This relates to UK Visitor Visa Assessment, Requirements and Refusal Reasons for family, tourist and business standard visitor visa applicants.
The UK Visitor Visa Assessment is based on the principle of balance of probability and the onus of proof is on the applicant. Therefore, it is up to an applicant to furnish an application as per the standard visitor visa requirements, which is assessed by an Entry Clearance Officer in accordance with the Appendix V for Visitor of the Immigration Rules. If during the UK Visitor Visa assessment process the ECO opines that the application does not fulfil the requirements then instead of granting a visitor visa, the passport is returned with a Refusal Letter, stating the refusal reasons.
Standard Visitor Visa Requirements and Assessment
The first and foremost requirement for UK Visitor Visa Applicant is to prove his/her credibility during the assessment process. An inability to do so would lead to a UK Visitor Visa Refusal either on mandatory or discretionary grounds.
The Appendix V Part V4 explains the Eligibility Requirments for a Standard Visitor Visa Applicant. In terms of Paragraph V4.1 of Appendix V, a tourist, family and business visa applicant is required to meet the stipulations of Paragraph V4.2 – V4.10 for proving the genuineness of intentions, personal and financial circumstances and bonafide.
V 4.1 The decision maker must be satisfied that the applicant meets all of the eligibility requirements in paragraphs V 4.2 – V 4.10.
Moreover, there are additional requirements for child visitor (V 4.11 – V 4.13), private medical treatment (V 4.14 – V 4.16), organ donor (V 4.17 – V 4.20), ADS agreement (V 4.21) and academic seeking a 12-month visit visa (V 4.22).
A visit visa applicant also needs to fulfil the suitability requirements as per Part V3 (3.1 to 3.16) of Appendix V. For the UK visit visa extension, the applicant needs to meet the requirements of Paragraph V8.4 (Appendix V – Immigration Rules). If an applicant fails to satisfy the necessary requirements, then the application is likely to be refused.
Genuineness of Intentions
An applicant needs to prove his/her genuine intentions to visit the UK, which in a nutshell means that the applicant:
- has sufficient funds for the trip;
- intends to leave the United Kingdom at the end of the visit;
- can meet the costs of return or onward journey;
The failure to do is the primary UK Visitor Visa Refusal Reason i.e. if the ECO is not satisfied that an applicant may be able to either maintain himself during the trip or return to the home country then the ECO will conclude a refusal decision by raising questions about the genuineness of intentions of an applicant.
Genuine intention to visit
V 4.2 The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor.
Main Reason for Visiting the UK
Please note that a visitor can enter, or extend his/her visit, to do different permitted activities but his/her main reason(s) for travelling to the UK must be visiting. For instance, visiting the UK for meeting family, sight-seeing, attending a business conference, medical treatment, attending work-related training, etc.. Accordingly, the applicant must furnish the requisite details to justify his/her intentions. Therefore, if an applicant has not been able to give a clear reason for visiting the UK, then the application is likely to be refused.
UK Long Term Visit Visa Rules
When a visitor holds a long-term, multiple-entry visitor visa valid for 2, 5 or 10 years, it is quite natural and likely that the reason for visiting may differ over time. This is permissible, provided the applicant continue to intend to undertake one or more permitted visitor activity.
An applicant needs to provide clear and conclusive evidence to establish his/her personal circumstance. A failure to do so is one of the very common UK Visit Visa Refusal reason. Following aspects of the individual circumstances could be scrutinised for assessing the genuineness of application:
Details of an applicant’s previous immigration history, especially that relates to visiting the UK.
Duration of Visits
The duration of past trips to the UK and other countries and whether there is a substantive discrepancy between the formerly stated length of stay on the visa application and actual details of an applicant’s journey to the UK. If this discrepancy exists then this might not be necessary that a refusal decision would be made – i.e. this is not a sufficient condition to automatically presume that the visitor is not genuine, but may be quite reasonable to raise questions about an applicant’s overall credibility and genuine intentions.
Financial Circumstances of the applicant as well as that of his/her family, in tandem with the applicant’s social and economic background.
Ties to Country of Residence
Personal, economic and social ties of an applicant to his/her country of residence.
Period of Time Spend in the UK
Many visitors have a habit of extending their visits in the UK beyond the originally planned duration due to many reasons such as their family in the UK request them to do so, they like the sights, sounds and weather of the UK and just simply delay their departure etc.. The applicants should be mindful of the cumulative time period of their UK visit, especially the time spent in the UK during the preceding twelve (12) months before making a new visitor visa application. Spending time beyond the stated time duration on the visitor visa application leads to doubt the intentions of an applicant in the assessment process i.e. whether an applicant has made the UK his/her ‘de-facto’ residence or not. Therefore, giving cogent grounds for a visitor visa refusal.
In the assessment, it is carefully scrutinised that whether the information provided, especially the reasons stated for either visiting or extending stay by an applicant are credible i.e. whether the reasons correspond to an applicant’s personal, family, economic and social background or not. If the ECO finds reasonable grounds to judge that the information provided by an applicant is incongruent with applicant’s background then it is quite a sufficient condition to make a refusal decision.
Other Relevant Information
In addition to the above-stated reasons, following relevant information is also considered while assessing a visitor visa application:
- Country of Residence and Applicant’s Nationality – are important factors that are taken into account during the assessment process. An ECO has necessary information relating a country’s political, economic and security situation. Therefore, applicants applying from countries where there is social and political turmoil have to prove their credential in a much more precise and robust manner than nationals of those countries where there are relatively better and stable economic, political and social conditions.
- Non-Compliance to Immigration Rules – in the light of the empirical and statistical data, during the assessment process an applicant is evaluated against the overall noncompliance to the Immigration Rules committed by the nationals/citizens of a country for which an applicant is making an application. This means that applicants belonging to countries that have a higher rate of non-compliance with Immigration Rules are more likely to go through much rigorous and thorough assessment process.
