Family Visitor Visa Application Appeals

Today, the Crime and Courts Bill has been published. It contains a clause to remove the full right of appeal for refusal of a family visit visa. Refused applicants will still be able to appeal on limited grounds (human rights or race discrimination). Subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, this change is expected to come into force by 2014.

In June 2012, the Government will be introducing secondary legislation which in the meantime will tighten the family and sponsor definitions used in family visit visa appeals. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the secondary legislation will come into force in July 2012. The full right of appeal will be limited to those applying to visit a close family member: those applying to visit a cousin, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew will no longer have access to a full right of appeal. To engage a full right of appeal, the person being visited in the UK will also have to have settled, refugee or humanitarian protection status.

These changes only affect applicants who have been refused a visa to visit family in the UK. No changes are being made to the rules governing who can qualify to enter the UK as a visitor and genuine visitors are welcome.

These changes are being made following the Family Migration consultation that the Home Office ran between July and October 2011. There were more than 5,000 responses to the consultation and 3,400 responses on the question of whether the appeal right should be retained. 39 per cent of these respondents felt that a full right of appeal should not be retained for this category. 28 per cent felt that it should. 33 per cent gave no opinion.

The UK Border Agency said they are removing the full appeal right because:

“The appeal right does not serve the purpose it was intended to when re-introduced in 2000. It was meant to be self-financing and fast. It is neither: these appeals cost around £29 million a year to process and can take up to 8 months to reach a conclusion. There were expected to be up to 20,000 appeals a year; we receive more than twice that many (49,400 in 2010-11).

Expenditure on family visit visa appeals is a disproportionate use of taxpayer funding for the benefit sought. No other category of visit visa (e.g. business, tourist) attracts a full right of appeal. Family visitor appeals make up over a third of all immigration appeals going through the system. They are a disproportionate burden on the appeal system when the UK Border Agency and HM Courts and Tribunals Service should be giving greater priority to cases that have far-reaching impacts, such as asylum claims, settlement applications and the deportation of foreign criminals;

In many cases new evidence is provided at the appeal which should have been submitted with the original application. Applicants should re-apply to the UK Border Agency if they wish to provide additional information in support of a visa application, not use the Tribunal as a second application. A decision on an application will be received much more quickly than an appeal, typically 15 days, in comparison with the appeal route which can take up to 8 months.

The UK Border Agency will be able to concentrate on its core visa business when the responsibility of processing 40-50,000 appeals is lifted from visa staff. This will result in improved customer service and decision making.

We are not stopping anybody visiting family in the UK. The rules to qualify for entry are not being changed and are the same for tourists and family visitors and each application is considered on its merits. If an applicant meets the rules they will be granted a visa.

Further changes following the family migration consultation will be announced in due course.

As well as removing the full right of appeal for family visit visas, the Bill also includes provisions relating to UK Border Agency investigatory and other powers.