A curtailment letter is issued by the Home Office to an individual, to notify them that their permission to remain in the UK has been withdrawn.
For visa holders, receiving a curtailment letter will be hugely concerning if you intend to remain in the UK. For employers, if a sponsored worker receives a curtailment letter, you will need to take action to support the individual if you want to retain them as an employee with lawful status in the UK.
Curtailment of a visa can arise for many reasons. In this article, we consider the different scenarios which could result in a curtailed visa, and what the options are to either challenge the decision or to seek authorisation to remain in the UK by applying for new permission to remain.
What is curtailment of leave in the UK?
Curtailment of leave refers to the decision to shorten or cancel a migrant’s permission to either enter or stay in the UK, also referred to as leave to enter or leave to remain.
On 1 December 2020, the term ‘curtailment’ was replaced with the term ‘cancellation’ under Part 9 of the Immigration Rules (grounds for refusal), where cancellation can take effect immediately, such that the migrant will have no leave remaining, or at a specified future date, such that the migrant will have a limited period of leave remaining.
Curtailment letters are issued by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the Home Office department responsible for administering the UK’s immigration rules. UKVI has a wide range of statutory powers that allow UKVI caseworkers to curtail a migrant’s leave to enter or remain in the UK.
These statutory powers are supplemented by official Home Office guidance which tells caseworkers whether or not to curtail leave, and when they should consider using discretion.
Grounds for curtailing a visa
As from 1 December 2020, the new cancellation grounds, replacing the previous curtailment grounds, cover a wide range of different scenarios, but typically include where you have breached a condition of your leave, there has been a change in circumstances so that you are no longer eligible for the visa you hold, or one of the general grounds for refusal apply.
These include, but are not limited to, where:
- You made false representations, submitted false documents or false information, or failed to disclose relevant facts in support of your current leave, or where it is more likely than not you are, or have been, involved in a sham marriage or sham civil partnership.
- You have failed to comply with conditions of your leave, including a failure to maintain or accommodate yourself and any dependants without recourse to public funds.
- You have ceased to meet the requirements under which your leave was granted, for example, you have failed to start working or studying with your sponsor or have ceased to do so; your sponsorship has been withdrawn or your sponsor has lost their licence, or where your leave was granted as a dependant of another person whose permission has been cancelled.
- You have been convicted of a criminal offence either in the UK or overseas, regardless of whether you received a custodial or non-custodial sentence or an out-of-court disposal.
- You are a persistent offender or your offending has caused serious harm.
- Your presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good because of your conduct, character, associations or for other reasons.
- You have been excluded from the UK.
- Your leave can also be curtailed where you fail to comply with a reasonable requirement from UKVI to attend an interview, provide information or biometrics, to undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report to see if any of the grounds for curtailment apply.
In some cases, more than one ground for curtailment can apply, for example, the presence of a convicted foreign criminal in the UK may not be conducive to the public good.
How does UKVI decide to curtail a visa?
A decision to cancel or curtail permission to enter or stay in the UK can be made by a UKVI caseworker on either mandatory or discretionary grounds, depending on the context in which the decision has come up for consideration.
In the context of criminality, for example, if you have been convicted of a criminal offence for which you have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more, your permission to enter or stay in the UK ‘must’ be cancelled.
In contrast, if you have committed an offence for which you received a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, or a non-custodial sentence or out-of-court disposal, the caseworker ‘may’ make a cancellation decision, but they can exercise some discretion depending on the circumstances.
In cases where the reasons for cancellation are discretionary, the caseworker must not automatically cancel your permission to stay in the UK if there are reasons that suggest it may not be appropriate to do so. Careful consideration must be given to all the available information before reaching a final decision.
A cancellation decision can be made on the basis of the available information, provided this is sufficient to inform the caseworker’s decision. However, in some circumstances, the caseworker may first need to obtain additional information from you. It is therefore crucial that you fully cooperate with UKVI in attending any interview or providing additional information, as any failure to do so, of itself, can result in curtailment of your leave.
What does curtailment mean for your immigration rights?
If a curtailment or cancellation decision is made against you, either on the available evidence or following a request for further information, your permission to enter or stay in the UK will either expire with immediate effect or you will be left with a short period of permission.
The date of expiry for cancelled permission will be decided by the caseworker making the curtailment decision and set out in your curtailment letter. If your permission is cancelled on the basis of a mandatory ground, this will have immediate effect.
