A visit visa is required by a visa national who is wishing to visit the UK. The list of visa nationals can be found in paragraph VN1.1 of the Immigration Rules. In contrast, a non-visa national, such as an EU national or US national, can arrive in the UK without a pre-approved visa and will be granted permission to enter as a visitor on arrival.
What are the requirements for a visit visa?
In considering a visit visa application, an Entry Clearance Officer on behalf of the Home Office will be assessing the application against the following requirements:
- Whether the applicant is suitable for a grant of entry clearance – criminality or a poor immigration history can cause problems here
- Whether the applicant is a ‘genuine visitor’ i.e. whether their activities fit within visitor rules and they will return to their home country after the visit
- Whether the applicant (or their sponsor) has sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate themselves during the trip
What are the chances of success?
In recent years, visit visa applications have become notorious for their high rates of refusal. We specifically see high numbers of refusals for visit visa applications made by citizens of countries that produce substantial refugee flows, such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran and Afghanistan. We also often find that visit visa applications made by elderly applicants, or persons financially dependent on their UK-based family members, to be extremely difficult. This is essentially because the Home Office distrusts that such applicants are ‘genuine visitors’- instead there is a preconception that these applicants may try to remain in the UK after their visa expires.
The most common reasons for refusal cited in applications are refusal to accept that a person is a genuine visitor, or that they have suitably demonstrated their financial situation. In my experience, where an applicant does not have employment in their home country and instead relies on financial support from their UK sponsor, an application is at high risk of refusal unless evidence of alternative strong links to their home country can be provided.
What can I do to ensure the best chance of success in my last application?
In any application, it is vital to ensure that you provide strong evidence of the applicant’s circumstances in their home country; you need to create a picture of what their life at home is like a and highlight the reasons that they will return to that country. So submit proof of their employment, property, family members. A covering letter can also be very helpful to draw the decision maker’s attention to the evidence provided and how this meets the relevant immigration rules. We are often instructed by families who have faced numerous past refusals – legal advice and representation in such cases can certainly help.
What are my options if the application is refused?
Unfortunately, a visit visa refusal does not attract a right of appeal or administrative review. This means there are limited options if your application is refused. Applying for permission to bring judicial review against the decision is an option; this is a remedy which is available where the decision maker has made material legal errors in the decision. Unfortunately, judicial review is a long and expensive procedure, akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. A pre-action protocol letter (the first step of
a judicial review) will sometimes do the trick, for example where there has been an obvious failure to consider relevant evidence, or an irrelevant matter has been taken into account; but that’s not always the case.
Beyond judicial review, the only other option would be to re-apply, however this would only be advisable if you can clearly deal with the reasons for refusal in the last application. Sadly, we often see clients come to us who have had multiple visit visa applications refused each time for the same reasons, simply because their circumstances do not lend well to the application (e.g. they receive cash income which they are unable to evidence in the application).
It’s difficult to comprehend that such a short-term visa is fast becoming one of the most difficult to obtain. We’re seeing an increasing number of new clients whose visit applications have been refused because of a very poor standard of decision making, which is frustrating for clients who simply want to visit their family in the UK for a short period.
As a result, to avoid risk of refusal as far as possible, we would recommend that legal advice is taken at the earliest opportunity. Ideally, before your first attempt at a visit visa application to ensure the best chance of success, or at the latest, following a first refusal decision. Our experience in these applications allows us to consider your circumstances in detail and suggest evidence which can be provided which you may not have considered previously.
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This article is authored by Caroline Bagley, Solicitor at Latitude Law
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