This post relates to various facets concerning children under sixteen (16) years of age visiting the UK and provides details of the following aspects:
- A) Child Welfare Duty;
- B) Child Travelling or Residing without a Parent or a Guardian;
- C) Parental Consent and Responsibility for Care;
- D) Private Foster Care;
- E) Child Visiting to Stay with a Host Family;
- F) Charity Organising a Child’s Visit to the UK;
- G) Accompanied Children with Visa Nationals;
- H) Unaccompanied Children;
A) Child Welfare Duty
U/S 55 of the Borders, Citizenship & Immigration Act 2009, HM’s Home Office performs its statutory duty to safeguard and also promote the welfare of children in the UK.
Therefore, a child’s welfare is considered for an application made by any under the age of eighteen (18) years old child.
A visa is only granted if the immigration officer is satisfied that an under 18 child will be sufficiently accommodated and cared for in the UK.
B) Child Travelling or Residing without a Parent or a Guardian
If a child is travelling or residing in the United Kingdom without a parent or a guardian, then in the Visitor Visa Application the applicant is required to satisfy that necessary arrangement have been made in the UK for proper care and reception of the child. Moreover, the applicant also needs to fulfil the requirements for parental consent.
In case all or few details are either missing/unclear or there are other factors that raise concerns about a child’s welfare in the UK then the immigration officer is likely to make further enquiries so as to confirm the identity and residence of the UK host and will make sure that the child is expected (by the host) in the UK.
If after further enquiries there are still some concerns about the child’s welfare in the UK then the application is possible to be refused.
At the Border | Sponsor Not Suitable
If there are concerns about a child’s welfare at the border, then the home office staff will contact local authority children’s services department, where also appropriate the police.
Children’s Services (of Local Authority) will advise the Home Office on the suitability of the sponsor and will get the child into their care if the Local Authority agrees that the Sponsor is not suitable or if in case there is no responsible sponsor.
C) Children Visit Visa Applications | Parental Consent and Responsibility for Care
Parent or Guardian Making An Application
If a parent or a legal guardian is making a visitor visa application on behalf of the child, this usually satisfies the requirement for parental consent.
- If the child’s parents are divorced, then the consent must come from the parent who has the legal custody or the sole responsibility.
Application Not Made by a Parent or a Guardian
If visitor visa application is not made by a parent or a guardian, and there are no other factors which give cause for concern, then a letter from the parent or a legal guardian confirming relationship to the visiting child and consenting to the child’s application are usually adequate to establish that the requirement of Parental Consent has been met.
If an application is made by a person other than the parent or the guardian, unless that person is a social worker holding the parental rights and cares for the child, enquiries are required to be made the identity of the accompanying adult(s).
Consent from Both the Parents are Required
If a child’s visa application states that the parent travelling with him/her is not the parent holding the child’s legal custody, then the consent of both the parents is sought.
If the legal authorities (i.e. police or judiciary, and not a legal representative of one of the parent) in the child’s country of residence indicates that a child is at risk of being moved out of the country without consent, then consent from both the parents is required.
Moreover, if the immigration officer has concerns that the child may be at risk then also parental consent from both the parents is required.
If there is neither any no information provided by the parent or a guardian to support the application nor any no reasonable explanation (i.e. why no information is furnished), then the child’s visitor visa application is likely to be refused.
D) Private Foster Care
A child under the age of eighteen (18) years of age is considered to be in private foster care if he/she is:
- less than sixteen (16) years of age;
- less than eighteen (18) years of age with a known disability;
- full time cared for more than twenty-eight (28) days;
- not cared for by parent/close relative;
This is unless, if a child is:
- looked after by a parent/legal guardian/close relative;
- is part of a group travelling/staying together and an adult is accompanying the group, for instance, a school group;
If a foster carer/relative who is not a parent or guardian will have responsibility for the child’s care while in the UK, then the applicant is required to provide the following information so as to satisfy the immigration officer that sufficient arrangements for a child’s reception and care have been made for his/her stay in the UK:
- a clearly written statement of consent by the parent or the guardian;
- the name as well as the date of birth of foster carer in the UK;
- the address at which the child/applicant will be residing in the UK;
- child’s relationship to the foster carer;
- authority from the parent(s) or the legal guardian allowing the foster carer to take necessary care of the child during his/her stay in the UK;
- if a child is on an educational exchange visit to the UK, which lasts longer than twenty-eight (28) days and the child is not accompanied by his/her parent or guardian, then a letter from the school is required to include details of the foster carer in the UK;
- confirmation that the parents either have notified or will notify the relevant local authority in the UK, and also the reply from the local authority if they have one;
During the application assessment process, reasonable and necessary efforts will be made to ensure the genuineness of the documents.
