The new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules purport to implement the Home Office's efforts to reduce confusion for applicants and case-workers in relation to visit visas. The link to the Statement of Changes is https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/407476/HC_1025_Immigration_Rules.pdf. It runs to some 243 pages (not all on the visitor rules but evidence of the complicated nature of Immigration Law.)
As from April 2015, there will be four types of visit visas.
1. Visit (standard) will replace the following existing categories:-
Visitors for private medical treatment
Visitors under the Approved Destination Status Agreement with China
Visitors undertaking clinical attachments, Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination
And will generally allow a visitor to enter the UK for six months, except:
- A visitor who is coming to the UK for private medical treatment who may be granted a visit visa of up to eleven months; or
- An academic, who is employed by an overseas institution, and is carrying out certain permitted activities can, along with their spouse or partner and children, be granted a visa of up to twelve months; or
- A visitor under the Approved Destination Status Agreement (ADS Agreement) may be granted a visit visa for a period of up to thirty days
The three other categories of visit visa will be :-
2. Marriage/Civil Partnership visit - issued to allow the applicant to visit the UK to marry or form a Civil Partnership, or give notice of this, and this will be issued for up to six months
3. Permitted paid engagement visits - will allow an applicant to do certain paid engagements, as set out in the Immigration Rules for up to one month
4. Transit visa - which simply allows the applicant to transit the UK, which will be issued for up to forty-eight hours
The student visitor route has now been re-branded into a new short-term study route, which sits outside of the visitor Rules.
The Home Office have tried to present the Rules in as "plain English" form as possible. The first part sets out the distinction between visa nationals, who must obtain a visit visa before they arrive in the UK, and a non-visa national, who can apply for a visit visa before they come to the UK, but is not required to do so, unless they are visiting the UK to marry, or to form a Civil Partnership, or give notice of this, or seeking to visit the UK for more than six months.
The Immigration Rules set out in Appendix 2 who is a visa national.
Part 2 of the Rules deals with the mechanics of making an application for a visit visa, whereas Part 3 sets out the Suitability Requirements for all visitors - these are requirements, which essentially relate to an applicant's good character and immigration history. The eligibility requirements for a standard visit visa are set out at V(4), and those requirements are:
- That the applicant will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and
- Will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home; and
- Is generally seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes; and
- Will not undertake any prohibited activities, as set out in the Rules; and
- 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 dependence, and the cost planned activities, such as private medical treatment
- The Rules also address situations where funds, maintenance and accommodation are provided by third parties. This was not previously covered specifically by the Immigration Rules. This is important, for example, for family and friends who may be meeting the costs of the visit visa. V4.3 of the Rules states that: "A visitor's travel, maintenance and accommodation may be provided by the third party where the decision-maker is satisfied that they: a)Have a genuine professional or personal relationship with the visitor; and b)Are legally present in the UK, or will be at the time of the visitor's entry to the UK; and c)Can and will provide support to the visitor for the intended duration of there stay. The third party may be asked to give an undertaking in writing to be responsible for the applicant's maintenance and accommodation.
To challenge a visit visa refusal in the Immigration Courts, arguments are limited to Human Rights Grounds. There has been one recent decision - Mostafa (Article 8 in Entry Clearance)  UKUT 00112 (IAC), where President McCloskey comments on the relationship between the Immigration Rules and a Human Rights appeal. The President held that where a person meets the terms of the Immigration Rules, their appeal would normally be allowed on Human Rights Grounds, assuming that Human Rights are engaged in some way in the first place.
The Immigration team at Drummond Miller would be happy to advise on the implications of these Rules, and the prospects of success of any challenge against a visit visa refusal. Please do contact us if you are looking for immigration advice.