Many of us have experienced the sorrow of not being able to visit our relatives in recent times, but for some living in the UK, this has become a permanent situation. British citizens have not seen family members for years because their relatives are not British and do not live here. When the relatives apply to come and see their family in the UK, for a short visit of up to six months, they receive a swift, cut and paste visit visa refusal from the Home Office. In 2019, 13% of visit visa applications were refused.
That is thousands and thousands of visit visa refusals.
Some countries are seen as high risk when it comes to visit visas. The Home Office seems to believe that anyone coming from, say, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Iran cannot possibly be a genuine visitor and so will not be returning to their home country at the end of the visit. Or they will have no money and will start using public services. To the Home Office they are another boat migrant trying to sneak into Britain by the back door.
To a very limited extent, the Home Office view is justified. In Britain it is estimated that there are between 600,000 and 1.2 million undocumented (otherwise known as illegal) migrants. Some definitely arrived as visitors and never went home. We cannot know how many because we do not know the exact number of undocumented migrants.
So some abuse the system but everyone gets punished. It reminds me of school when a teacher punished the entire class for wrongdoing by one of its members. It is deeply unfair.
We know that the Home Office uses a ‘streaming tool’ that automates the risk analysis of visit visa applications. We are not sure how it works. The suspicion is that it calculates the risk of a fraudulent visa application by marking applicants according to age and nationality for example. Such a system immediately puts an applicant at a disadvantage if they are from a poor, unstable country regardless of their personal situation.
A visitor needs to show two things:
Some visit visa refusals are due to funds being transferred from the person in the UK to the visitor ahead of the trip. The Home Office do not like this as they believe it is an attempt to make the visitor look richer than they are.
The traveller has to explain why they want to come and where they will go. The evidence must be in good order and made on the right online form. There is no room for mistakes with these applications.
What happens time and time again is that the evidence should be sufficient but the decision maker at the Home Office finds a tenuous reason to refuse. They do not believe the bank statements are genuine. They do not find the holiday plans realistic (making comments that a particular tourist attraction is too far away for a day trip and so it cannot be a genuine application). Or the decision maker decides that the holiday will cost the visitor five times their annual salary and this is too much for a genuine application (even if the relatives here can fund everything).
It is likely that the decision maker does not have much time to consider applications and research shows that this is particularly the case for applications from Africa, Iran and Pakistan. The result is bad decisions and blatant mistakes. One visit visa refusal we received on behalf of a client stated that that the Home Office did not believe she would return to Jamaica. She was not from Jamaica. It was a cut and paste job which we successfully challenged. One mentioned property in Lebanon – the property was in Iraq.
Ultimately the Home Office will simply say that the person living in the UK can go and visit their relatives but this ignores the wishes of a son who wants his parents to see how he and his family live in the UK and show them his home or the sister who wants her siblings at her wedding. Or the daughter who wants her mother with her when her baby is born.
This policy certainly leaves out those who cannot return to their home country – such as an Iranian/British dual national who would be in danger in Iran or a former refugee who cannot return. This leads to human rights issues and it is possible to appeal against visit visa refusals on these grounds.
The visit visa policy in the UK is highly questionable. While nationals of some countries can just turn up at the airport, get a stamp and stay in the UK for up to 6 months, others who live in lower income countries have to apply for a visa ahead of time and, all too often, receive a blunt, heartless and dubious visit visa refusal.
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