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Impact of the Removal of Full Appeal Rights from Family Visitor Applicants

The Chief Inspector of Immigration has recently published the results of a review of the impact of the removal of full appeal rights from Family Visitor applicants.

Foreign nationals wishing to visit family members in the UK can apply by making a Family Visitor visa application from overseas to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Directorate of the Home Office.

In 2013, the full right of appeal for applicants seeking entry to the UK as a Family Visitor was removed. The explanation given by the Home Office was that by lifting the burden of processing 40-50,000 Family Visitor visa refusal appeals a year, staff could concentrate on UKVI’s core visa business.

Key facts revealed through the inspection include:

  • there was no evidence that the removal of the full right of appeal from Family Visitor visa applicants had led to a higher refusal rate or to an overall reduction in decision quality,
  • entry clearance staff were using risk profiles to inform decision-making, and in general had a good appreciation of risk factors. Additional verification checks were being used effectively to support decision-making, and had added value in 90% of the cases where they had been carried out.

However, the Chief Inspector also found that:

  • of the cases sampled, 65 (13%) refusals and 111 (56%) cases where a visa was issued contained insufficient evidence or notes to enable a full audit of the decision;
  • posts were using different decision-making criteria and these inconsistencies risk applicants receiving unequal and potentially unfair treatment;
  • rather than re-apply, as the quicker and cheaper alternative to pursuing an appeal, as the Home Office had expected and had factored in to the benefits case for removing appeal rights, some refused applicants were putting in informal reconsideration requests. Visa posts were not dealing with these requests consistently, leading to some long delays and variable responses.

The Chief Inspector made seven recommendations for improvement, including that the Home Office ensure that relevant supporting documents are retained or notes made to enable a full audit trail of decisions.

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