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Priority services reinstated for new family visa applications made outside the UK

23 February 2023

Applicants applying to come to the UK to join British or ‘settled’ family members can now use the priority service to reduce the processing time for their applications. This is a huge relief for those seeking family reunion in the UK.

The government website has not yet been updated at the time of writing, but its overseas third party visa application centre providers, VFS Global and TLS Contact, both made announcements on their respective websites on 20 February 2023.

Who can now use the priority service?

Priority service has been reintroduced for new visa applications made outside the UK from 20 February 2023. The processing standard is 30 working days from the date of biometric enrolment.

What if I have an existing family visa application pending?

The Home Office previously suspended priority services while they dedicated staff and resources to process applications made under the Ukraine schemes. A range of visa routes were impacted by this. For family visa applications made outside the UK, the standard processing time increased from 12 weeks to 24 weeks.

In January 2023, the Home Office started to contact those with pending visa applications in date order, with an offer to pay an additional fee to upgrade to the priority service. They are continuing with this effort and applicants can expect to be contacted in the weeks to come. To acknowledge that applications may have been pending for a substantial amount of time already, the priority processing service for those with applications pending before 20 February 2023 is reduced further to 15 working days.

While the Home Office aims to deliver a decision within the timeframe, applicants will not receive a refund if it is not met.

What is the cost for using the priority service?

The additional fee for the priority service is £573 per applicant. If a family of four is applying together, the additional fee is £2,292 on top of the usual application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge. It’s not to be considered lightly, especially when processing times are not guaranteed.

And what if you choose not to use the priority service?

If the priority service is not purchased, visa applications should be processed within the standard 24-week timeframe. The Home Office is working to reduce this standard back towards the previous 12-week timeframe, and intending applicants should check Visa decision waiting times: applications outside the UK for updates.

If you require assistance or have an immigration query, please get in touch with a member of our Immigration Team.

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