Processing times for UK settlement visas are taking considerably longer since they are now being sent to the head office in Sheffield - along with applications from all around the globe - rather than being processed locally.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is now in charge of the development of their visa agent’s website. Known to South Africans as Teleperformance (or TSL Contact), the UKVI’s access to the backend of the TLS website enables the UK government to take charge of backend changes such as their visa tracking facility and the website’s displayed content.
“There are global inconsistencies that applicants cannot be held liable for. However, this seems to be causing inconsistencies in their decision-making processes,” says Ryan Rennison, Move Up managing director.
For example, some English testing institutions in South Africa don’t supply UKVI reference numbers as other institutions abroad do. Many South African visa applications have been declined on these grounds alone.
“From what I can tell, the Sheffield team has adopted a strict interpretation of settlement visa rules, whereas the Pretoria team was far more lenient. However, from the consistently delayed visa processing times, it seems that Sheffield’s newly implemented team of decision-makers are taking strain,” says Rennison.
In addition, the British government has removed settlement visas from their list of published processing times, so South Africans applying for UK settlement visas should plan for delayed notifications regarding their settlement visa application status.
Rennison says applicants should give UKVI extra time before physically going to the visa centre to check on their application status or collect their visas - even if they haven't received notification to do so.
“We have no doubt that the UKVI are aware of this delay and that their technicians are actively looking to resolve this. For now, the status remains disrupted,” says Rennison.
Visa applicants should be aware that there is no contact number to phone and track application status, as the UKVI system is designed to be automatically updated online