If you need a visa to visit the UK, you will need to satisfy the necessary requirements for the UK visitor visa, or you will be refused permission. The following guide looks at common reasons for a UK visitor visa refusal, and if your visitor visa application has been refused, what steps you can take to challenge the decision or apply again.
Is the visitor visa right for you?
From 1 January 2021, all non-UK residents will be treated as non-visa nationals under the UK’s new immigration system. The new rules mean EU citizens can come to the UK as visitors for six months without the need to obtain a visa.
Before making an application, it is important to ensure you select the most appropriate visa for your circumstances. There are four types of UK visitor routes, depending on the purpose of your visit:
- The standard visitor route: to visit the UK for the purposes of tourism and leisure, for business, or to take part in sports or creative events, or for another reason, for example to receive private medical treatment or donate an organ.
- The permitted paid engagements (PPE) route: to visit the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system, for example, giving lectures or chairing selection panels as an expert in your professional field.
- The marriage or civil partnership route: to come to the UK to give notice of a marriage or civil partnership, or to actually get married or form a civil partnership.
- The transit visitor route: to travel via the UK en route to another destination country.
Why are visitor visas refused?
When considering an application for a UK visitor visa, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is looking to assess whether the applicant meets the eligibility and suitability requirements under this route.
Applications will be decided on the basis of the information given by the applicant on their application form, in their supporting documents and during the visa interview. This means that an applicant may be refused a visitor visa for a wide range of reasons, from failing to demonstrate that your activity is permissible under the route, to previously being in breach of the UK immigration rules.
Visitor visa eligibility requirements
Under UK rules, a visitor is a person who is coming to the UK for a temporary purpose, usually for up to 6 months. They could be, for example, a tourist, coming to visit friends or family, or to carry out a permitted business activity.
In all instances, for the visitor route you must be able to demonstrate that you are a ‘genuine visitor’. This means that you must satisfy the following to UKVI:
- Short stay: you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.
- Visiting only: you will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home.
- Purpose of the visit: you are genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes and you will not undertake any prohibited activities.
- Finances: you have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to your visit without working or accessing public funds, including the cost of your return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants, and the cost of planned activities in the UK such as private medical treatment.
For example, to prove your intention to return home after your UK visit, you should provide evidence that you have work, education or family commitments to return to; that you own or rent property in your home country; that you have future commitments at home; that you have family ties to your home country; and any other evidence that demonstrates that you intend to return to your home country.
In circumstances where travel funds, maintenance and accommodation are being provided by a third party, you must be able to show that a genuine professional or personal relationship exists between you and the third party; that person is not, or will not be in breach of UK immigration laws at the time of decision or your entry to the UK; and they can and will provide financial support to you for the intended duration of your stay.
Where the third party has been asked to provide an undertaking in writing to be responsible for your maintenance and accommodation for the period of your visit, your visa application will be refused if they fail to provide a valid written undertaking. Further, if sufficiently detailed information about the funding for your visit is not provided, either via a third party or your own resources, an adverse inference may be drawn that you intend to work in the UK.
UKVI must be satisfied that you do not intend to work (or study) in the UK, unless expressly allowed under the list of permitted activities. If it is apparent that you intend to undertake a prohibited activity, such as taking employment in the UK, your visa application will be refused.
It is important to remember that any lack of detail about the purpose of your visit may lead to reasons for refusal which either question the length of your visit or the plans which you have purportedly made. If the reason for your visit is not clear, UKVI may easily make an assumption that you are not being candid about wishing to come to the UK just to visit.
You must also be able to meet any additional eligibility requirements if you are under 18 at the date of application; you are coming to the UK to receive private medical treatment or as an organ donor; you are coming to the UK under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) Agreement with China; or you are an academic seeking a 12 month visit visa.
The suitability requirements
There are a number of suitability requirements set out under the Visitor Rules that can commonly give rise to a UK visitor visa refusal. In some cases your application will be refused on mandatory grounds, whereas in other cases this will be at the discretion of the UKVI decision maker handling your application.
Your application will be refused, for example, if you are currently the subject of a deportation order. Your application will also be refused where UKVI form the view that your exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good because, for example, your conduct, character, associations, or other reasons, make it undesirable to grant your visa application.
This includes where you have been convicted of a criminal offence for which you have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of:
- At least 4 years, or
- Between 12 months and 4 years, unless at least 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence, or
- Less than 12 months, unless at least 5 years has passed since the end of the sentence.
A visa application will also usually be refused if you have been convicted of or admitted an offence for which you received a non-custodial sentence or out of court disposal that is recorded on your criminal record within the last 12 months.
Other common reasons for a UK visitor visa refusal include the following:
- Where you have previously submitted false information, either by way of representations or false documents in support of an application, or where material facts were not disclosed.
- Where you have previously breached UK immigration laws, such as overstaying or breaching a condition attached to your leave, and your application for a visitor visa is made within the relevant re-entry ban time period. The re-entry ban time period will depend on the manner in which you last left the UK, from a period of 12 months if you left the UK voluntarily at your own expense, up to 10 years if you were deported from the UK at public expense.
- Where you fail to produce satisfactory identity documents or provide other information as required in support of your application for a visitor visa. This could be if you fail to produce a valid travel document that satisfies UKVI as to your identity and nationality, or you fail, without reasonable excuse, to attend an interview, provide your biometric information or undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report where required.
- Where you have failed to pay NHS charges and these have a total value of at least £500, or where you have failed to pay any litigation costs awarded to the Home Office.
- On medical grounds, for example, where you are suffering from tuberculosis.
You should typically get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks. If your visa is refused, you will not be permitted to travel to the UK, and if you arrive in the UK without a visitor visa you will be refused permission to enter.
Can you reapply following a UK visitor visa refusal?
A new visit visa application following a refusal should address each of the given reasons for the previous refused application. This will include providing detailed evidence in support of each reason, which may require you to provide multiple pieces of evidence to support each ground for eligibility. Since there is no list of specific documents which an application should include in their application, providing more than one source can help to ensure you are fully evidencing your eligibility.
Travelling to the UK as a visitor generally entails a less intensive application process compared with other immigration routes. However, specific rules still apply and applicants will need to understand the limitations of this route and ensure their visa application sufficiently demonstrate eligibility and suitability under this route.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration advisers, providing guidance to employers and travellers on UK immigration routes and Home Office applications. If you have a question about UK travel visa options, contact us.
Visitor Visa Refusal FAQs
What to do if UK visit visa is refused?
If your UK visit visa is refused, you can reapply for a visit visa, this time providing detailed information and evidence in support of each and every eligibility and suitability requirement, and addressing all the previous reasons for refusal.
Can I apply for UK visit visa after refusal?
You can apply for a UK visit visa after you have been refused, although you will need to address any reasons for refusal by way of additional information, explanation and evidence. In this way, you may be able to persuade the decision maker that you satisfy all of the relevant eligibility and suitability requirements for a visa.
What are the reasons for UK visa rejection?
There could be a single or multiple reasons given for a UK visa rejection. This could relate to either the specific eligibility requirements for the visa, or the general suitability requirements. An applicant may, for example, have failed to provide sufficient evidence in support of a particular requirement, or it may be because they have serious or recent criminal convictions, or an adverse immigration history.
How do I challenge a UK visa refusal?
You can challenge a UK visa refusal by applying for a judicial review of the decision made by UKVI. To succeed, you must be able to show that the decision was in some way illegal or unlawful, for example, where the decision maker has not correctly applied the relevant rules or has not taken into account all material considerations.
Last updated: 19 September 2020