Foreign nationals who apply to come and live permanently in the UK with their British partner, are now facing longer delays and having to wait six months to get a decision from the UK government. This is twice as long as the usual service standard of three months. Subsequently, families are enduring lengthy separations.
Those already legally in the UK on human rights grounds are waiting up to eleven months for decisions. This is an excessively long time and, in many cases, lives are on hold. People cannot travel abroad for months on end while they wait for a decision. These timescales are well beyond the normal service standards.
One reason for these delays is the situation in Ukraine. The UK Home Office redeployed caseworkers from other departments to deal with people fleeing Ukraine and coming to the UK.
However, according to the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA), some delays are due to ‘IT glitches’. To make matters worse, when applicants or their legal representatives try to chase up these delayed applications with the Home Office, they are met with a closed door.
The Home Office is planning a streamlined digital system for all immigration applications as part of its New Plan for Immigration. ILPA is asking the Home Office to reconsider its ambitious plans until it fixes the current problems.
Anyone who has tried to ‘escalate’ a delayed application via the Home Office ‘helpline’ soon discovers a telephone pinball game. If the caller presses the wrong button, they hear an instruction to look on a website or rude ‘goodbye’. 'Escalation' was a way of sending a message to the Home Office caseworker dealing with the application. An applicant could ask for an update and to perhaps remind them to hurry up.
Those of us who have worked out how to speak to a human being on the helpline find that we cannot ‘escalate’ an application unless there is an emergency situation. This means that unless there is a life or death situation, there is no way at all of reaching the Home Office decision makers. These mythical creatures sit behind the gigantic windowless brick wall of the Home Office in splendid isolation. They have no idea of the misery they are inflicting on the poor miserable supplicants outside.
ILPA is also asking that the Home Office puts in place ‘clear routes for the escalation of urgent, delayed, compelling and/or compassionate cases’ so that legal representatives can talk directly to the Home Office when delays are causing harm.
We certainly support these proposals. Since the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, the Home office has become increasingly slow and unaccountable to those who depend on it to make decisions, which has a profound effect on the lives of so many families and businesses.
Please contact our team if you have any concerns about the Home Office delays.