Perhaps, there could be a host of reasons for visiting the UK. Accordingly, the UK visitor visa application process starts with the reason or need of visiting the UK and culminates when an applicant gets the decision. Certainly, the decision is an outcome of the UK visitor visa assessment process, which evaluates the overall credibility of the applicant. Therefore, this post is an effort to explain the UK visitor visa application assessment process.
What is the UK visitor visa application assessment process?
In the light of Immigration Rules, the decision maker i.e. usually, an Entry Clearance Officer (ECO), assesses a UK visitor visa application. Perhaps, in the light of Paragraph V 4.2 of the Immigration Rules, the centrum illud of the assessment process is to evaluate an applicant’s genuine intentions to visit the UK on the principle of balance of probabilities. However, for proving genuine intentions the onus of proof is on the applicant. Therefore, the immigration officer only evaluates the proof submitted by the applicant in light of the immigration rules. And accordingly, makes a decision!
How to pass the UK visitor visa application assessment process?
For passing the UK visitor visa application assessment process, an applicant needs to meet the UK visit visa requirements so as 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
What is the meaning of onus of proof?
An applicant needs to provide clear and conclusive evidence to establish his/her personal circumstance and credibility. Certainly, a failure to do so is one of the very common UK Visit Visa refusal reason. Accordingly, 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 is quite likely to conclude by raising questions about the credibility and genuine intentions of visiting the UK.
What is the meaning of balance of probabilities?
In the context of the UK visitor visa application assessment, the balance of probabilities means the overall credibility of the applicant and authenticity of the evidence. Please note: in the assessment process there is no room for benefit of doubt i.e. if the decision maker has even an iota of doubt about the credibility then the likely outcome is a refusal.
How much time the assessment process may take?
The UK visitor visa application assessment process is not an open-ended process. Usually, the ECO does not take much time to decide an application. Therefore, in most of the cases, the assessment process (i.e. reviewing the GWF Application Form and the supporting documents) should not take more than a few hours- perhaps even less. Accordingly, the decision maker forms an opinion about the credibility of the applicant and decides accordingly. However, in only a few instances, the ECO may like to verify the documents, request for additional documents or interview the applicant then it may delay the decision-making process. However, if any case, what is important is the outcome and not the time duration.
UK visitor visa application assessment: the possible outcomes
Usually, the assessment process concludes with the following four types of decisions:
- Grant of visitor visa as per the request of the applicant. For instance, grant of 6-months or 2 years multiple entry visa if an applicant has applied for either a 6-months or 2 years visa, respectively.
- Borderline decisions: grants of a visitor visa, which is less than the expectations of an applicant. For instance, the ECO grants a single entry visa for 30 days, instead of the 6-months multiple entry visa.
- If during the UK visa assessment process the ECO doubts the intentions of an applicant then instead of granting a visitor visa, the passport is returned with a Refusal Letter, stating the refusal reasons. Please note: there is no right of appeal for UK visitor visa refusal. However, an applicant can either reapply or challenge refusal through judicial review.
- A refusal on the suitability grounds, which may also include a re-entry ban or 10-year deception ban.
A few words about the implications of Borderline Decisions
As explained above, a borderline decision may yield a favourable outside. However, the result may not commensurate with the expectations of an applicant. Perhaps, the most common example of a borderlines decision is to get a short term visitor visa even after paying the fee for a long-term visitor visa. For instance, an applicant, applying for a 2-year visitor visa for business purpose, may end up getting a 6-months visa if he/she fails to explain the need for recurring visits to the UK.
Factors affecting the UK visitor visa application assessment
Perhaps, during the UK standard visitor visa application assessment process, the decision maker usually takes into account the following aspects:
- The Purpose of Visiting the UK
- What could be a credible reason for visiting the UK?