Even where a cancellation decision is made on a discretionary ground, the decision may still have immediate effect, for example, where you have been knowingly involved in the reason for the cancellation or the level of non-compliance merits immediate cancellation, ie; where you are responsible for the actions which justify the cancellation of your permission. This will include any cases involving aspects of fraud, evidence of gross misconduct resulting in your employment ending prematurely, or if you are deemed to pose a significant risk to others.
In all other cases, you will usually be allowed a period of permission to stay in the UK, normally 60 days, although you will not be given a new expiry date that extends your permission to enter or stay in the UK beyond the original date. This means that you will only be given a period of 60 days where you have more than this time remaining at the date of the cancellation decision or the estimated date of receipt of that decision.
If you are a student and your permission is cancelled because you have successfully completed your course early, you should be given the same wrap-up period after the new course end date as the period granted based on your original end date. For example, if you were originally granted permission with a wrap-up period that would have expired 4 months after the end date of your studies, you should normally be given 4 months after the new end date.
What are the options to remain in the UK after curtailment?
If you have been given a period of 60 days following a curtailment or cancellation decision, or other limited period, during this time you can either make the necessary arrangements to leave the UK or submit an application for further permission to stay.
You may be able to switch into a new visa category. If the reasons for the decision were outside your control, for example, where your student sponsor has decided not to run a course or your work sponsor has lost their licence and you were not knowingly involved in any actions that led to this, you may be eligible to apply under the same category, subject to meeting the relevant requirements, for example, with a new sponsor.
It is only in very limited cases where you will have a right of appeal, although you may be able to make a written ‘error correction request’ where you believe an error was made by the caseworker in their decision-making. This could include where a sponsor notification was incorrect, where evidence has not been taken into account or incorrectly interpreted, or where rules or policy have arguably not been applied or incorrectly applied.
What should you do after receiving a curtailment letter?
You will be given notice in writing by UKVI of any curtailment or cancellation decision. This is often called a curtailment letter. A curtailment letter will generally be sent to your postal address or your legal representatives, otherwise it will be sent by email.
If attempts to contact you at your last known address have failed, or where there is no known address, the curtailment decision can be served ‘on file’. It is therefore important to keep UKVI informed with your up-to-date contact details.
The curtailment letter will explain the decision to cancel or shorten your permission, and whether this takes immediate effect or the date on which you must depart the UK. It should also set out whether the decision was made on a mandatory or discretionary basis, including reasons for the decision and any right of appeal, although appeal rights are extremely limited.
Upon receiving a curtailment letter you should immediately seek expert advice from an immigration specialist to explore the possibility of making a further application for leave, either under the same or a different category. There may even be scope to argue that there was an error in the caseworker’s decision-making, although any request, of itself, will not extend your departure date.
You should also seek expert advice if you receive a written request for further information prior to any curtailment decision being reached. There may be important mitigating factors pertaining to any final decision, for example, where you have been a victim of domestic violence from your UK settled partner that could assist in a decision in your favour. In such cases, you would still be expected to apply to regularise your stay in another category more appropriate to your circumstances, but you may not be required to leave the UK.
Even if an unfavourable curtailment decision is inevitable, the caseworker may still exercise their discretion to allow you more than 60 days permission to either depart the UK or to make an application to vary your permission to stay. This could include where there are exceptional or compassionate circumstances, such as serious illness or pregnancy and post-pregnancy reasons, or where you are the dependant of a recently deceased primary visa holder.
Once a decision has been made to curtail your leave, and you are unable to switch to a different visa category, you will need to depart the UK on the date specified in the curtailment letter. Any future visa applications will be impacted if you overstay.
DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK immigration. We advise employers and their sponsored workers in the event they have received a visa curtailment letter, with advice on immigration options to remain in the UK such as applying for leave to remain under a different visa category, and support with dealing with related issues such as expired or revoked sponsor licences. Contact our immigration lawyers for advice.
Curtailment letter FAQs
What is a curtailment letter?
A curtailment letter is a written notification from UKVI that your permission to enter or stay in the UK has been cancelled. This can have immediate effect or otherwise typically take place within 60 days.
How long does it take to receive curtailment letter?
You will normally be permitted to remain in the UK for 60 days if your leave is curtailed. This usually runs from the date of deemed service of the curtailment letter, even if the post is delayed.
What is curtailment leave?
Curtailment leave, or 'curtailment of leave’, refers to when permission to enter or stay in the UK is either cancelled or shortened, for example, where you are in breach of a condition of your leave.
How long does it take to curtail spouse visa?
The length of time it takes to curtail a spouse visa will depend on whether the decision to cancel is made on a mandatory or discretionary basis. In most cases, the visa holder will have a period of 60 days.
Last updated: 8 February 2021