Travel and Immigration History
An applicant’s Travel History is not the only consideration during the evaluation process to evaluate the genuineness and credibility of an applicant.
Change of Circumstances
Importantly, in case of a repeat visit visa application (i.e. applicants having travelled to the UK in the past on either one or more than one occasions), the ECO will look for changes in the circumstances of an applicant since his/her previous travel to the UK. The ECO will consider and evaluate all the relevant information before reaching an appropriate decision. It is quite common that an application for a repeat visitor visa gets refused if the applicant is not able to prove his/her circumstances that may necessitate a grant of a visit visa. If that may not be the case – i.e. scrutiny of personal, family, economic and social conditions of an applicant – then it would be quite difficult to grant a visa to an applicant:
- who are applying for UK Visitor Visa for the very first time; and
- who has been refused in the past on either one or more than one occasion.
Travel History and Balance of Probabilities
Nevertheless, an applicant’s travel history provides useful information that might either increases or decreases the balance of probabilities for granting a UK Visitor Visa i.e.
- Compliance with the UK Immigration Rules – A pattern of previous visits to the UK may indicate that an applicant has complied with the UK Immigration Rules, which may increase the balances of probabilities that an applicant is credible and has genuine intentions of visiting the UK.
- Travels to Other Countries – such as the USA, Schengen Countries, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, etc. increases the balance of probabilities that an applicant is a genuine visitor.
- Failure to Comply with the Immigration Law/Rules – depending on the circumstances, in case an applicant has failed to comply with any other country’s immigration Rules/Law in the past then the applicant may be evaluated as a non-genuine visitor. For instance, if an applicant has been either removed from another country or refused entry to another country, this may lead to doubt an applicant’s intentions. However, it is not an automatic and sufficient condition for UK visa refusal, but something which may reduce the balance of probabilities of granting a UK Visitor Visa.
Frequency of Visits
For repeat visitors, an assessment is made of their past trips to the UK i.e.
- how long an applicant is staying in the UK; and
- how frequently he/she is returning?
Duration of Visits
Although, a visitor can remain inside the UK up to 180 days at a stretch; however, the maximum period that an individual may spend inside the UK on a visitor visa is not specified for instance ‘6 months in 12 months’. Therefore, a review of the travel history of an individual gives a fair idea that whether that individual is making the UK his/her main home by trying to exploit the Immigration Rules to his/her advantage.
Is the UK becoming the Main Home of a Visitor?
The frequency and duration of visits are scrutinised to evaluate: whether a repeat visitor is making the UK his/her main home or not. An opinion is made regarding those described above by looking at the following aspects of a visitor visa application:
- the purpose of visiting the UK;
- the intended duration of stay stated in the application form and the actual duration of stay during the previous visits;
- the number and length of visits made during the preceding twelve (12) months;
- the time period elapsed since the last visit;
- Is an applicant spending more time in the UK than in his/her home country?;
- What is the purpose of return journey that an applicant is making to his/her home country? Is this nothing more than just to seek a re-entry to the UK?;
- the ties of an applicant to his country such as:
- is an applicant is registered with the tax authorities of his/her home country;
- are his/her children attending UK schools;
- the information on previous applications, for instance, if the previous application to settle in the UK through the family route has been refused, and an applicant merely intends to enter as a visitor so as to join his/her British or settled family inside the UK.
Grounds for Doubting Intentions
Although, there can be many grounds for questioning the intentions of an applicant; however, some of the more common reasons for doubting an applicant’s intentions are:
Ties to the Country of Residence
The applicant has only a limited number of family, economic, social, professional and business ties to his/her country of residence, and quite a few family members of the applicant are living in the United Kingdom. For instance, an applicant with most of his/her near and dear family members in the UK with no full-time employment/study status in his/her country of residence may be deemed to have few ties with the home country.
The Situation of an Applicant’s Country of Residence
The overall political, economic and security conditions of an applicant’s country of residence i.e. is the applicant’s home country politically unstable, a conflict zone or there is an imminent risk that the country will become politically unstable in the near future. These macro signals could lead to doubt the intentions of an applicant i.e. the applicant will not leave the UK at the end of his/her journey to the UK.
Previous History of Deception
An applicant or his/her sponsor (in case an applicant is visiting a relative or a friend) or sponsor’s/applicant’s immediate family members have, or have attempted to, use deception in the any of the previous visa applications – for entry clearance, leave to remain or leave to enter – submitted to HM’s Home Office.
Discrepancies of Statements
Discrepancies between the declarations of an applicant and that of his/her sponsor, especially about such information that a sponsor is expected to know reasonably well.
Information Not Verifiable
After several attempts, which has been provided by an applicant.
Information and Reasons Not Credible
The information provided or the reason(s) stated in an application/interview are prima facia, not logical and reliable.
In case if an applicant’s baggage is searched at the border and it reveals possession of items, which demonstrates that the visitor has plans/intentions to either work or live in the UK.
In the case of long-term visitor visa application, if some aspects raise concerns then instead of granting a long-term visitor visa i.e. 2, 5 and ten years visitor visa, it is quite likely that a short-term visitor visa may be granted i.e. for six months or even less. For instance, if an applicant was previously granted a six months visitor visa to visit the UK as a Business/Tourist visitor and the individual described above proceeded to the scheduled journey accordingly. However, after the expiry of the six (6) months visitor visa, the individual applies for two (2) years visit visa, without clarifying in his/her application: why there be any need of recurring visits to the UK for the same purpose during the next two (2) years. Therefore, instead of either granting a two (2) years visitor visa or refusing the application, the applicant might be granted a visitor visa for a shorter duration.