Long delays are being faced by a large number of people whose visa applications are being considered at UK Visas and Immigration's Sheffield decision-making hub, pushing consideration time outside the normal service standards adhered to by UKVI. As applications in more and more different visa categories are being diverted to Sheffield, applicants are starting to face increasingly unacceptable delays in receiving a decision on their applications within normal timeframes.
These delays are affecting applicants from both in and out of the UK.
In years gone, overseas visa applicants would have had their applications considered at a local British Embassy. Decision-making was slowly moved away from the Embassies to various large-scale decision-making centres around the world such as Istanbul and Manila. Now, as part of UKVI's move to further centralise decision-making, those seeking entry clearance as a spouse or for other family reasons, are regularly finding that after they have enrolled their biometrics at one of the third-party operated visa application centres across the world, they are then being told that they must send all of their documents back to the UK to Sheffield.
This is resulting in more and more applications being piled on to Sheffield who are clearly struggling to cope. Every single visa application I have seen that has gone to Sheffield in the last few months has received a response such as:
"Unfortunately, the processing of your application has not been straightforward and we will be unable to decide your application within our customer service targets. We are continuing to work on your application and aim to make a decision as soon as possible."
(This is the standard line for all family-type applications for entry clearance, regardless of complexity).
"Although we would normally decide your application within eight weeks from the date it was submitted, unfortunately this is not going to be possible in your case. This is because your application raises exceptionally complex issues and we require further time to consider your case thoroughly and reach a decision."
(This is the standard line for straightforward Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) extensions - the only complexity in these is the self-generated complexity that results from the horrendously complicated Immigration Rules in this area).
"Your application raises issues relating to the European Convention on Human Rights which are complex in nature. As such, it falls outside our normal service standards for deciding leave to remain applications."
(This is the standard line for straightforward visa extensions received by those who have already been granted leave under the ECHR or Appendix FM. There is no complexity in these, the case has already been assessed a few years previously, often by a judge.)
These are just a sample of the type of messages emanating from Sheffield, all of which result in stress and anxiety for the clients who receive them, and a difficult job for their representatives trying to reassure them that something has not been done wrong or incorrectly on their part, it is simply a backside-covering exercise by UKVI.
It would be far more honest if UKVI simply said "We're sorry, we're awfully busy at the moment and it might take a long time to even look at your application, here's a number you can call for an update on how far along the queue your application is ... "