AN American citizen longing to permanently reside in the UK has criticised the Home Office for its "shambolic" handling of her via application.

Lisette Garibay, from California, was left waiting on tenterhooks for more than 140 days to find out if her Further Leave to Remain Visa application had been approved by the government department.

The 26-year-old came over to the UK on a student visa to study an MA in criminology at the University of Essex in 2019.

Last December she married her now-husband Luke Skippings, a 27-year-old British citizen from Ipswich, who she met in Las Vegas in August 2018.

As the married couple want to stay together permanently in the UK, Lisette decided to apply for a new visa in January following the completion of her studies.

The Home Office's official guidance states once a Further Leave to Remain Visa application is received, a decision should be made within six to eight weeks.

However, Lisette did not get her application approved for more than 20 weeks.

She said: "Going 20 weeks without any substantial communication is insane.

"I couldn’t even attend my grandmother's funeral in the United States since you can’t leave on a pending visa."

Lisette went through the process to have her social work credentials transferred over to the UK in September 2020 and has been ready to work since then as a registered social worker.

But she was unable to accept a permanent position on her student visa.

She said it has been frustrating having to bounce around in temporary jobs without any updates from the Home Office for months.

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"It’s ridiculous to charge people over £2,500 to not communicate any substantial information in 20 weeks," she added.

Lisette contacted the Home Office for an update on her visa application in March and April before lodging an official complaint on May 20.

She also contacted Ipswich's MP Tom Hunt on April 7 and May 20 seeking his advice on her application.

Lisette said the Home Office informed her via email that the main cause for delay was Covid and staffing issues.

She added: "There are a huge amount of applicants awaiting a decision pre-January and yet the applicants for April/May of this year are already getting decisions.

"We have paid the Home Office and extortionate amount of money for this process and it is not fulfilling its duty.

"The lack of communication and ability to obtain sufficient updates was stressful to myself and my family.

"The Home Office needs to be held to account for the absolute shambolic handling of mine and many others cases."

A Home Office spokesman said: “Due to the pandemic, there have been some delays to the visa application process but we have continued to process all applications as quickly as possible and we are taking mitigating measures such as hiring additional staff to speed up the process.

"We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”