The standard spouse visa UK processing time in 2023 is currently 3 months (on average) if you are making the application from outside the UK and 6-8 weeks (on average) if you are making the application from inside the UK.
|Spouse visa UK 2023 processing times|
|Standard out-of-country applications||3 months|
|Priority out-of-country applications||30 days|
|Standard in-country applications||6-8 weeks|
|Super-priority in-country applications||1 working day|
This article will discuss frequently asked questions about the processing time for out-of-country and in-country applications.
It will also discuss the options available if you want to pay for the priority/super-priority service (which can reduce the spouse visa UK processing time in 2023).
Are you applying from outside or inside the UK?
“Will we be making the application from outside the UK or inside the UK?”
You need to know whether you will be applying from outside or inside because the following will be different:
- The application form and process;
- The fees; and
- The requirements.
A relevant Immigration Rule here is Paragraph E-LTRP.2.1. of Appendix FM, which states:
The applicant must not be in the UK-
(a) as a visitor; or
(b) with valid leave granted for a period of 6 months or less, unless that leave is as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, or was granted pending the outcome of family court or divorce proceedings
Therefore, to make an application from inside the UK, the person applying for a visa (the “applicant”) must be in the UK when the online application is submitted not as a visitor.
Furthermore, they must be in the UK on a visa issued for a period exceeding 6 months (unless they are in the UK on a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partnership visa).
The following are some examples of visas that typically allow an applicant to make an application from inside the UK:
- Tier 1 visas
- Tier 2 & skilled worker visas
- Tier 4 & student visas (which were issued for longer than 6 months)
- Tier 5 & Youth Mobility Scheme visas
- UK fiancé or proposed civil partnership visas
- UK partner visas
Out-Of-Country Spouse Visa Processing Time FAQs
The standard spouse visa UK processing time for out-of-country applications in 2023 is 3 months (on average).
Please note that the processing time of an application has no bearing on the likelihood of the application being granted – it is somewhat random.
We will update this page as more of our clients’ applications are processed.
When does the processing time for out-of-country spouse visa applications start?
The out-of-country spouse visa application processing time will usually start when the applicant attends the biometric appointment at the visa centre.
Like many areas of partner visas, however, there are exceptions.
For applications submitted from the United States (US), the processing time normally starts once the applicant’s passport is received in the New York scanning hub.
When does the processing time for out-of-country spouse visa applications end?
The processing time will end on the date that the Home Office decides the outcome of your application.
Do sponsors keep possession of their passports for out-of-country partner visa applications?
Yes. Sponsors keep possession of their passports for out-of-country partner visa applications.
You only need to submit a copy of the sponsor’s main passport page.
Can we get a refund if we withdraw an out-of-country spouse/partner visa application?
This normally depends on whether the applicant has already attended the biometric appointment at the visa centre or not.
If the applicant has not attended the biometric appointment (the visa centre appointment), you can cancel the application and get a refund of the Home Office fee (£1,846 per applicant), as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
If the applicant has attended the biometric appointment, unfortunately, you will not be able to get a refund of the Home Office fee (£1,846 per applicant), but you will be able to get a refund on the IHS.
Please note that, as we discuss in our UK spouse visa fees in 2023 article, the IHS is expected to increase in the near future.
How do we get a refund if we no longer want to submit the online application?
The out-of-country spouse visa online application form will allow you to cancel your application to get a refund.
When you log onto the online application, you should find this option at the bottom of the login page:
Is there a way to speed up the processing time for a spouse visa application without paying an additional fee?
Those with an extremely compelling or compassionate reason (e.g., serious illness or death of a family member) may be able to speed up the processing time for no additional fee.
You can try using this contact form to enquire about this with the Home Office.
Please note, however, that this threshold of ‘compelling’ or ‘compassionate’ is relatively high.
We have been waiting beyond the stated service processing time. Does this suggest an increased chance of refusal?
No. Those waiting beyond the stated service processing time should not speculate that this suggests a higher chance of refusal.
I received an acknowledgement email from the Home Office several days/weeks/months after I submitted the online application. Does that mean the processing time will start now, or they did not receive my documents?
Applicants are normally sent a standard email that states:
Dear [APPLICANT’S NAME]
Regarding Visa Application: [GWF NUMBER]
Thank you for your online application which has been received at the UK Decision Making Centre. Your application is currently being prepared for consideration by an Entry Clearance Officer.
PLEASE NOTE: This email is to acknowledge receipt of your Settlement application, if you or your sponsor have not already submitted supporting documentation please ensure you follow the process listed below: UKVI is unable to consider your application without these documents.
Please ensure that your supporting documents are submitted within 5 working days of this email.
The email then goes on to discuss how documents can be submitted.
