Immigration applications make clients nervous; with good cause. Jobs are on the line, houses have been purchased and children are in school, so there is a lot riding on the success of the application.
As a solicitor who ONLY practices immigration, I spend lots of time reassuring clients that current waiting times for applications are normal and no reflection on the strength of their application. At present, we are seeing decisions on straightforward ILR applications taking around six months. Even Tier 1 and Tier 2 are taking Inflatable Games
about four months. Of course, it is nothing new that EEA applications continue to take six months.
We are, however, beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel on some applications. At the start of 2012, we were seeing employer licensing applications taking up to four or five months. This has now come down to around a month. Registration applications for children also seem to be taking around a month. It is hardly surprising that the most common question I hear from clients is, ‘can you speed it up?’ The answer, unfortunately, is ‘only if you have a very good reason.’
The UKBA is most sympathetic to genuine business or family reasons for requesting an expedited service. When attempting to expedite a Tier 2 application where there are genuine and demonstrable business reasons for needing the migrant in question to start as soon as possible, we are often able to have the application expedited. At other times, a serious illness in the family overseas, if demonstrable, can also form grounds for a successful request to expedite. The bulk of applicants, however, want their application expedited because they are nervous or have holidays planned. In both instances, even the most creative request for speeding up the process is likely to go unheeded. The golden rule that I tell all clients is to never book travel until they have their passport and BRP in their hand.
Moving to discretionary applications, outside of the Immigration Rules, waiting times on these can run to many months. As a practice, we generally have these applications decided in about nine months at present. We have, however, had clients come to us where their application has been sitting at the UKBA for well over a year. I find these very long wait times to have, almost without exceptions, been caused by lazy lawyering. Once an application has gone past the six month mark, it really is time for solicitors to start contacting the UKBA and find out why the case is delayed. A good way of doing this is to offer to provide them with any further documents they may require. In any case, it is not o.k. to let a case sit for a year without follow up.
It remains to be seen whether we will ever get back to the heady days of applications (particularly the old WP1 applications) being turned around in fourteen days. For the immediate future it seems highly unlikely. This means that clients need to think about their upcoming application well in advance. Perhaps they need to save a little extra cash so that they can use the premium service at a PEO. Most importantly, they need to get all necessary travel completed before the visa application goes in.
We are registered users of the legal representatives premium slots at the UKBA. This means that if our clients come to see us early enough before their visa expires, we can usually obtain a premium slot for them in Croydon.