One of the most common common questions I am asked by clients is how long the Home Office will take to make a decision on their application.
Unfortunately, apart from applications under the EEA Regulations, there is no set time limit for the Home Office to comply with.
The Home Office does have its own Service Standards (link below) for straightforward applications which varies from 8 weeks to 6 months.
Anything that does not fit squarely within the Immigration Rules and which relies on issues to do with family life, private life or human rights can take infinitely longer and no time frame is provided for such applications.
There are a number of things you can do to get a quicker decision from the Home Office and ensure your application is not delayed longer than necessary.
In each step, always
remember to detail the impact the delay is having on your life, e.g. preventing you from getting a job, accepting a university place, travelling, etc.
1. Write to the Home Office
The first port of call is to write directly to the Home Office to find out why there has been a delay and how long it is likely to take.
Send the letter Recorded Delivery so that you have evidence that the letter was received by them.
This will be important if the matter escalates into legal proceedings.
Do not expect too much from the Home Office in response to your letter, you may not even get a reply.
2. Make a Complaint
You can utilise the Home Office’s internal complaints mechanism.
Details of how to do so can be found via the link below .
The Home Office will aim to respond to your complaint within 20 working days.
Again, it is better not to have high expectations about the outcome as the Home Office clearly states on their complaints page:
Complaints do not affect our decision-making process and making a complaint doesn’t mean that your application will be dealt with more quickly or more slowly.
However consider it a necessary step if you wish to escalate things at a later stage.
3. Approach your Member of Parliament
Contact your MP and ask them to write to the MP Liaison Unit at the Home Office requesting an update about your case.
MPs normally receive a response within 28 days about where your case is at.
4. Complain to the Parliamentary Ombudsman
If you are not satisfied with the results of the Home Office internal complaint, you can ask your MP to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
The MP will have had to have also written himself to the Home Office prior to making such a referral.
The Ombudsman will thereafter investigate your complaint. This service is free.
It may take several months for the complaint to conclude.
If the complaint is upheld, you are likely to get your decision very soon after that and you may also be able to obtain some financial compensation.
A report (link below) published last year by the Ombudsman found that it upheld 7 out of 10 complaints referred to it against the Home Office, primarily over delays in decision-making.
5. Issue Judicial Review Proceedings
Issuing legal proceedings against the Home Office is possibly the most effective method of having a decision taken on your case quickly.
However it is an expensive procedure and you will require an experienced lawyer to deal with the matter.
There is also a risk that if you lose the case, you will have to pay the Home Office’s legal costs.
Of course if you are successful, it is likely that the Home Office will be ordered to pay your legal costs.
The Judge essentially decides whether the delay is an unreasonable one.
It is always helpful to demonstrate that you have done all you can to avoid legal proceedings.
Therefore, it is a good idea to try some of the other methods first and then if a decision still has not been made, you can show the court how unreasonable the Home Office are being by pointing to the various letters and complaints that you have written.
Delays are extremely frustrating and can leave people’s lives in complete limbo like happened with my client Aisha who was left living on the street with her daughter as a result of the Home Office delay on her case. You can read her story here.
If you feel the Home Office are unreasonably delaying making a decision on your case, do not sit back and wait but be proactive in chasing them.
Have you ever suffered as a result of Home Office delays in making a decision on your case? Please share your experiences in the comments box below.
Visadreams.com, Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, a solicitor based in London specialising in UK immigration and nationality law. If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your details here.