Update on 3 August 2022:
We wrote this article in October 2021, when it was almost unheard of for an applicant successfully to obtain Pre-Licence Priority Service. Something now seems to have changed.
In late July 2022, two of our clients successfully obtained the service in the same week, with both of their licence applications then being granted within a couple of days of submission. It’s probably too early to get too excited, but it seems that Pre-Licence Priority Service may be less of a fiction than it used to be …
When I talk to clients about timeframes for their sponsor licence applications, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: “You submit the application and pay the fee online, and we normally expect a decision from the Home Office around eight weeks later”.
Client: “Eight weeks is too long for us. We want to pay the extra £500 for priority service, and get a decision in two weeks”.
Me: “Yeah, about that…”
I’ll then explain the following:
- Priority service is not guaranteed, no matter how willing you are to pay the extra £500.
- The Home Office only gives priority service to ten applicants per day.
- We think it’s first-come-first-served for how they choose the ten applicants.
- It used to be first-come-first-served-at-midnight, but they seem to have changed it to 9am, so I suppose we should be grateful for that.
By this point in the conversation I’m normally feeling quite apologetic, and wishing I had better news. But I’m also conscious that apologising for the Home Office is a dangerous habit to be in.
So while I try to break the habit, read on below for everything I know about priority service for sponsor licence applications.
And for this or any other immigration query, contact the Immigration Team at Truth Legal.
What is priority service?
According to the Home Office:
“Pre-licence priority service allows sponsors to prioritise their application for a sponsor licence, by submitting an application by email.”
They make it sound so straightforward.
How much is priority service?
This is in addition to the other sponsor licence fees, such as the licence fee, the CoS fee(s), and the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Am I eligible for priority service?
Eligibility isn’t really the issue. To be eligible, all you need is to have submitted an application for a sponsor licence.
The thing that may trip you up here is that you need to have submitted the application, paid the fee and sent all your supporting documents to the Home Office, including the signed submission sheet. Don’t forget that last bit.
The big question is not eligibility for priority service, but rather eligibility for the sponsor licence itself. See our Legal Guide on Applying for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence for detailed info on that.
How do I apply for priority service?
You need to email a form to the Home Office.
The form isn’t posted anywhere online, and it only becomes available after you have submitted the licence application. I have, however, seen the form, and it’s short and very easy to complete. It asks for basic details like your application reference number, name of your organisation, address of your organisation, and name of your Authorising Officer.
Once you have submitted the application and been given access to the all-important form, the process looks like this:
- Complete the form and email it as an attachment to PreLicencePriorityService@homeoffice.gov.uk.The service is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays. “Any requests made outside these hours will not be considered”, according to the Home Office.Further, “a maximum of 10 priority service requests will be accepted each day. Please note that due to recent events (COVID-19), this is subject to change”.I like how they say, “this is subject to change”. That probably means they’re making it up as they go along.
If your request is unsuccessful, you won’t be notified. I’ve heard that they used to send you an automatic reply to say your request has been received, but apparently they don’t even do that anymore.
So no news is bad news, in this instance. However, you can repeat this step 1 as many times as you like, and it’s normal for applicants to submit the form at 9am every day for several days in a row, sometimes longer.
- If your request is successful, you’ll receive two emails from the Home Office. The first one confirms that your request is successful, and the second one is a Worldpay link to pay the extra £500 fee. You have 72 hours, including weekends, to pay the fee. If you don’t pay the fee in time, your request will expire, and you will need to apply again to be considered. Check your junk email!
- Once you’ve paid the fee, the Home Office will consider your request within ten working days. There are two contradictory statements right next to each other as to when that ten-working-day-period begins:“The 10 working days… begins the following working day from when the payment is made”and yet:“The 10 working days begins from the date that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) receives your submission sheet and all required documentation if it has not already been received”.
My advice is therefore to pay all fees, including the additional £500, and submit all documents, including the signed submission sheet, as promptly as possible.
By doing so, you give yourself the best chance of causing the ten working days to (maybe, probably), begin.
What are the chances of success?
I’ve heard of people being successful on their fourth or fifth day of trying at 9am, which doesn’t seem too bad.
In other cases it has taken longer, and in still other cases people haven’t been successful at all, despite repeated attempts.
There’s no harm in trying. Just don’t depend on getting priority service, and always be prepared to wait the full eight weeks.