Spouse applications for people coming to work in the UK are being delayed, leaving immigration specialists concerned that the extra waiting times for decisions could exacerbate the skills crisis.
Processing times at the Home Office for those wishing to join family working in the UK are have doubled, leaving those with job offers in the UK having to renegotiate starting dates.
In addition, organisations that support partner applications for British employees returning from overseas with a non-British partner may see requests for delaying their return to the UK.
According to immigration experts at law firm Bates Wells, this could then have a knock-on effect on UK staff levels and cause businesses to explore sponsorship as an alternative, despite high costs.
The reason for the longer processing times, according to the Home Office, is the amount of applications coming from Ukrainian nationals, fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country.
Alice Bennington, solicitor at Bates Wells, told Personnel Today: “Individuals started receiving emails from the Home Office yesterday to notify them of a doubling of previous standard processing times.
“Now, those looking to accompany to or join family in the UK may potentially face a six-month wait for a decision. Individuals will have plans for housing, employment and education in the UK. These plans may now have to be put on hold with no concrete timeline to work towards. This has unsurprisingly caused concern as this is potentially disruptive and increases uncertainty for those affected.”
Chetal Patel, partner at Bates Wells, pointed to the risks of the disruption to the wider economy. She said: “This is particularly damaging at a time when there are critical skills shortages in the UK.
“Staff are the lifeblood of any organisations. I wouldn’t be surprised if those organisations holding sponsor licences look to sponsor now despite the eye-watering costs as this could result in a quicker decision.”
The latest guidance from the Home Office stated that applications for family visas may take up to 24 weeks to process because of prioritising of Ukrainian applications.
It said: “You should get a decision within 24 weeks once you attend your appointment at the visa application centre, if you are applying to settle in the UK as the spouse, partner or family member of someone who has British citizenship or is settled in the UK.
“If you are applying as the dependent of another applicant, you will get your decision at the same time.”