A new settlement priority service has been introduced by the UK Border Agency that can potentially speed up settlement visas for applicants based in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan and some other countries. For the relatively affordable additional cost of approximately £200 (US$300 or AUD$390) plus tax for each application, including any dependents, some applicants are now able to expedite their UK fiancee, marriage and partner visa application. This ‘Settlement Priority Service’ was first introduced in the US on 16 June 2010. Over the past few years more countries have been added to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) priority service list, including Australia and New Zealand where this additional service became available on 1 August 2013.
It is important to note that paying for this additional service does not in any way guarantee a positive outcome. However, the fact that standard UK marriage and partner visa applications are currently taking the UK Border Agency at least six to eight weeks for processing on the standard system, with some British Consulates taking up to three months to process a settlement application, means that paying the additional fee can certainly help reduce the inevitable stress and delay that is currently part and parcel of the UK settlement visa application process.
The new ‘Settlement Priority Service’ allows UK fiancee, unmarried partner and spousal visa applications to be processed ahead of the standard settlement visa applications, with a processing time frame of 15 days from the date of receipt by the UK Border Agency, not including public holidays and weekends. There are strict rules for how this service is accessed once the payment has been made. The application must have ‘Settlement Priority Service’ written clearly on the outside of the envelope, including the payment reference code that was assigned when the priority service purchase was made, in order for UK Border Agency staff to identify the application as a priority. Applicants must also include the visa fee payment receipt on the top of their application inside the envelope.
Although the ‘Settlement Priority Service’ will speed up the processing time in the majority of cases, it is imperative to clarify that all applications must still adhere to all UK Border Agency settlement visa rules in order for a positive outcome, with no refund for the priority fee or any other related fee if the visa is not granted. Furthermore, any UK settlement visa application that includes the priority service can still be identified as an exceptional case, with the necessity to be forwarded to the relevant UK Border Agency department in the UK for processing and further investigation. Known as ‘deferred’ applications, these can still take up to three months to resolve, even if the priority service has been accessed. Applicants may experience extended processing times or become ‘deferred’ applications if any of the following applies:
- You may have previously been refused a visa for the UK, and/or;
- You have previously been refused leave to enter the UK, and/or;
- You have previously been deported, removed, or otherwise required to leave the UK, and/or;
- You have overstayed a period of leave in the UK, and/or;
- You have been refused leave to remain in the UK by the UK Border Agency, and/or;
- You have any unspent criminal convictions in the UK or other countries.