If your application for entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK has been refused by Home Office, you will want to understand what you should do next. Your options will largely depend on the Home Office’s grounds for the refusal, such as whether the decision not to approve your application was on the basis of failing to meet the suitability or eligibility criteria, or if it has been rejected for being invalid.
In this guide for applicants, we explain what you can do if your visa application is not granted and what your options could be.
Visa application refused on eligibility grounds
In accordance with the guidance issued to Home Office staff, a visa application which does not meet the eligibility requirements for any given immigration route ‘must’ be refused.
You could fail to meet the eligibility requirements of your visa application for all sorts of different reasons, depending on the route under which your application has been made. For example, under the Skilled Worker route, you must meet a sponsorship requirement, a minimum skill requirement, an English language requirement, a financial requirement and, where applicable, a criminal record certificate requirement. In contrast, the dependant of a Skilled Worker must meet a relationship requirement, an age and care requirement for dependent children, a criminal record certificate requirement for dependent partners, as well as a financial requirement for both dependent partners and dependent children.
If an application for either entry clearance or permission to stay is refused on grounds of eligibility, you will not usually be permitted to appeal this decision. However, even if there is no right of appeal, but you think that the Home Office has made an error, you can ask for an ‘administrative review’. This is an internal review in which the Home Office will consider whether an eligible refusal decision is wrong because of a case-working error and, if this is considered to be wrong, that decision will be withdrawn or amended.
There may be factual errors in the Home Office decision, where the caseworker has applied the wrong information about you or misinterpreted the information given to them in support of your application. It is also possible that the caseworker has followed the wrong procedure or rules when they made their decision, or even overlooked important parts of your application, where it is not uncommon for visa centre staff to fail to scan all of an applicant’s supporting documents when they attend an in-person appointment.
You will be notified in your decision letter from the Home Office of the reasons for any refusal. You should also be told if you can ask for the decision to be reviewed, where not everyone will have the right to ask for an administrative review, for example, those applying for Visitor visas do not have the right to a review. The refusal letter should also contain detail as to how to submit an administrative review application, where applicable.
Visa application refused on suitability grounds
In the same way that a visa application which does not meet the eligibility requirements for any given immigration route must be refused by Home Office staff, an application that fails to meet the suitability requirements will also be refused. This could be where, for example, you have a recent or serious criminal record, or where you are thought to have made false representations or submitted false documentation when making your application.
If an application for either entry clearance or permission to stay is refused on grounds of suitability, you will again not usually be permitted to appeal this decision, but if you think that the Home Office has made an error, you can apply for an administrative review. If the refusal decision is one that is eligible for administrative review, you will be notified of this in your decision letter, with details on how to ask for a review.
Again, there may be factual errors in the Home Office decision, for example, it is not uncommon for innocent mistakes on visa applications to be interpreted by Home Office staff as an attempt to mislead or deceive. Equally, the caseworker may have followed the wrong procedure or rules relating to how, for example, any criminality should be treated.
Administrative review process for refused visa application
To request an administrative review of a refusal decision, an online application will need to be submitted using the form at GOV.UK: Ask for a visa administrative review. The timeframe within which to submit a review application will depend on whether you are applying from overseas, for a review of a refusal decision in relation to an application for entry clearance, or from within the UK, for a refusal of an application for permission to stay.
For overseas administrative reviews, ie; entry clearance decisions, the time limit is 28 calendar days from the date you receive the decision notice, whilst for in-country administrative reviews, ie; permission to stay decisions, the time limit is 14 calendar days from receipt of your decision notice. Under the deemed service rules:
- if the refusal decision is sent by post to a UK address, it will be treated as having been received on the second working day after the day it was posted, unless there is evidence to prove it was received on a different date
- if the refusal decision is sent by courier to a UK address, it will be treated as having been received on the day it was delivered (when you signed for the package), unless there is evidence to prove it was received on a different date
- if the refusal decision is sent by post to an address outside the UK, it will be treated as having been received 28 calendar days after the day on which it was posted, unless there is evidence to prove it was received on a different date
- if the refusal decision is sent by email, it will be treated as having been received on the day on which it was sent, unless there is evidence that it was received on a different date.
This means that if you received the in-country or overseas decision on a date later than the ‘deemed service’ date, it will be your responsibility to prove when it was received. Applications submitted after the deadline has expired will normally be rejected, unless there are compelling reasons why an application could not be made in time, for example, you were taken to hospital as an emergency admission for immediate treatment and a period of recuperation, and you have evidence from the treating physician to prove this. If you are in immigration detention, the 14-day time limit is reduced to 7 calendar days.