- Financial and Personal Circumstances of an Applicant
- Ties to the country of residence
- Changes in the circumstances (for repeat visitors)
- Immigration and Travel History of the applicant
- Compliance with the UK Immigration Rules (for repeat visitors)
- Travels and Trips to Other Countries
- Failure to Comply with the Immigration Law of other countries
- Duration of Foreign Trips
- Period of Time Spend in the UK
- Is a visitor visa applicant making the UK his/her main home (for repeat visitors)
- Assessment of the duration and frequency of visiting the UK
- The risk perception of an applicant’s country of residence
- The Situation of an Applicant’s Country of Residence
- The Degree of Non-Compliance to Immigration Rules
- Other possible grounds for doubting the intentions
- Previous History of Deception
- Discrepancies of Statements
- Information Not Verifiable
- Information and Reasons Not Credible
- Baggage Search at the Border
1) The Purpose of Visiting the UK
In the assessment, it is carefully scrutinised whether the information provided, especially the reasons stated for either visiting or extending stay by an applicant are credible.
What could be a credible reason for visiting the UK?
The credibility of purpose means whether the reasons correspond to an applicant’s personal, family, economic and social background or not. For instance, a family member such as parent applying for a visit visa to meet their son or daughter is a credible reason. Likewise, an avid traveller applying for a visa to see the sights and sounds of London is also a credible reason. However, an unemployed person with weak personal, social and economic ties, applying a UK visitor visa application for tourism is not a credible reason. Therefore, if the ECO finds reasonable grounds to judge that the information provided by an applicant is incongruent with the applicant’s background then it is quite a sufficient condition for a refusal decision.
2) Financial and Personal Circumstances of an Applicant
Perhaps, in terms with paragraph V 4.2, an applicant needs to prove that he/she will be able to meet the trip cost. Accordingly, would be able to maintain and accommodate him/herself during the trip without recourse to public funds. Therefore, it is necessary during the UK visitor visa application assessment process to evaluate the evidence relating to the stable income and savings of an applicant. Moreover, the decision maker also assesses an applicant’s ties to the country of residence.
What is the meaning of weak ties to the country of residence?
In the context of UK visitor visa application, weak ties mean that an applicant has only a limited number of family, economic, social, professional and business ties to the country of residence. Moreover, 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 living in the UK with no full-time employment/study status in the country of residence may be deemed to have few ties with the home country.
Changes in the circumstances (for repeat visitors)
A repeat visitor is a person who has already travelled to the UK in the past on either one or more than one occasions for undertaking any permitted activity in the UK such as tourism, business and visiting family. Therefore, in case of a repeat visitor visa application, it is necessary for the decision maker to look for changes in the circumstances of an applicant since his/her last trip to the UK. Certainly, the decision decides a repeat application on the principle of balance of probabilities, and there is no room for giving the benefit of doubt to the applicant!
Accordingly, the ECO carefully considers and evaluates all the relevant information before reaching an appropriate decision. Therefore, 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. Likewise, a reapplication after a refusal can become successful, if an applicant is able to prove his/her credibility.
3) Immigration and Travel History of an applicant
Perhaps, if an applicant has no or limited travel history then the chances of getting a favourable decision are quite slim, especially it the purpose is tourism. However, an applicant’s travel and immigration history is not the only consideration during the UK visitor visa application assessment. Certainly, travel history provides useful information about the credibility of an applicant.
Compliance with the UK Immigration Rules
For repeat visitors, a pattern of previous visits to the UK may indicate that an applicant has complied with the UK Immigration Rules. Certainly, this increases the balances of probabilities in the UK visitor visa application assessment process.
Travels and Trips to Other Countries
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. Moreover, a clean travel history also indicates that an applicant is a law-abiding person.
Failure to Comply with the Immigration Law of other countries
Perhaps, if an applicant has failed to comply with any other country’s immigration laws in the past then this may negatively impact the decision. 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 refusal but may reduce the balance of probabilities.
4) Duration of Foreign Trips to the UK and Other Countries
Certainly, the duration of past trips to the UK and other countries is an important consideration during the UK visitor visa application assessment process. Perhaps, the length of time, along with frequency, gives an indication of the purpose of visiting and also ties to the home country.
