likely to give, rise to a breach of international humanitarian law.
The visa penalties that may be imposed under the Immigration Rules are:
- requiring entry clearance not to be granted to nationals of a specified country before the end of a specified period;
- suspending the Home Office's power to grant entry clearance in respect of such an application;
- requiring such an application to be treated as invalid; and/or
- requiring such an applicant to pay an additional fee of £190 (or other amount if approved under regulations).
It is necessary for the Home Secretary to give the country reasonable notice of the intention to impose visa penalties, and such penalties cannot be applied to any application that has been made before the day the relevant Immigration Rules are made effective.
The Immigration Rules may come into effect on the date they are laid, so Russian citizens who intend to make a UK visa application may wish to do so as soon as possible.
Applications for permission to stay
Although in-country application processing is not as severely affected as for entry clearance, there are still certain points to take into account.
General processing situation
The in-country 10-year partner route and parent route average processing times have been increased to 11 months. Other application processing times for in-country applications are relatively unaffected, and priority services remain in place. This could, however, change if the overall demand for Ukraine Scheme visas remains high or existing backlogs need to be reduced.
UKVCAS IDV app
Since mid-March 2022, applicants for a replacement biometric residence permit (BRP) or biometric residence card (BRC), some nationality applicants and some applicants for settlement as a partner or parent will be invited to use the UK citizenship and visa application services (UKVCAS) identity verification (IDV) app rather than attending a UKVCAS service point. The IDV app process can, but will not always, result in a quicker decision. This is because the Home Office assesses who is eligible for their biometrics to be reused, and this can take up to 14 days.
Biometric enrolment at UKVCAS service point
Appointments to attend a UKVCAS premium lounge to enrol biometrics are currently available within one to two weeks on average, and other paid appointments are available with two to three weeks on average.
Ukrainian citizens with valid international passport
One positive development is that since 11 May 2022, Ukraine Family Scheme applicants with a valid Ukrainian international passport may use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to provide their biometric details before arriving in the United Kingdom. This will reduce the need for some Ukrainian citizens to attend a UKVCAS service point to enrol their biometrics after arrival.
Russian citizens applying in-country
Applications by Russian citizens are currently unaffected, and visa penalties will not be imposed in-country. However, processing delays may occur if additional security checks are carried out.
In view of the current operational situation, employers should consider the following:
- commence the entry clearance process as early as possible ahead of an employee's intended start date;
- communicate to internal teams that visa processing delays may affect target start dates;
- commence the visitor visa application process as early as possible ahead of a planned business visit from a visa national client or overseas employee (a long-term visitor visa may be an option for some applicants), and using priority services where available;
- consider the feasibility of initially sponsoring a person under a work route where the person is eligible to apply under a family route;
- make UK entry clearance applications for Russian citizens without delay; and
- in view of ongoing delays with outstanding entry clearance applications for Russian citizens, relocating Russian employees to interim or permanent destination countries other than the United Kingdom, where swift departure from Russia is a priority.
For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne, Supinder Singh Sian, Stephen O'Flaherty or Kathryn Denyer at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000) or email ([email protected], [email protected], stephen.o'[email protected] or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.