New changes to the current visit visa categories will take effect for all visit visa applications made on or after 24 April 2015.

The purported aim of the new changes is to simplify the visitor category to make it easier for genuine visitors to come to the UK and seem more an exercise in re-writing the existing rules rather than seeking to make any significant changes to the existing requirements to enter the UK as a visitor.

The proposals include the use of ‘plain language’ to make the rules clearer and a streamlining of the number of visa categories from the existing fourteen to a much more manageable four:

  • Visit (standard)
  • Marriage / Civil Partnership Visit
  • Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) Visit
  • Transit Visit

There is also the introduction of a new undertaking that a sponsor can be asked to give for a standard visitor which could possibly help reduce the high number of refusals but this does not go as far as the much-talked about “Visitor’s Bond” which proposed a sum to be paid up front as a security by the sponsor in the UK to ensure that the visitor returned home at the end of their visit.

The new provisions are contained within a new Appendix to the existing Immigration Rules, Appendix V. Unfortunately Appendix V appears poorly drafted and difficult to navigate as the reader is required to cross reference the new provisions against the existing rules and sub appendices in order to properly understand it.

Similarly although on the face of it reducing the number of categories of visitor has the potential to simplify the existing system, the reality is quite the reverse. For example under the Visit (standard) heading there are still different eligibility criteria for visitors who are children, seeking private medical treatment, donating an organ, ADS agreement visitors and academics seeking a 12 month visit visa. Similarly the length of a ‘standard’ visit visa can equally vary depending on the reasons for the visit.  This seems to effectively re-establish the different visa categories that the changes sought to streamline.

Arguably the most disappointing element of the new provisions is that there is still no right of appeal to challenge refusals.  We have experience of a high level of visitor refusals especially for family visitors even where relatives have visited the UK without any difficulty in the past and have good immigration histories. Previously we have had a good success rate of challenging these decisions on appeal but now this is not possible.

Without a means of challenging a refusal it is even more important to get it right first time. Our specialist team can provide advice and assistance in preparing an application to ensure that sufficient supporting documentation is provided to show that the visitor meets the requirements of the Immigration Rules thereby reducing the risk of refusal.