Common issues with UK visit visas

The Conservative Party, which is currently in Government in the UK, has committed to reducing net migration to the tens of thousands in the last three general election campaigns. This leads to an incredibly restrictive approach being adopted when UK visa applications are considered. The aim appears to be to discourage people from applying in the first place, thus reducing not only the number of people coming to the UK but also the number of applications the UK Home Office needs to process.

It surprises many to learn that this approach is often adopted even with visit visas. Although visitors are not, strictly speaking, migrants - as they are not coming to the UK permanently and will therefore not be accounted for in the net migration statistics - the Home Office assumes that everyone seeking entry to the UK as a visitor intends to breach the terms of their visit visa and stay in the UK indefinitely. Often it seems as though applicants are guilty until proven innocent. This is particularly true when an applicant wishes to visit family in the UK as the Home Office see this as an incentive to remain in the UK beyond the validity of the visit visa.

It is therefore incredibly important to provide as much evidence as possible about your circumstances (financial and personal) in order to convince the Entry Clearance Officer considering your application that you are a ‘genuine’ visitor and that you do not intend to stay in the UK for over 6 months. Common reasons for refusal include:

  1. Failure to provide sufficient financial evidence. Applicants should include payslips, bank statements, and a letter from their employer to demonstrate that they are working in their country of origin. Even if a third party is funding the trip, full time employment is indicative of an intention to leave the UK at the end of your visit;
  2. Failure to provide sufficient evidence confirming your ties to your country of origin. Evidence that you own property, letters of support from friends and family, and letters from your University or school are all helpful to show that you have established a life in your country of origin and would not abandon this life and stay in the UK;
  3. Failure to sufficiently explain the purpose of the trip. There are various permitted activities and a list of prohibited activities for visitors. Applicants must ensure that their proposed activities in the UK are consistent with the permitted activities and that it is made clear in their application that they do not intent to carry out any prohibited activities. The distinction between permitted and prohibited activities can often be quite nuanced: for instance work is, in general, prohibited however many business activities, such as: attending meetings, conferences and seminars; and negotiating deals and contracts, are permitted. Similar exceptions to the general prohibition on work also apply to scientists, overseas lawyers, religious workers, artists, entertainers, musicians, and sports people;
  4. Visiting too frequently within a short space of time. This issue often arises in relation to “non-visa nationals” such as citizens of the USA, Canada, and Australia. The description “non-visa national” is a bit of a misnomer. A visit visa is still required; it is simply granted at the UK border rather than before the applicant travels (in technical terms such people are not required to apply for entry clearance as a visitor from an Entry Clearance Officer prior to travelling and can be granted leave to enter as a visitor by an Immigration Officer at the UK border). Where a person appears to be making the UK their home through frequent or successive visits, they will be refused a visit visa. When this occurs at the border it can often be a very distressing experience as often “non-visa nationals” are completely unaware of the visit visa requirements or incorrectly assume the requirements do not apply to them as they are a “non-visa national” and have been granted entry at the border without issue on previous occasions;   
  5. Simple mistakes on the application form. Failure to disclose details of previous immigration applications or minor criminal convictions can lead to an allegation of deception. This triggers a 10 year re-entry ban. It is therefore incredibly important to ensure the application form is accurate and that you cannot be accused of failing to disclose material information.

At McGill & Co Solicitors we deal with a wide range of immigration applications on a daily basis and are well versed in ensuring compliance with the ever changing immigration rules and corresponding with the Home Office. If you would like advice or assistance in relation to an application for a visit visa, please get in touch via our contact page.