Visit Visa Unfairness: The Home Office U-Turn on the Andrea Gada case highlights difficult it is to gain entry clearance as a general or family visitor
Visit visas have long proved problematic for people wishing to come to the UK for short periods of time.
Just as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur application would require you to pass a ‘Genuine Entrepreneur’ test, it seems that people who only wish to come to the UK for 6 months or less are finding themselves unable to convince Entry Clearance Officers that they are indeed genuine visitors.
If we look carefully at the criteria that applicants are judged against when applying for a visit visa we can see that they essentially break down as follows:
- Whether they intend to leave before the visa expires;
- Whether they can maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants without using public funds and meet the cost of the return or onward journey;
- Whether they intend to live in the UK for extended periods;
- Whether they intend to take employment, produce goods or provide services;
- Whether they intend to take a course of study other than those allowed by the rules;
- Whether they are a child under the age of 18;
- Whether they are looking to come to the UK to marry or enter into a Civil Partnership;
- Whether they have previous issues with immigration;
- Their financial, familial and socio-economic circumstances;
- Their cumulative visits to the UK;
- Their country’s current situation based on reports, information on immigration and non- compliance by individuals from the same geographical region
- Whether there is deceit;
- The credibility and consistency of the applicant and their sponsor’s statements;
Their plans in the UK and accommodation;
- The sponsor’s presence in the UK and their ability and intent to provide support;
Whether they have a genuine relationship with the sponsor;
- Whether the sponsor has previously failed to provide adequate sponsorship.
If the applicant or their sponsor is not convincing enough in any one of the above mentioned areas or if they don’t quite meet the requirement then it is all too likely that they will be refused. Although, it should be noted that guidance for making a decision regarding a visit visa states that this information should not be used for grounds for refusal alone but is relevant in establishing intent.
If the recently publicised case of the Bwanyas is anything to go by it seems that public opinion does not agree with the stringent requirements in place. Stanley, Grace and their daughter Monalisa Faith Bwanya are Zimbabwean nationals who applied for visit visas to come to the UK for the funeral of Andrea Gada, their 5 year old granddaughter and niece, respectively. Their applications were subsequently refused as it was deemed that the family posed the risk of absconding while in the UK, did not have a regular income and had not previously travelled out of Zimbabwe (although this last point was incorrect). This meant that Andrea’s funeral had to be postponed as her mother didn’t wish to hold it without close relatives in attendance.
This begs the question, is it not possible to compromise in such cases as these? The applicants were willing to report to a police station upon arrival if necessary or to perform any other task required of them in order to attend the funeral and there was significant pressure on the government to overturn this decision.
Of course, an Entry Clearance Officer must always evaluate whether or not the applicant poses a risk to the economic security of the UK but to what extent can we say that that is more important than the emotional ramifications of the applicant being refused entry?
If further evidence of intent to return to Zimbabwe had been provided initially would their visas have been granted? Furthermore, how can we quantify intent? A person may have every intention of returning home once their visa expires but have no way of proving it other than with a declaration and a return ticket. If the applicant had no familial ties to their home country and a considerable amount of money in their bank account it could be deemed that they wouldn’t return once their visa expired. However, if they had several family members in their home country but not a significant amount of money in their bank account the same conclusion could be drawn, though there is no provision for the amount of money an applicant must have available to them.
The visit visa is one that seems to rely entirely on the discretion of the Entry Clearance Officer. It is for this reason that we highlight the significance of evidencing ties to your home country, finances and intent to return as these seem to be the most difficult hurdles to overcome. Thankfully, in the case of Bwanyas, the refusal was overturned in light of further evidence supplied by the applicants, public support and assurances from MPs but it is not possible to say that this will be an option for all future applicants. Perhaps we will see a change in criteria or the way in which an applicant is judged against these criteria but, for now, it seems that many people wishing to come to the UK as a visitor will continue to struggle to meet the current requirements and prove themselves to be genuine.
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