What is a ‘genuine visitor’?
A prospective visitor to the UK must satisfy the entry clearance officer that they are a ‘genuine visitor’, and will meet the immigration rules governing visits to the UK. The following (from the Home Office Guidance) are the questions which will be asked in assessing whether the applicant is a ‘genuine visitor’:-
“if the applicant is a genuine visitor:
- do they intend to undertake permitted activities and leave at the end of their stay
- are you satisfied they will not be living in the UK or making the UK their home through frequent and successive visits
- will they be doing any prohibited activities
- do they have sufficient funds, maintenance and accommodation for the duration of their stay”
Common reasons for refusal of a UK visit visa application
The following sets out common reasons for refusal based on assessing whether the applicant is a ‘genuine visitor’ based on the above criteria:-
“Do they intend to undertake permitted activities/will they be doing any prohibited activities …?”
Purpose of the visit
Lack of detail about the purpose of the visit may lead to reasons for refusal which either question the length of the visit or the plans which have been made for the visit, including arrangements made for accommodation. If the reason for the visit is not clear, there may be an assumption that the applicant is not being candid about wishing to come to the UK just to visit. The permitted/prohibited activities referred to generally mean taking up employment (paid or voluntary).
Reasons for refusal which question the applicant’s finances are likely to be rooted in the concern that the applicant may not be intending to visit but rather is intending to work – working is prohibited for visitors except in very limited circumstances.
The reasons for refusal may challenge why an applicant’s employer has agreed to the length of the visit (is the employment at home real, or will the job be lost after such a long absence?), or why an applicant would spend the whole of their savings or so much of their income for the visit, or whether or not the funds belong to the applicant. The origin of funds deposited in a bank account may come into question, and entries on bank statements in particular may be queried. It is therefore important to give straightforward and thorough information about all the financial elements of the visit, both in respect of how the visit will be financed (see below) and about the applicant’s financial affairs in their home country.
“(Do they intend to) leave at the end of their stay?”
“Are you satisfied they will not be living in the UK or making the UK their home through frequent and successive visits?”
The essence of a visit visa is that it is a visit – and that the applicant will return to their home country at the end of the visit. Frequent and successive visits will lead to considerations of broader questions about the applicant’s life in their home country and their travel history.
Ties to their home country
If an applicant has not indicated that they have active involvement with family and community in their home country, this may lead to an assumption that the applicant has nothing to return to and thus intends to remain in the UK, and a refusal for this reason.
Travel and immigration history
Considerations about whether the applicant has a ‘track record’ of visiting other countries, and the extent to which they have complied with the requirements of the visas issued for those countries (including during previous visits to the UK), may feature as part of the reasons for refusal. This reflects a concern that the applicant wishes to come to the UK for more than a visit, and will not leave at the end of the visit. The Home Office guidance clearly sets out what will be taken into account, and why:-
“A pattern of travel that shows the applicant has previously complied with UK immigration law may indicate the applicant is a genuine visitor. As might travel to other countries, especially the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Schengen countries or Switzerland.”
Reasons for refusal from previous applications also are often repeated where there has been no reference to a change in the circumstances which led to the refusal.
Too many visits to the UK
These refusals generally concern longer-term multiple visit visa holders, but will be attracted by applicants who have not provided evidence of the reason/s for visiting the UK for successive or lengthy periods within one year or successive years.
“Do they have sufficient funds, maintenance and accommodation for the duration of their stay?”
Such refusals can include questions about a sponsor’s ability to provide sponsorship for the visit. Refusals may occur where straightforward and detailed evidence has not been provided about the funding for the visit, the costs of the visit (food, accommodation, travel within the UK etc) and what funds are available to the applicant from his or her own resources to meet these costs. If detailed information about the finances available for the visit is not provided, a conclusion that the applicant intends to work in the UK or seek access to public funds may be drawn.
Can previous visit visa refusals be overcome?
A fresh application following a visit visa refusal must deal with the concerns raised in the previous reasons for refusal, as discussed above. In addition, providing straightforward evidence with the fresh visit visa application using the visit visa rules, should satisfy an entry clearance officer or border official that the applicant is a ‘genuine visitor’ notwithstanding previous refusals.