This is a standard email that is sent out sporadically to applicants.
This email is sometimes sent straight after the application submission, while it is sometimes sent out weeks or even months after the online application is submitted.
Please note that the date this email is sent does not impact the expected processing time of the application.
Please also note that it says “if you or your sponsor have not already submitted supporting documentation”. Therefore, if documents have already been submitted, there is nothing further that you need to do.
How should I follow up on an out-of-country spouse/partner visa application if the standard processing time has been exceeded?
The first thing to note is that the Home Office has said that they will only expedite the application if there are “extremely compassionate or compelling circumstances (for example, a medical emergency)”.
i) If you have not done so already, you can contact the Home Office here and ask them to expedite the process.
Normally, the Home Office will inform you of a time frame in which you should expect a response.
ii) If you do not hear a response within the time frame mentioned in i) (or within a reasonable period), you may wish to contact your MP and ask them to become involved.
You can find the contact details of your local UK MP via this link.
The benefit of this approach is that MPs have special direct access to the Home Office. Furthermore, the Home Office will respond fairly quickly to MP’s representations.
However, it should also be noted that the Home Office does not guarantee application turnaround times.
Instead, they have ‘service standards’ that they aim to meet and will likely refer to that in any response to you.
When will I find out the outcome of the spouse visa application?
Once the spouse visa application has been processed, applicants typically receive an email that states that a decision has been made on the UK spouse visa application.
This email will sometimes contain the grant or refusal letter, but it is often the case that it will not.
If you only receive an email stating that a decision has been made (without saying whether the application has been granted or refused), please do not speculate that the application is more likely to have been refused.
Where a grant or refusal letter is not attached to the email, you will find out the outcome of the UK spouse visa application once the passport has been returned.
Can the applicant leave the country where the application was submitted while the out-of-country spouse visa application is being processed?
Yes. Applicants can leave the country where the application was submitted while the out-of-country spouse visa application is being processed.
Please keep in mind, however, that the applicant will need to return to that country to collect the visa.
How does the processing time affect the start date of the out-of-country UK spouse visa?
The online application form will ask you for the applicant’s intended travel date to the UK.
If the decision date is before the intended date of travel to the UK, the start date of the visa will normally be the intended date of travel to the UK.
If the decision date is after the intended date of travel to the UK, the start date of the visa will normally be on or just after the decision date.
Please note that I used the words ‘normally’ because the Home Office caseworker does not always follow this general approach.
“The Home Office has requested further documentation. Will this increase the spouse visa processing time?”
Where Home Office caseworkers request additional documentation (rather than refusing the application), this will inevitably increase the processing time to a certain extent.
While we have seen the processing time far exceed the processing time where the required documentation has not been submitted, you can expect that in such a case, the application will be processed several days or weeks after then it would have if the required documentation was submitted in the first instance.
Out-of-country Priority service FAQs
How long will the processing time be for out-of-country priority service applications in 2023?
For new applications that purchase the priority service at the outset, partners should get a decision within 6 weeks (30 working days).
How much will the out-of-country priority service cost in 2023?
The priority service for out-of-country applications will cost an additional £500 (on average).
As we discuss in our spouse visa UK fees and costs in 2023 article, however, the conversion rates used often mean that partners will pay in the range of 10% above and below this figure.
Does the £500 priority service fee also include child dependents who are also applying for a visa at the same time as the main applicant?
The priority service fee for out-of-country applications must be paid for the main applicant and any child dependents who are also applying for a visa.
This also applies to the Home Office fee – if you are applying with dependent children, you must also pay the Home Office fee for each applying dependant child.
Charlie is applying for an out-of-country married partner visa application.
Charlie is applying with three of his dependent children.
Charlie must pay £1,846 (the spouse visa Home Office fee in 2023) x 4 – a total of £7,384.
If Charlie wants to pay for the priority service, he must also pay £500 (the spouse visa priority service fee) x 4 – a total of £2,000.
Does paying priority result in a higher chance of success?
No. Paying for priority service will not result in a higher chance of success.
When is the out-of-country spouse visa priority service not recommended?
For out-of-country applications, it is advised not to pay for the priority settlement visa service if one of the following applies:
- The applicant has overstayed a period of leave in the UK;
- The applicant has been refused leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office;
- The applicant has been refused a visa for the UK;
- The applicant has been deported, removed, or otherwise required to leave the UK;
- The applicant has been refused leave to enter the UK;
- The applicant has committed a criminal offence in any country;
- The applicant has been interviewed, detained, or prosecuted by the police for any offence in the UK or elsewhere;
- The applicant has had leave to remain in the UK curtailed by the Home Office;
- The applicant has been refused a visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America, or the Schengen countries; and/or
- The applicant has an unspent criminal conviction in any country.