- In England and Wales – private foster care arrangements are required to be notified to the relevant local authority by:
- the parents and/or other carers of a child;
- other parties, such as an education provider, to the arrangements;
- the Home Office if that has not been done already;
- In Scotland – The regulations require that a parent/guardian/relative to:
- notify the local authority that arrangements for the private fostering of the child have been under the 1984 Act;
- make provision for local authority to investigate the appropriateness of such private foster care arrangements in the interest of the child (regulations 4 to 6) and for visiting of such foster child by the local authority (regulation 7);
- In Northern Ireland – The regulations are similar to those in England. Health and social care trusts are required to be notified of the private foster care arrangements for more than 28 days about children either under sixteen (16) years of age or under eighteen (18) years of age with disability;
Child’s Visit Exceeding Twenty Eight (28) Days
If a child’s visit exceeds 28 days, under child foster care arrangements host family is required to provide evidence to satisfy the immigration officer that the host family have contacted the relevant local Social Services for assessment. If a home assessment has already been undertaken, completed and approved, then an evidence of this end is required to be provided.
If a council declines to conduct such an assessment, then the response of the council and any relevant evidence to establish that adequate arrangements have been made, for the child’s visit and stay in the UK, is required to be provided by the applicant.
E) Child Visiting to Stay with a Host Family
If proper care arrangements are made in the UK for a visiting child, then the visit visa application is likely to be refused.
During the assessment process, various checks can make depending on whether the child is accompanied by an adult or travelling alone. In any case, it is imperative to furnish a clear record of the person responsible for child’s welfare in the home country and also during the stay in the UK.
A letter from the host family should provide a clear identity and address of the host family in the UK, along with the details of the proper care arrangements for child’s reception and stay in the UK.
If at the border a child is not able to present any suitable documentary evidence for the care arrangements in the UK the Home Office will ensure that the child is not at risk.
F) Charity Organising a Child’s Visit to the UK
Charities are required to complete the registration form for facilitating a child’s visits to UK host family and needs to provide the following information if they are involved in organising a child’s visit to the UK:
- complete details of the host allocated to accommodate a child’s stay in the UK;
- complete details of checks on the host family – the checks should be in agreement with charity’s own child protection policy and requirements of Charities Commission or Devolved Authority, for instance, Disclosure and Barring checks;
- the charity should inform whether either this is child’s first visit or a subsequent visit to the UK, that is sponsored by the charity for the child;
During the assessment process, the immigration officer needs to be satisfied that the charity has conducted the appropriate checks and tt the time of child’s visit visa application, DBS checks were not conducted more than three (3) years ago.
Charities are required to notify posts of any changes in their registration details. It is recommended that charities provide up-to-date details on an annual basis.
Allocating a New Host Family in the UK
Only in exceptional circumstances, a charity can change the allocated host family, which is also stated on the visa application form, of a child in the UK.
Full details of the new host family and the checks carried out on them are required to be provided.
When Border Force officers have a good reason to believe that a host family of a child in the UK have changed, for instance, if an adult accompanying the child is not the one named on the child’s visitor visa, the Border Force will check the CRS record or check with the Post to confirm whether the applicant/charity has notified the change. If not, the officer is required to be satisfied that the relevant checks on the new host family have been made. If they have not, and the officer is not satisfied that adequate care arrangements are in place, the application should be refused.
Where children are not residing with host families (for example in cases where they may be residing in residential centres), charities are required to provide full details of the arrangements.
G) Accompanied Children with Visa Nationals
Issuing an accompanied visa to a child
If a child is travelling in the company of an adult, then an adult’s name and passport number are included on the child’s visa.
If the child intends to travel with two (2) adults one after another during the validity of the visa (for instance, the child may arrive with one (1) parent and then travel for a day’s trip to France with the other), each of the parents’s passport numbers will be entered on the vignette.
Accompanied Children at the UK Border
If a child is not travelling with the adult identified on their visa, he/she may be refused.
If there are concerns about the identity of the accompanying adult, then:
- checks are made on the passport number, initial and surname in the passport of the accompanying adult against the details recorded for the child’s visa on the CRS computer record;
- the immigration advises the post that issued the visa for making a note against the record, in case subsequent application(s) are made by the same applicant;
In cases where the accompanying adult has travelled with the child but remains airside and does not accompany the child into the UK, the terms of the visa will not be met.
Further enquiries will be made of the child and that of the accompanying adult if the latter can be found. In such cases, a child may be refused entry.
If the accompanying adult has legitimately obtained a replacement passport since the issue of the child’s visa, the old cancelled passport is acceptable as evidence of identity to allow the child’s entry.
If the original passport has been retained by the issuing authority, the new passport is acceptable if it:
- gives the original passport number in full;
- contains an official endorsement confirming it replaces the previous passport;
Photocopies of the original passport are not, on their own, reliable evidence of identity.
H) Unaccompanied Children
Special attention is given to the applications and to the circumstances of a child coming to the UK on their own.
A child with an ‘unaccompanied visitor visa’ may travel with or without an accompanying adult. For instance, he/she may have got a multi-entry visa and not be able to advise in advance that with whom he/she will travel with on subsequent trips to the UK.