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Navigating the visit visa lottery- an introduction to the basics

Specialist Immigration Barrister and Head of Chambers at Clarendon Park Chambers.
5 Dec 2023

Applying for a Visit Visa

Applying for a visit visa can appear deceptively straightforward. The application form asks for general information, and the documentation you are asked to submit with the application is limited. However, taking the application process lightly can lead to an unexpected refusal.

On the other hand, for people who have previously been refused a visit visa, the process of reapplying can be very stressful. The fact that there is a refusal increases the chances of another refusal; and there is uncertainty as to how to go about addressing the reasons for the refusal. A refusal will probably need to be declared when you apply for visas to visit other countries, and might well have a negative impact on those applications.

In this post, I will go though some of the basic things that should be done when applying for a visit visa.

The Visit Visa rules

All immigration applications for the United Kingdom are governed by the Immigration Rules. Appendix V of the Immigration Rules sets out the requirements that must be satisfied in order to be granted a visit visa.

The Home Office has also issued guidance to caseworkers which they must apply when considering applications. Applications for a visit visa, like all applications for visas made from outside the United Kingdom, are considered by Entry Clearance Officers.

The most common problem- failing to meet the “genuine visitor requirement”

In my experience, the most common ground for refusing to grant a visit visa are that the Entry Clearance Officer is not satisfied that the “genuine visitor requirement” has been met. Specifically, the following provisions are usually referred to as not having been satisfied:

“V 4.2. The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor, which means the applicant:

(a) will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and


(c) is genuinely seeking entry or stay for a purpose that is permitted under the Visitor route as set out in Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities and at V 13.3; and


(e) must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds, including the cost of the return or onward journey, any costs relating to their dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment. The applicant must show that any funds they rely upon are held in a financial institution permitted under FIN 2.1 in Appendix Finance.”

So, keep in mind when applying, that the ECO will not take it for granted that you are genuinely intending to visit the UK. You must establish that you are a genuine visitor. This might sound strange for a country that is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, the context is that the UK authorities see a significant amount of abuse of visit visas. The scrutiny and likelihood of refusal is also likely to be higher depending on your nationality and place of residence.

In the year ending on 31 March 2022, a total of 882,399 visit visa applications were made worldwide. Of those, 77% were granted (611,539). 186,864 applications were refused; and 83,996 applications remained unresolved. Many applications are granted without any difficulty, even where there is a lack of extensive supporting documents. However, many are also refused.

The decision-making is difficult to predict. Practitioners see many applications refused where the applicants have provided good evidence of their financial means and circumstances, and evidence of family/friends in the UK who have sponsored the application. My advice would be to err on the side of caution, and make sure that the application is completed with care, and supported by comprehensive documentation.

Visit visa applications- Good Practice

The following basic steps should be followed when making an application for a visit visa:

  1. Make sure you complete the application form carefully. Each question is important as it provides the basic background against which the application will be decided. Even more important, if any of the answers are incorrect, the application could be refused for providing false information; and you could face a 10 year ban if the ECO concludes that you have deliberately provided false information.
  1. If you have a sponsor in the UK, make sure that the letter and supporting documents provided address the following:
    • The relationship to you (friend, relative, or other relationship), and the background to that relationship
    • Evidence of the relationship if that is possible, such as birth certificates
    • Proof of identity of the sponsor. Some form of photographic ID is best, with a signature so that the signature on the supporting letter can be compared. A passport copy is probably the best form of ID to use.
    • Evidence of the sponsor’s right of residence in the UK (British passport or BRP copy showing extant leave)
    • Evidence of their residential address, occupation, and ability to provide you with accommodation, maintenance while in the UK, and financial support towards the cost of your trip (as applicable)
  1. Remember, the sponsorship documents are not the most important part of the application. The ECO will be far more interested in your personal circumstances.
  1. A covering letter with the application is always useful. Use it to set out the reasons for your visit. Some examples of information that you should be providing:
    • How long will you stay in the UK?
    • Is this a family visit?
    • Are you going for a holiday?
    • Are you going for a special occasion?
    • How will you finance the trip?
    • Can you afford the trip?
    • What are your circumstances in your home country? What is your occupation? What family ties do you have in your home country? Do you have any financial or property interests in your home country?
  1. Supporting documents are crucial. Some examples of the types of documentary evidence you should be thinking about providing:
    • Evidence of your occupation and earnings.
    • Evidence of any financial and property interest in your home country.
    • Evidence of previous visits to the UK or any other country.
    • Evidence of your ability to finance the visit.
    • Evidence of family and social connections in your home country.
    • Evidence of your ability to leave your occupation in your home country for the visit (e.g. a letter from your employer, evidence that you have made arrangements for your business to be managed in your absence)
    • If children are travelling, evidence that they have leave from school
  1. Bank statements are crucial. They will be very carefully scrutinised. Particular care needs a to be paid to them. They should provide evidence of your earnings. If your earnings area not regularly paid into your bank account, explain this in your covering letter.

The bank statements will also be scrutinised to see if there are large deposits or activity that is not consistent with what you have said about your finances and earnings. So go through the statements carefully, and provide explanations for transactions that might give rise to questions about your financial circumstances.

Final thoughts

It is important to understand the mind of the Entry Clearance Officer. They are faced with many thousands of applications. They have limited time to consider each application. They also have experience of many people that abuse the visa granted to them by remaining in the UK beyond their visa and/or by breaching the terms of their visa (in particular, by working in the UK). So do your best to prepare the application in a way that addresses their concerns. Make it easy for the ECO to find relevant documents. Point out relevant matters in your covering letter.

In my next post, I will look at the guidance given to ECOs that provides the framework for their decision-making.

If you require assistance with your visa application, or need advice and representation because an application has been refused, please do get in contact with us.

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