In the above cases, there will be no guarantee that the Home Office can process the application within 15 working days.
In-Country Spouse Visa Processing Time FAQs
The standard spouse visa UK processing time for in-country applications in 2023 is 6-8 weeks (on average).
As discussed later in this article, the spouse visa UK processing time in 2023 can be expedited if you are willing to pay for the super-priority service (subject to availability).
We will first discuss some general in-country spouse visa processing time frequently asked questions.
Does it matter if our financial situation changes while we wait for the in-country spouse visa application to be processed?
The only relevant date that the financial requirement needs to be satisfied is the date you submit the in-country spouse visa application (by paying the Home Office fees).
Therefore, it technically does not matter if your financial situation changes while you wait for the in-country spouse visa application to be processed (e.g., ceasing employment or spending cash savings relied on to satisfy the financial requirement).
Furthermore, there is no requirement to continually satisfy the financial requirement for the duration of the spouse visa once granted. Instead, the next time the requirements will need to be met is when the spouse visa extension application or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application is submitted.
What if we no longer want to submit the in-country spouse visa application? Can we get a refund?
This normally depends on whether the applicant has attended the biometrics appointment at the visa centre.
If the applicant has not attended the biometrics appointment at the visa centre, they can withdraw the application and receive a refund of the Home Office and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fees.
If, however, the applicant has attended the biometrics appointment at the visa centre, they will only be able to get a refund on the Immigration Health Surcharge – they will not be able to get a refund on the Home Office fees.
Note: Withdrawing an in-country spouse visa application should be done carefully in light of the applicant’s current UK visa’s expiry date.
Steve is in the UK on a UK spouse visa. He wants to apply for a UK spouse visa extension.
Steve’s UK spouse visa expired on 1 April 2023.
Steve submitted a partner visa application on 20 March 2023.
On 4 April 2023, Steve was asked to join his friends on a spontaneous trip to Greece and is considering withdrawing and resubmitting the application to pay for super-priority service.
Steve would strongly be advised against this. If he withdraws his application after 1 April 2023, he will not be able to resubmit the application from inside the UK as he will not have a valid UK visa.
How do we get a refund if we no longer want to submit an in-country spouse visa application?
In-country spouse visa applicants can get a refund by withdrawing the application (as long as they have not attended the visa centre appointment).
You can withdraw an in-country spouse visa application by clicking this link.
Unfortunately, since withdrawals are made using the above “Request for Return of Documents” link, the withdrawal of an in-country spouse visa application is a rather long-winded process and is something that partners tend to find confusing.
Despite the above link hardly referring to the withdrawal of applications, this is the correct way to withdraw an in-country spouse visa application.
Do sponsors keep possession of their passports for in-country partner visa applications?
Yes – sponsors keep possession of their passports for in-country partner visa applications. Only a copy of the sponsor’s passport is submitted.
Will it matter if my UK visa expires when the in-country spouse visa application is processing?
If an in-country spouse visa application is submitted before the applicant’s current visa expires, it will not matter if the application is not decided before the current visa’s expiry date.
This is because of what is known as “Section 3C leave”.
The effect of Section 3C leave is that the visa will automatically be extended until the application is decided (or withdrawn).
Jenny submitted her in-country spouse visa application on 1 April 2023.
Jenny’s current Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa has an expiry date of 2 April 2023.
Section 3C leave will automatically extend Jenny’s current Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa until a decision has been made on the in-country spouse visa application (or until the spouse visa application is withdrawn).
Please note that Section 3C does not take effect where an in-country spouse visa application is made after the applicant’s current leave has expired.
Can I work in the UK while the in-country spouse visa application is processing?
This depends on the visa or type of leave that the applicant has when the in-country spouse visa application is submitted.
If the applicant’s current visa or leave permits employment in the UK, since the effect of Section 3C will be to extend the applicant’s visa or leave automatically, the applicant will continue to be allowed to work in the UK until a decision has been made on the spouse visa application (or up until the application is withdrawn).
Betty submitted an in-country UK spouse visa application on 4 March 2023.
Betty’s Tier 2 visa’s expiry date (as seen on the BRP) is 5 March 2023.
Since Betty’s Tier 2 visa will automatically be extended until a decision has been made on the in-country UK spouse visa application, she can continue working while the spouse visa is processing.
“My employer is telling me that I must pay for the super-priority service or that I must stop working since my current visa is expiring despite what you have said about Section 3C leave”
You should forward this section 3C leave guidance to your employer.
How should I follow up if the processing time has been exceeded?
If the average processing time has been exceeded, you can first try contacting the Home Office via phoning them– the phone number can be found on this page.
