Immigration roundup - May 2022


26 May 2022

Visa processing times, High Potential Individual Visa routes, the India Young Professionals Scheme and changes to visa requirements affecting three countries are all covered in this month’s immigration update.

Visa processing times

As the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues and the quantity of Ukrainian visa applications increase, processing times for work, study and family visa applications continue to see significant delays as UKVI are prioritising processing Ukraine Scheme applications.

UKVI have maintained the temporary suspension of priority and super priority services for new study, work and family visa applications for applicants based outside the UK. The Home Office have not confirmed when the routes will be reinstated, however they are hoping to reinstate them "soon" for some Points Based System (PBS) matters.

In support of the Ukraine project, UKVI had re-allocated all caseworkers, across all visa routes, in order to focus on applications within the Ukraine project. The Home Office operational team have advised that caseworkers are now being returned to their usual casework to start clearing the backlog of applications requiring processing. UKVI have confirmed that they are initially prioritising the return of PBS caseworkers to post over family route teams.

At present, across our client base, we are seeing the current standard processing times on average are as follows for entry clearance applications:

  • Visit Visa Applications: up to 6 Weeks
  • Family Route Visa Applications to join family already in the UK: up to 24 weeks
  • Work Visa Applications: 8 to 10 weeks

It continues to remain possible for Russian citizens to submit UK entry clearance applications. However, in practice, anecdotally, these applications appear to be more delayed than for other nationalities – UKVI have not made any official policy statement in this regard and applications are still being approved and processed.

The processing times for standard sponsor licence applications is currently taking up to seven weeks and three business days and the priority processing times are just over 10 working days. UKVI have not yet been able to increase Priority Licence processing slots from 10 per day, to 30 per day as planned, but we are advised that this remains an operational objective for 2022.

The average decision processing times for in-country 10-year partner route or partner route visa applications is currently 11 months. The processing times for other in-country applications are relatively unaffected, and priority services remain in place. However, this is subject to change if the demand for Ukraine Scheme visas remains high or existing backlogs need to be reduced.

Appointments for in-country applications to attend a UKVCAS premium lounge centres to enrol biometrics are currently available within one to two weeks of application submission, and other paid appointments at non premium centres are available within two to three weeks.

Beginning 11 May 2022, Ukraine Family Scheme applicants with a valid Ukrainian international passport can use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to provide their biometric details before arriving in the UK, so reducing the number of Ukrainian citizens attending a UKVCAS service point to enrol their biometrics after arrival in the UK, and thus freeing up appointment availability.

High Potential Individual Visa route

Beginning 9:00am on 30 May 2022, the High Potential Individual Visa route will be available for individuals who are at the early stage of their careers and who have demonstrated that they have high potential to benefit the UK workforce. This is an unsponsored visa category and enables work (on an employed or self-employed basis) in the UK. This new route builds on the existing Graduate visa route already available to in-country applicants. To qualify, applicants need to meet the following requirements:

  • They must have been awarded a Bachelors, Masters, or PhD from an institution included in the list of top 50 global universities for their year of graduation.
  • Their qualification must have been awarded no more than five years before the date of application.
  • They must also meet the English language requirement i.e. speak, read, and write English at the intermediate level B1.
  • They must show that they can support themselves in the UK without relying on public funds by demonstrating that they have cash funds of at least £1270 on the date of application which have been held for at least 28 days.

The High Potential Individual Visa route does not lead to settlement.

India Young Professionals Scheme

The India Young Professionals Scheme (a sub-category of the Temporary Worker – Youth Mobility Scheme) still remains subject to consultation and has not yet opened. The Home Office have advised that there is still an intention for this route to be launched but no further details have yet been published.

Changes to visa requirements: El Salvador, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

Beginning 11 May 2022, El Salvador nationals intending to visit the UK (including airside transit) are now required to obtain a visa in advance of travel. This measure is in addition to already established requirements to obtain a visa to travel to the UK for the purpose of work, study, and settlement.

Please note that El Salvador nationals may be able to visit the UK without a visa if all the following apply:

  • They booked their journey to the UK before 4:00pm UK time 11 May 2022 (9:00am El Salvador time).
  • They are arriving in the UK before 9 June 2022.
  • They meet the Standard Visitor eligibility requirements.

Beginning 1 June 2022, nationals from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia intending to visit the UK can apply for an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW). EVW offers a faster, easier and cheaper process than a standard visit visa. Applications can be made up to 48 hours in advance of travel with no requirements to provide biometrics (fingerprints and digital photograph). The visa requirements to work, study and settle in the UK remain in place.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2022.

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