When applying for either entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK, applicants must meet various suitability requirements and avoid general grounds for refusal.
The suitability requirements are set out under the UK Immigration Rules. They apply to almost all immigration routes and are in addition to the specific validity and eligibility requirements of the relevant visa category.
The following guide for visa applicants looks in detail at the suitability requirements under Part 9 of the Rules: grounds for refusal, including how these requirements can be met and what steps can be taken if an applicant falls for refusal under this Part.
Suitability to enter or remain
The general grounds for refusal in the context of UK visa applications are set out under Part 9 of the Immigration Rules. The requirements were updated in 2020 as part of the post-Brexit reform of the UK’s immigration system. These provisions are referred to in other sections of the Rules as the ‘suitability requirements’, where an applicant for entry clearance, or for leave to enter or remain in the UK, will not meet these requirements if they fall for refusal under this Part.
An existing visa holder may also have their entry clearance or permission to enter or stay in the UK shortened or cancelled on grounds of suitability, previously known under the old rules as curtailment of leave. A cancellation decision can cover a wide range of different scenarios, such as where an applicant breaches a condition of their leave or a change in circumstances, but also includes where one of the general grounds for refusal under Part 9 of the Rules apply.
Part 9 sets out various detailed provisions which form the basis of a potential refusal or cancellation of a visa, although some routes have their own, or additional, suitability requirements. As such, under section 1 of Part 9 there are limited exceptions to the rules, including Appendix EU and Appendix S2 Healthcare Visitor, where an applicant will instead be required to satisfy the specific suitability requirements as set out under those routes.
Section 2 of Part 9 covers all of the general grounds for refusal or cancellation, with sections 3-5 detailing additional grounds for refusal of entry on arrival in the UK; refusal of permission to stay; and for cancellation of entry clearance, permission to enter and permission to stay. These include, for example, medical grounds or customs breaches; rough sleeping in the UK; withdrawal of sponsorship or endorsement grounds, or where a sponsor loses their licence.
What are the general grounds for refusal?
The main general grounds for refusal as set out under section 2 of Part 9 are as follows:
Exclusion or deportation order grounds: permission must be refused or cancelled where there has been a direction that the applicant be excluded from the UK. A visa can also be refused if the applicant is the subject of either an exclusion or deportation order.
Non-conducive grounds: permission must be refused or cancelled where the applicant’s presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good, for example, because of their conduct, character, associations or other reasons. This includes convictions which do not fall within the criminality grounds.
Criminality grounds: permission must be refused or cancelled where the applicant has been convicted of an offence in either the UK or overseas and they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more; is a persistent offender who has shown a particular disregard for the law; or has committed an offence, or offences, which have caused serious harm. Further, permission may be refused or cancelled where the applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence in either the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, or for which they have received a non-custodial sentence or an out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record.
Involvement in a sham marriage or civil partnership grounds: permission may be refused or cancelled where it’s more likely than not that the applicant is, or has been, involved in either a sham marriage or sham civil partnership.
False representations, etc. grounds: permission may be refused or cancelled where, in relation to the application, or in order to obtain documents in support of the application, false representations are made, or false documents or false information submitted, or relevant facts are not disclosed, whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge. Further, a visa must be refused or may be cancelled where there is proof that it’s more likely than not that some form of deception was used in the application, although this would require evidence of some dishonesty directly on the part of the applicant.
Previous breach of immigration laws grounds: permission must be refused where the applicant has previously breached immigration laws and the application is made within a relevant time period, for example, within a period of 10 years if the applicant was deported or removed from the UK at the public expense. A visa may also be refused where the applicant has previously breached immigration laws, albeit outside the relevant time periods, but there are other aggravating circumstances, such as failing to report.
Failure to provide required information, etc grounds: permission may be refused or cancelled where the applicant or visa holder fails without reasonable excuse to comply with a reasonable requirement to attend an interview, provide information, provide biometrics, undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report.
There are various other general grounds for refusal, including grounds relating to exclusion from asylum or humanitarian protection, debt to the NHS or unpaid litigation costs, or where someone is seeking to enter or stay in the UK for a purpose not covered by these rules.
In some cases, more than one ground for a refusal or cancellation decision can apply. This could include, for example, where the presence of a foreign criminal in the UK may not be deemed conducive to the public good. In this instance, both the non-conducive and criminality grounds would apply to any refusal decision.