If you cannot expedite the application via the above phone line, you can consider contacting your local UK MP (their contact details can be found on this link). The MP may be able to contact the Home Office on your behalf to expedite the application.
If you have exhausted the above to no avail, you can consider submitting a complaint via this link.
Can the applicant leave the UK when an in-country spouse visa is processing?
If an applicant leaves the UK whilst an in-country spouse visa is being processed, the application will be considered withdrawn.
In light of the above, if you foresee the applicant wanting to leave the UK shortly after submitting the online application, you may want to consider the super-priority service.
In-country Priority service FAQs
Is the priority service available for in-country spouse visa applications in 2023?
Unfortunately, the priority service for in-country spouse visa applications in 2023 is not currently available.
In light of this, this article will focus its discussion on the super-priority service.
In-country Super-Priority service FAQs
How long will the processing time be for in-country super-priority service applications?
The processing time for super-priority service in-country partner visa applications is normally 1 working day.
How much will the in-country super-priority service cost?
The total Home Office fee for one applicant who opts for the super-priority service is £1,848.
This is because the in-country super-priority service involves an additional £1,000 cost, which will need to be paid in addition to the standard Home Office fee of £1,048.
Does the super-priority service fee include child dependents who are also applying for a visa at the same time as the main applicant?
The super-priority service fee for in-country applications will have to be paid for the main applicant and any child dependents who are also applying for a visa as part of the application.
Hannah is applying to extend her UK spouse visa. She, therefore, will need to submit an FLR(M) application.
She would like to opt for the super-priority service.
Hannah is applying with two of her dependent children and will therefore need to pay the standard Home Office fee and the super-priority fee three times (one time for herself and twice for her two children).
Hannah will need to pay £1,048 (the spouse visa extension fee in 2023) x 3 – a total of £3,144.
She will also need to pay £1,000 (the spouse visa priority service fee) x 3 – a total of £3,000.
The total cost of the standard Home Office and the super-priority fee for Hannah and her two children will therefore be £6,144.
Is the super-priority service normally available for in-country spouse visa applications in 2023?
Yes. The super-priority service is normally available for in-country spouse visa applications in 2023.
How do I purchase the super-priority service for in-country spouse visa applications in 2023?
The super-priority service for in-country spouse visa applications is purchased once you have answered the questions in the online application form.
The payment page has been incorporated into one of the final stages of the online application.
It should be noted that the payment of this fee is the date that the online application is submitted and is referred to as the ‘date of application’.
Furthermore, for those who want to pay for the super-priority service, it is only at this stage of the online application form that the super-priority service can be purchased – it cannot be purchased once the online application form has been submitted.
Does paying super-priority result in a higher chance of success for in-country spouse visa applications?
No. Paying for the super-priority service will not result in a higher chance of success for in-country spouse visa extensions.
Will I get a refund if I pay for the super-priority service and the application is not decided within 1 working day?
This depends on the reason why it was not decided within 1 working day.
If the Home Office far exceeded 1 working day due to no fault of your own (e.g., you did not provide legible documents that satisfy the Immigration Rules), you can consider contacting the Home Office directly and asking for a refund via this link.
Other frequently asked questions
When does the spouse visa processing time start?
For standard (non-priority) applications, the time will start when the Home Office receive your application. For priority services, this generally starts when you attend the visa centre and provide the supporting evidence.
How Do the Home Office Contact You To Give You Progress Updates?
They generally don’t. In the majority of cases, you will hear back from the Home Office when they have decided on your application. In some cases, where they would like more information or documents, they would get in touch. You would then have a certain amount of days to provide this information or documentation.
My visa will expire if the Home Office take long to reach a decision. Is this a problem?
This is something that is commonly worried about but, in the vast majority of cases, it should not be. This is because of a piece of law called Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1941.
“Where can I find out more information relating to the visa that I am going to submit?”
We have created several detailed and comprehensive guides covering a range of visas.
If you are submitting a spouse visa application from outside the UK, check out our spouse visa UK 2023 guidance.
If you are submitting a spouse visa application from inside the UK, check out our FLR(M) visa 2023 guidance.
If you are submitting an unmarried partner visa application from inside or outside the UK, check out our unmarried partner UK visa 2023 guidance.
If you are submitting a fiancé(e) visa, check out our fiance visa UK 2023 guidance.
If you want professional immigration help for £435, we can provide you with a tailored document checklist and letter templates so you can make the best application possible.
Otherwise, if you want us to deal with your application from start to finish, you may be interested in our full legal representation service.
This service is primarily offered by Ed Lowe who worked in the Home Office for 20+ years (with many of those years as a senior Home Office manager).
Ed works alongside Wendy Foy and Matthew French (who also worked in the Home Office) to submit our clients’ applications as efficiently as possible.