Good news for UK family visa applicants as priority visas and quicker waiting times resume

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Families awaiting visa decisions from the UK Home Office will be able to be reunited much faster in 2023 as services impacted by the Ukraine conflict return to normal.

The Home Office has confirmed this month (January) that priority services are resuming for family and partner visas to the UK. Priority Visas allow those seeking to join family in the UK the option to pay extra to cut waiting times from the current six months.

The options of priority services for a whole variety of UK visas allowing applicants to pay for quicker decisions were suspended as Home Office staff responded to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine with bespoke immigration schemes for those fleeing the conflict. Priority services for in-country applications were not affected.

Waiting times for visa applications also rose as Home Office staff were diverted to handling applications by Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the UK. Though now service standards appear to be returning to normal again thankfully, as well as the option to expedite a decision on a visa application by paying for a priority service standard.

Family and partner applications are the latest visa application to return to pre-war standards. Work and business out-of-country priority services were the first to be reinstated from August 2022.

People with outstanding family visa applications have now started receiving emails from the Home Office to let them know that the priority service will be reinstated.

These will be followed by emails to the longest-waiting applicants first offering them an option to pay to upgrade to a Priority Visa. The Home Office says that this option will be rolled out to new applicants by “early 2023”.

The current published service standard – the wait for a decision on a family visa application – is 24 weeks. The Home Office says it aims to reduce the wait to 12 weeks in 2023.

Family visa applicants will also have the opportunity to pay £573 each for a Priority Visa with a three-week turnaround (an improvement on what used to be a six-week service before the Ukraine war.)

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