Mandatory & discretionary grounds for refusal
Where the provisions of Part 9 apply, any decision to refuse or cancel permission will be made by a Home Office caseworker on either a mandatory (ie “must”) or discretionary (ie “may”) basis.
For instance, in the context of criminality, if an applicant has been convicted of an offence and they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more, their application to enter or stay in the UK ‘must’ be refused or cancelled. In contrast, if they have committed an offence for which they were given either a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, or an out-of-court disposal or non-custodial sentence, the caseworker ‘may’ refuse or cancel their visa, but they can exercise some discretion here depending on the circumstances.
This means, even with a criminal record, you may be able to get a visa or still be allowed to stay in the UK, although much will depend on the nature of the offence involved, the sentencing received and any mitigating factors that can be taken into account.
It is worth noting here, however, that the rules relating to visitor visas have more stringent requirements when it comes to criminality. In these cases, a visa ‘must’ be refused where the applicant has been convicted of an offence in either the UK or overseas and they received a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, or for which they have received a non-custodial sentence or an out-of-court disposal that has been recorded on their criminal record, unless more than 12 months have passed since the end of the sentence or the date of conviction.
In cases where the caseworker retains some discretion as to whether or not to refuse or cancel a visa, careful consideration must be given by them to all the available information before reaching a final decision. It is therefore crucial that any relevant information and evidence to mitigate any grounds for refusal or cancellation is provided by the applicant in support of their application or in response to any request for further information.
Further, it is vital that you fully cooperate with any reasonable request to attend an interview, provide information or biometrics, undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report, as any failure to do so, by itself, can result in refusal of your visa application or cancellation of your leave.
What if an application is refused under the general grounds for refusal?
If you are a migrant looking to come to the UK, or currently living in the UK and wanting to extend your leave, you must be able to satisfy the suitability requirements applicable to your visa route, otherwise risk a refusal decision. Having been granted permission to enter, or further permission to stay, you must also be able to stay within the rules to ensure that any existing leave is not cancelled based on one of the general or additional grounds for refusal.
In most cases, an applicant will not have a right of appeal in respect of either a refusal or cancellation decision that is made. It’s only in very limited cases that you will have any appeal rights, for example, against a refusal of a human rights or protection claim and revocation of protection status.
Where there is no right of appeal, it may be possible to apply for an administrative review of a refusal or cancellation of leave if it is an eligible decision and it is alleged that a ‘case working error’ has occurred. The rules relating to administrative reviews, including decisions eligible for review and what constitutes a case working error, can be found under Appendix AR of the Immigration Rules.
Given the limited right to challenge any refusal or cancellation decision, prior to making a visa application in which you may fall for refusal under Part 9 — or where you have reason to believe that your existing leave may be cancelled, for example, you receive a request for further information from the UK Home Office pertaining to such decision — it is vital that you seek expert advice from an immigration specialist.
There may be important mitigating factors pertaining to any refusal or cancellation decision. Taking pre-emptive steps is undoubtedly the best possible course of action, including gathering as much information and evidence as possible to negate any adverse factors and have a positive bearing on your case.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration lawyers. We provide specialist advice and support to UK immigration and visa applicants, including guidance on eligibility requirements in areas such as general grounds for refusal. For specialist advice, speak to us.
General Grounds for Refusal FAQs
What are the general grounds for refusal?
The general grounds for refusal as contained under Part 9 of the UK’s Immigration Rules contain both mandatory and discretionary grounds upon which a visa application can be refused or existing permission cancelled.
What are the reasons for UK visa refusal?
There are various possible reasons for a visa refusal, including a failure to satisfy the suitability requirements. These could include, for example, on criminality grounds as set out under Part 9 of the Immigration Rules: grounds for refusal.
What is 320 7A UK immigration rules?
Under the old paragraph 320 (7A), the use of false representations etc in a visa application would result in a refusal decision. The new rules contain a similar ground for refusal but, except where deception is evident, render this discretionary.
What happens if indefinite leave to remain is refused?
If indefinite leave to remain is refused, you will receive a written notice from the Home Office explaining why and setting out any right of appeal. You may also be able to apply for an administrative review of the decision.
Last updated: 7 December 2022