Moreover, for repeat visitors, the decision maker may check for discrepancies between the formerly stated length of stay on the UK visitor visa application and actual details (from an independent source) of an applicant’s journey to the UK. If there are discrepancies then this may not necessarily yield a refusal decision. However, quite certainly, raise questions about the overall credibility of an applicant.
Period of Time Spend in the UK
Many visitors have a habit of extending their visits in the UK beyond the originally planned duration. For instance, a visitor’s family in the UK may request to prolong the stay in the UK. Perhaps, the applicants should certainly be mindful of the cumulative time period of their UK visit. And also the time spent in the UK during the preceding twelve (12) months before making a new visitor visa application. Certainly, spending time beyond the stated time duration on the visitor visa application leads to doubt the intentions. Accordingly, the decision maker may become doubtful whether an applicant has made the UK the ‘de-facto’ residence or not.
5) Is a visitor visa applicant making the UK his/her main home?
For repeat visitors to the UK, the assessment process takes into the past trips of the applicant to the UK. Accordingly, the UK visitor visa application assessment process takes into account the duration of stay in the UK. And also the frequency of visiting the UK.
Assessment of the duration and frequency of visiting the UK
The frequency and duration of visits are scrutinised in the UK visitor visa application assessment process. According, this evaluate: whether a repeat visitor is making the UK his/her main home or not. Perhaps, this can be done by looking at the following aspects of a UK 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 the return journey that an applicant is making to his/her home country? Is this nothing more than just to seek 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 the children of the applicant attending schools in the UK?
- 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 the British or settled family in the UK.
6) The risk perception of an applicant’s country of residence
Certainly, an ECO has the necessary information relating to the situation of an applicant’s country of residence. Therefore, the political, economic and security situation of an applicant’s country of residence and nationality are important considerations during the UK visitor visa application assessment process.
Assessment of country risk for UK visitor visa application
The country risk means the overall political, economic and security conditions of an applicant’s country of residence. Accordingly, during the UK visitor visa application assessment process, the decision maker may raise questions such as:
- is the applicant’s home country politically unstable?
- is the applicant’s country of residence in a conflict zone?
- are there imminent risks that the country will become politically unstable in the near future?
Accordingly, these macro signals could lead to doubt the intentions of an applicant to leave the UK. Therefore, applicants applying from countries where there is social and political turmoil needs 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.
The Overall Degree of Non-Compliance to Immigration Rules
In the light of the empirical and statistical data, the ECO also assesses a UK visitor visa application against the overall noncompliance to the Immigration Rules by the nationals/citizens of a country from which an applicant is making an application. Accordingly, this means that applicants belonging to countries that have a higher rate of non-compliance with Immigration Rules are more likely to go through a much rigorous and thorough assessment process.
7) Other possible grounds for doubting the intentions
Perhaps, apart from the aforesaid, there are many additional factors that may be considered during the assessment process. However, some of the more common reasons for doubting an applicant’s intentions are:
Previous History of Deception and UK visitor visa application
The credibility of an applicant may becomes doubtful if 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 used deception or have attempted to use deception in 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
Certainly, the credibility becomes doubtful, if there are discrepancies in the declarations of an applicant and his/her sponsor. Perhaps, the credibility may become even more doubtful if a sponsor is expected to know the information reasonably well.
Information provided with the UK visitor visa application
If after several attempts the decision maker is not able to verify the information provided by an applicant. Then this will surely create an applicant’s credibility quite doubtful.
Information and Reasons Not Credible
If the information provided or the reason(s) stated in an application/interview are prima facie, not logical and reliable.
Baggage Search at the Border
In case if an applicant’s baggage is searched at the border. And accordingly, it reveals possession of items, which demonstrates that the visitor has plans/intentions to either work or live in the UK. Then perhaps, a record of such an instance would greatly undermine the credibility of any subsequent UK visitor visa application.
For further information please refer: UK visit visa extension, Tier 1 Entrepreneur ILR, UK visa processing time Jordan, Why UK visitor visa cancelled?, maintenance funds PBS applications, Bereaved partner ILR