Provided you make an administrative review application in time, the Home Office will go on to consider your application, although it can take up to 6 months for a decision to be made. If you are in the UK, you should continue to have immigration leave until you are served with notice of the review decision. Importantly, however, if you make a new application for permission to stay, the administrative review application will be treated as withdrawn. This will also apply if you make a new application from outside the UK, whilst waiting for a review decision on any refusal of entry clearance. Alternatively, if you make a new application for entry clearance or permission to stay, and then apply for a review of the previous decision, your administrative review application will be rejected.
The cost of applying for an administrative review is £80, although this will usually be refunded if the outcome of the review is ultimately in your favour. However, the review application fee may not be refunded if the original decision is withdrawn on the basis of evidence that was not held by the Home Office on the date of the original decision. In most cases, you will not be permitted to introduce fresh evidence, although the Home Office may make a request for further information before considering your review application.
There are various potential outcomes to an administrative review, including where:
- a decision is withdrawn and leave granted to correct an error identified by the administrative review, for which you will receive a refund of the application fee
- the refusal decision is withdrawn and your case is sent back to the original decision-making team to re-decide, for which you will again receive a fee refund
- the refusal decision remains in force following an administrative review, but with different or additional reasons, for which no refund will be given. The Home Office will also not refund the substantive application fee if a refusal decision stands on review, due to you not meeting the relevant requirements of your chosen route.
Importantly, even though your application could be sent back to the original decision-making team to re-decide following a successful review, the administrative review itself will not be undertaken by the caseworker or decision-making team who refused your visa application, but will be carried out by a different person on an independent team.
Visa application rejected on validity grounds
An application which does not meet the validity requirements for any given immigration route will be treated by Home Office staff as invalid. Strictly speaking, this means that the application will be ‘rejected’ and not considered, rather than ‘refused’ on its merits. Still, the net effect is the same, where you will not have been successful in applying for a visa.
The validity requirements for visa applications can vary, depending on the immigration route under which entry clearance or permission to stay is sought, including non-payment of fees and charges, a failure to enrol biometric information, a failure to provide a valid identity document or sponsorship certificate, a failure to meet a minimum age requirement, a failure to provide written consent having received a government or international scholarship agency award, as well as rules relating to switching into a particular route.
The specific validity requirements for each immigration route can be found in the relevant appendices to the UK’s Immigration Rules, where it is vital that an applicant understands in advance the importance of meeting each one of these requirements, where applicable. However, for those who have already fallen foul of these rules, and submitted an invalid application, this will not necessarily equate to an automatic rejection.
In many cases, provided Home Office staff can exercise some discretion, they may decide to overlook a particular requirement or, alternatively, provide the applicant with the opportunity to rectify any error or omission, if at all possible. For example, in the Home Office guidance for caseworkers dealing with applications on the Skilled Worker route, it states that if the caseworker is not satisfied that an application meets all of the validity requirements, they should consider whether to request more information, reject the application or proceed to consider. In some instances, the caseworker may have no choice but to reject an application for failing to meet a validity requirement, such as where the applicant is too young. In other instances, the caseworker may be able to give the applicant the chance, for example, to pay any fee or enrol their biometrics, or to be re-assigned a fresh sponsorship certificate where the one used when they applied was assigned too early.
In circumstances where you are notified by the Home Office that further information is needed, or additional steps need to be taken, otherwise the application will be rejected as invalid, any information must be provided or the necessary steps taken immediately.
In cases where your application has already been rejected, provided you can rectify any issues that resulted in the unsuccessful outcome first-time round, you may want to make a fresh application, although you will have to pay another fee. However, where you paid a fee for your first application and your application was rejected as invalid, rather than refused, this should be refunded by the Home Office, minus a £25 administrative charge.
Given what is at stake with any Home Office application, a refusal can be hugely frustrating and worrying. DavidsonMorris’ UK immigration specialists provide advice on all aspects of Home Office applications, including refusals and rejections, to help applicants determine and explore all options. For expert advice on your circumstances, contact us.
Application refused by Home Office FAQs
Why did the Home Office refuse my application?
There can be various reasons why your visa application has been refused by the Home Office, from failing to meet one of the eligibility requirements, such as a financial requirement, to being deemed unsuitable because of a recent criminal record.
What does it mean by refused on visa application?
If a visa application is refused, this means that the application has been considered but the Home Office caseworker dealing with the application has formed the view that not all of the relevant eligibility or suitability requirements have been met.
Why was my UK visa application refused?
If your visa application is refused, you will be notified of this decision in writing, together with the reasons for this. You will also be told in that letter if you can ask for an administrative review of this decision.
Does the UK embassy inform an applicant that a visa has been refused by email?
If a visa application has been refused, the applicant should receive notification in writing from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), either by email or letter, where UKVI is the division of the Home Office responsible for the UK’s visa system.
Last updated: 14 October 2022