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Visit Visa Reforms April 2015 (May Update)

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced that Visit Visa reforms will be introduced in April in an effort to make it easier for business people and performing artists to enter the country.

Mrs May outlined the plans to leaders of the Confederation of British Industry in a private meeting on Tuesday 10 February, she said that:

“Fine-tuning the immigration system will help ensure we are demonstrating to the rest of the world that Britain remains open for business and that visitors are always welcome in the UK, whether they come for leisure or work.”

“In a global marketplace we must make sure we stay ahead of our competitors as we work to carry on attracting the business and leisure travellers who will help our economy grow further still.”

The Visit Visa reforms are in response to persistent complaints from business leaders in London and elsewhere that the existing visa process is too cumbersome and a hindrance in their efforts to expand the economy.

Leaders in the capital’s arts world have also complained about the difficulty in bringing talented performers into the country.

This situation may not be made any easier. Applications to the UK under the Visitor category are not points-based and therefore despite providing all required documentation, migrants classified as Artists and Talented Performers have been refused entry by the Home Office being advised that it was not satisfied they were “genuinely seeking entry to the United Kingdom as a business visitor” or that they would leave the country at the end of the visit.

There is currently a range of 15 different visa categories – these will replaced four types of visa.

Other changes state that the new visa will allow individuals to use the same visa to holiday in Britain at the same time as attending business meetings. Two separate visas would have been needed for this in the past.

In our experience, any migrant attending a business meeting would at the same time take the opportunity for what would be classified as a holiday, how would you attend a meeting without taking advantage of sightseeing tour!

Other visitors will also be allowed to carry out a greater range of activities once in Britain using the same visa.

Under the updated system, the four categories will include:

  • a standard visa covering tourists
  • a visa for those waiting to undertake paid engagements such as appearing in concerts, theatre or other performance arts
  • a transit visa for those passing through the country. The Home Office said it had drawn up the reforms after consulting with more than 100 organisations, ranging from business groups and tourism bodies to representatives from the worlds of science and technology

The most recent official statistics show that just under two million visitor visas were issued last year. That is a 1 per cent rise on 2013. Around 100,000 applications were refused.

Figures issued report the number of transit visas to the United Kingdom issued to migrants from non-EEA countries, from January to September 2014 as being 11,355 – this figure only covers those migrants joining ship.

We will be most interested to scrutinise the new visa process and in particular any changes to the permissible activities – will permissible activities under the Tourist Visa include all those currently covered under the Business Visitor category?

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