Latest figures show UK immigration missing visa processing targets

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The latest figures released by the UK government show that the UK immigration authorities managed to process only 51% of employment based UK visas within their Service Standard period (four weeks for postal applications) in the year 2012-13.

They were only able to process 25% of student visa applications within the service standard. Their service standard target was to deal with 65% of employment visas and 85% of student visas within the service standard period of four weeks.

The figures show that this performance was markedly worse than in the year 2011-12 when UK immigration dealt with 81% of employment visa applications and 78% of study visa applications in a timely manner. There is, as yet, no explanation for this woeful performance.

The total number of visas that were made was more or less the same in both years so there was no added pressure on the service. Throughout the period in question, senior staff at the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had been assuring UK politicians that the performance of the UKBA was improving.

UK's five tier points based visa system

Most UK employment visas are awarded under the UK's five tier points-based visa system. The system divides work visa applicants into three tiers:
  • Tier 1 is for 'high value migrants'. These include
    • Entrepreneurs who must usually invest around £200,000 in the UK in a business they intend to run in the UK (though this can be as low as £50,000 in some circumstances).
    • Investors must have £1m in disposable capital to invest in the UK. They must invest £750,000 by way of government bonds, shares, or loan capital, in active, trading UK companies (other than property companies) and the remainder may be spent on 'assets' (perhaps property) or placed in a deposit account.
    • Those with 'Exceptional Talent' who have a globally recognised talent in the arts or sciences.
  • Tier 2 is for ' skilled workers' and includes
    • Tier 2 (General) visas for 'foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker' and
    • Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas for the employees of multinational companies which want to transfer staff from their operations overseas to work in the UK.
  • Tier 5 is for temporary workers who intend to stay in the UK for a limited period only, usually under two years.

Most higher education students come to the UK with Tier 4 student visas.

Only non-EEA nationals need apply

Only immigrants from outside the European Economic Area need to apply for a UK visa. European citizens require only their passports. Most EU citizens are allowed to work in the UK without a visa or work permit. They do not need to apply for a residence permit either but if they have a dependent family member who is not an EU citizen, then it is advisable for them to do so. Also, if a European citizen wished to apply for UK citizenship, it might be easier to do so if he had first become a resident and then, after five years, a permanent resident.

The figures are

Employment visas81% (81,593 out of 100,84)51% (51,876 out of 102,276)
Study visas78% (89,351 out of 114,219) 25% (27,200 out of 107,209)

There was some good news. The performance for permanent residence and citizenship applications actually improved slightly but the poor performance

From 2008 until March this year, the UK's visa applications were dealt with by the UKBA which was established by the then Labour government as an independent agency answerable to the UK's Home Office. Labour hoped that the UKBA's independence would enable it to function efficiently, without constant ministerial interference.

UKBA abolished for being 'not good enough

However, the UKBA was abolished this year by the UK's current Home Secretary Theresa May in March. Mrs May said that the UKBA was simply 'not good enough' and said that, far from promoting efficiency, the UKBA's independence had, instead, created a 'secretive and defensive culture' in which the UKBA continued to hide its inefficiency from the UK's independent immigration inspector.

The spur for the foundation of the UKBA was the discovery that the former immigration authority, the Immigration Directorate, was responsible for almost unimaginable levels of incompetence. A hidden backlog of 450,000 asylum cases was discovered in 2006 causing the then Home Secretary Dr John Reid to declare that the Home Office was 'not fit for purpose'.

The UKBA never managed to deal with the problems it inherited and, at the time it was abolished, there was still a backlog of over 310,000 cases waiting to be decided. is a specialist visa consultancy with nearly twenty-five years of experience dealing with visa applications. We are OISC registered. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to the UK or your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.