Common Mistakes and Errors in UK Visa Applications
When submitting a UK visa application through UKVI, any information provided ought to be true, accurate and complete according to the applicant’s knowledge. However, as the process is oftentimes complex and lengthy, it is not uncommon for applicants to make mistakes while preparing their visa applications. Where a mistake has come to an applicant’s attention, they should consider whether remedial steps should be taken in order to prevent further issues from arising.
The Home Office caseworker guidance on false representations recognises the potential for an applicant to make mistakes in their visa application. Nevertheless, the consequences of submitting an application containing incorrect information can be very severe if there is a finding of false representations, deception, false documents or nondisclosure of relevant facts.
This blog post is the first part of our guide to visa application mistakes. In this post, we discuss common application mistakes and consider what falls within the parameters of an ‘innocent mistake’. In the next post in this series, we will discuss the potential consequences of submitting an application containing mistakes, and what corrective steps can be taken after discovering them.
Common UK Visa Application Mistakes
It is possible to make mistakes in the representations and information submitted in a UK visa application. For this purpose, the Rules encompass statements and details provided either orally or in writing, whether they are provided by the applicant or a third party. This could, for example, include the answers provided in a visa application form, oral answers provided in an immigration interview, or any further submissions provided in an immigration application.
An applicant might also mistakenly fail to disclose relevant facts. Examples of nondisclosure that may adversely affect a UK visa application may include:
- Failure to disclose the existence of a family member, where relevant;
- Failure to disclose a criminal conviction;
- Failure to disclose previous travel to the UK;
- Failure to disclose presence of family members in the UK; or
- Failure to disclose a visa refusal.
It is equally possible to submit incorrect or irrelevant documents by mistake. Depending on the circumstances, this could have anything from a very minor impact to quite a severe impact on an application. This will be discussed in more detail within Part 2 of this series.
What is Considered an ‘Innocent Mistake’?
The Home Office guidance, Suitability: false representations, deception, false documents, nondisclosure of relevant facts Version 4.0, as published on 14 November 2023, distinguishes between false representations and innocent mistakes. It is important to understand what differentiates the two, as a finding of ‘false representations’ can have serious consequences on a pending application, any future applications, and even on an applicant’s current immigration status in the UK.
Relevant Factors in Determining if a Mistake is ‘Innocent’
If there is reason to suspect a false representation has been made in a visa application, decision makers are required to first consider whether an innocent mistake has, or could have, been made. The guidance states that decision makers must not refuse a visa on grounds of false representations where there may have been an innocent mistake. In considering whether an innocent mistake has been made, the following factors should always be considered:
- How easy would it be to make an innocent mistake?
- How likely is it that the applicant was unaware the information has been provided?
- how likely is it the applicant, or the person providing the information, etc, is aware that the information is incorrect)?
- Does the false information benefit the applicant?
- Is it contradicted by other answers on the application form, or by any information in any documents provided with the current or a previous application?
- Does any endorsement or stamp in the passport or ID document contradict any answer given?
- has a new passport been presented, and if so why?
- Has this ‘innocent mistake’ also been made on a previous application?
Examples of ‘Innocent Mistakes’
The guidance provides further examples of mistakes that should not prompt a refusal on grounds of false representations. These mistakes normally involve minor, but immaterial inaccuracies. For example, while applicants should of course strive to avoid typographical errors in visa applications, a misspelt name or incorrect postcode should not be cause for a decision maker to refuse an application.
The exception is where a mistake prompts the decision maker to believe that the requirements for a visa are not met in full. The following example is provided in the guidance:
“…if the applicant has said they have an income of £40,000, but has provided evidence only for £4,000, you may take the view that the higher figure was an innocent mistake but may still refuse the application on eligibility grounds if on the evidence provided the required income under the rules is not met.”
Thus, the severity of the mistake made is an important factor in determining the outcome of a case. Even where a mistake results in an application being refused, it is still possible for a decision maker to consider it an innocent mistake rather than a false representation.
Distinguishing an ‘Innocent Mistake’ From a ‘False Representation’
In AA (Nigeria)  EWCA Civ 773, the Court concluded that “dishonesty or deception is needed” in order to refuse an application on the grounds of false representations under paragraph 9.7.2. Therefore, an innocent mistake – that is, a mistake with no element of dishonesty or deception – should not prompt a mandatory refusal on the grounds of false representations. The court stated:
“…a false representation stated in all innocence may be simply a matter of mistake, or an error short of dishonesty. It does not necessarily tell a lie about itself. In such a case there is little reason for a requirement of mandatory refusal, although a power, even a presumption, of discretionary refusal would be understandable.”
This decision aligns with the longstanding legal principle that carelessness, negligence or innocent mistakes are not equal to dishonesty, as per Royal Brunei Airlines v Tan  UKPC 4.
However, as highlighted in the judgment of AA (Nigeria), representations that do not give rise to mandatory grounds for refusal can still give rise to a discretionary power of refusal. This is reflected in paragraph 9.7.1. of the Immigration Rules, which applies to false representations whether or not they are in the applicant’s knowledge. Please see this article for an in depth discussion of false representations and the distinction between paragraph 9.7.1. and paragraph 9.7.2. of the Rules.
Part 2 of this series will discuss the possible consequences of submitting a UK visa application containing mistakes. This may include a finding of deception, a wrongful refusal of an application, or a grant of permission on an erroneous basis. Part 2 will then discuss the relevant actions an applicant should take if they have submitted an application containing false information.