Of note were the Independent Chief Inspector’s findings on the reasonableness of the Home Office decisions. All those decisions that were deemed to be 'unreasonable' related to applications that, according to the Chief Inspector, should have been refused.

One of the interesting figures that was highlighted in the report was the sharp increase in Tier 1 (entrepreneur) applications submitted in country; applications rose by 1,520% between February 2012 and December 2012. Application submission figures remained high in July 2013 at 700%. This created a backlog of applications awaiting a decision in Sheffield with the average processing time being 63 days compared to seven and a half days for applications submitted overseas.

The report made a number of recommendations to the Home Office which include:

  • the quality of Home Office decision-making on Tier 1 (entrepreneur) applications must be improved – this is because 37.5% of decisions on these applications were found to have been unreasonable;
  • personal data must be stored securely and in line with Data Protection Act requirements – this is following the discovery that these applications, which often contain sensitive information, were being held in crates in open plan offices overnight;
  • application intake forecasts must better reflect the potential consequences of policy changes so that a build-up, and subsequent back-log, of applications can be prevented; and
  • the reasons for Home Office decisions on applications must be properly evidenced and recorded – lack of a proper record being kept in 42% of cases meant that the reasonableness of the decisions could not be assessed.

The Home Office’s response to the report can be found here.