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MPs publish report criticising UK visit visa process

18 July 2019 Iain Halliday Blog

Earlier this week a cross-party group of MPs published a highly critical report on the Home Office’s treatment of visit visa applicants from Africa. The report was issued jointly by three All Party Parliamentary Groups: the APPG for Africa; the APPG for Diaspora, Development and Migration; and the APPG for Malawi. It forms part of an ongoing inquiry into the high level of visa refusals for Africans seeking to visit the UK for professional or business reasons. I gave evidence to their inquiry back in January 2019 and was asked to review and comment on a draft of the report prior to publication.

Common issues, often experience with all types of immigration applications, are addressed in the report including: the practical and logistical barriers to applying such as difficulty obtaining appointments; inconsistent and careless decision making; perceived lack of procedural fairness due to ambiguous guidelines meaning people do not know what is required of them; financial discrimination in decision making due to the common assumption in refusal letters that those who are not well off will not comply with the terms of their visit visa; perceived gender and racial bias; and the lack of accountability, oversight, or right of appeal meaning that poor quality decisions are left unchallenged. This last one is particularly important as without any external quality control, decision makers do not learn from their mistakes.

The report focuses on visit visa applications from Africa, however many of the above criticisms have wider application. Anyone who has submitted a visa application recently will know of the practical and logistical barriers caused by the Home Office’s “commercial partners” VFS Global and Sopra Steria (see here, here and here for recent examples of when I took to twitter to vent my frustration and here for my colleague Darren Stevenson’s Free Movement blog on the absolute state of the UK visa application system at the moment). Unfortunately poor quality decisions and lack of accountability is also prevalent throughout the immigration system, not just with visit visa applications from Africa.

Hopefully the report published earlier this week will ensure that the problems faced by those applying to come to, and stay in, the UK reach a wider audience and encourage public debate on whether the system is fit for purpose. Public outcry seems to be the only way to force the Home Office to take action. The report has already been covered by the Financial Times and by Harriet Grant and Nesrine Malik in the Guardian. The full report can be read here and my summary of its findings can be read on the Free Movement blog here.   

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