Registering for VAT is not as time consuming or complex nowadays. Having said that, HMRC are becoming more meticulous over each application. Generally speaking any application that looks as though the business is not operated from the UK or potentially is not a straight forward trade is paused until further information is submitted.
However, a straight forward application, usually from a consulting, retail or other standard trades are usually processed within 3 weeks of submitting the application. We will normally be notified initially and the VAT certificate posted to the trading address.
If HMRC requests further information then it can take a further 2 weeks for each request to be processed.