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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

How to avoid a visit refusal

20 July 2018 Jack Freeland Immigration

Many applicants believe that the requirements of a visit visa application will not be difficult to satisfy, and that an application for a visa for a temporary or short period of time will likely be granted without much hassle. However, this is not the case, and visit visa applications are commonly refused for a wide variety of reasons, often for what appear to be minor issues to the applicants.

In the year to March 2018 there were 2,388,912 visit visa applications of which around 12% were rejected. This means that around 294,000 visit visa applications were rejected in the year up to March 2018. With such a large number of applications being rejected, we take a look at the requirements and guidance pertaining to the visit visa application, and discuss what evidence and documentation might improve the success rate under this route.

Appendix V 

Introduced in April 2015, the regulations governing the entry of visitors to the UK are set out in appendix V of the Immigration Rules. A visitor is defined as ‘a person who is coming to the UK, usually for up to six months, for a temporary purpose, for example as a tourist, to visit friends of family or to carry out a business activity.’

The rules in Appendix V broadly split the requirements into two main categories of suitability and eligibility. The suitability requirements, set out in paragraph V3, are fairly standard and can be found across all forms of visa applications. An applicant might be considered to be unsuitable for a visit visa if they:

  • Have a criminal record or are not considered conducive to the public good.
  • Have previously breached UK immigration laws

It is, however, not the suitability requirements which have led to controversy over the way the Home Office makes decisions under this route.


More contentious are the eligibility criteria, set out in paragraph V4 of Appendix V, which provide that the following two requirements must be met:

Genuine intention to visit

V 4.2 The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor. This means that the applicant:

(a) will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and

(b) will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home; and

(c) is genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes (these are listed in Appendices 3, 4 and 5); and

(d) will not undertake any prohibited activities set out in V 4.5 – V 4.10; and

(e) must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds. This includes the cost of the return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment.

Funds, maintenance and accommodation provided by a third party

V 4.3 A visitor’s travel, maintenance and accommodation may be provided by a third party where the decision maker is satisfied that they:

(a) have a genuine professional or personal relationship with the visitor; and

(b) are not, or will not be, in breach of UK immigration laws at the time of decision or the visitor’s entry to the UK; and

(c) can and will provide support to the visitor for the intended duration of their stay. 

The eligibility criteria, on the face of it, are simple; an applicant must genuinely intend to visit the UK, and must have suitable funds to support their visit. However, when assessing these criteria against the guidance provided to Home Office officials making decisions under this route, it becomes clear that the decision makers have a wide scope for refusal, and the decision starts to become highly subjective. This has led to widespread criticism over the way the Home Office decides visit visa applications.

Scope of decision 

Page 12 of the guidance lists the following factors to help decision makers assess whether or not the applicant is a ‘genuine visitor’:

  • their previous immigration history, including visits to the UK and other countries
  • the duration of previous visits and whether this was significantly longer than they originally stated on their visa application or on arrival
  • their financial circumstances as well as their family, social and economic background
  • their personal and economic ties to their country of residence
  • the cumulative period of time the applicant has visited the UK and their pattern of travel over the last 12 month period, and whether this amounts to ‘de-facto’ residence in the UK
  • whether, in your judgment, the information and the reasons for the visit or for extending their stay provided by the applicant are credible and correspond to their personal, family, social and economic background
  • other information that is relevant to assessing the applicant’s intentions, such as:
    • the applicant’s country of residence and/or country of nationality - this can include the political, economic and security
    • publicly available information [that] indicates that the political and/or economic and/or security situation in the country (or part of the country) in which the applicant has the right to reside permanently is unstable or is a conflict zone because it has significant political or social unrest
    • information [that] indicates that the country or part of a country is a conflict zone
    • information on immigration non-compliance by individuals who applied for a visit visa from the same geographical region as the applicant.

Clearly, the process and criteria for deciding whether an applicant is a ‘genuine visitor’ can be largely subjective and entails wide discretion. A decision maker has discretion to take into account the personal circumstances of an applicant, but also other circumstances that an applicant has no control over. For example, a decision maker has the discretion to account for information which evidences that applicants from a certain geographical location typically breach their visit visa conditions in the UK, or that their ordinary country of residence is in political or economical distress. This goes some way to explain the reason that many visit applications from the Middle-East have been denied in recent years, with further examples being found here and here.

How to avoid a refusal? 

The ‘genuine visitor’ requirement is one that most applicants would consider themselves to satisfy easily, but in reality is the hardest to satisfy and is the most open to interpretation. Any decision made is subjective and reflects the opinion of the decision maker. As this is the case, a successful application cannot be 100% guaranteed. However, below we have set out some of the main factors that we see leading to refusals, and provide some guidance in terms of what documentation might be submitted to increase your chances of success under this route:

  1. Intention to return home
    1. The applicant must provide evidence to demonstrate they have an intention to return home after their visit to the UK. To this end, a decision maker will expect to see evidence:
      1. That you have work, education or family commitments to return to;
      2. That you own/rent property in your home country.
      3. That you have future commitments at home
      4. That you have family ties to your home country; and/or
      5. Any other evidence that demonstrates that you will intend to return to your home country.
  1. Insufficient funds for the trip
    1. Although there is no exact level of funds that needs to be demonstrated by an applicant, the decision maker will require evidence to show that the applicant has ‘sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit.’ To this end, evidence such as pay slips or bank statements should be provided to demonstrate earnings. If the applicant looks to satisfy this requirement by receiving support from a third party, similar evidence from the third party must be included in the application along with information regarding the relationship between the applicant and the third party.
  2. Purpose of the visit to the UK.
    1. Finally, information as to the purpose of the visit to the UK should be provided. If you are coming to the UK to visit someone, or for the purpose of a business trip, a letter of invitation from the individual or business is helpful to demonstrate that the visit is genuine. If you are coming to the UK for the purpose of a gig, show, or performance it is useful to enclose copies of tickets with your application.

There is no set list of documents prescribed by the Home Office that need to be submitted with a visit visa application and the documents listed above are not exhaustive. However, the stronger the evidence submitted the better, and the more evidence that you can provide to convince the Home Office that you satisfy these criteria, the more likely it is that your application should be successful. With no right of appeal available for visit visa applications, it is extremely important that you get it right first time, so we would always suggest that you try to include as much supporting evidence as possible.

Contact McGill & Co UK Immigration Solicitors Today

At McGill & Co, we have significant experience in entry clearance and visit visa applications. If you require assistance with a visit visa application or refusal, please do not hesitate to contact us online online, or call us at our Glasgow office on 0141 248 6552, or at our Edinburgh offices on 0131 228 2083.

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