New immigration rules for visitors to the United Kingdom

American Visa (XL)

A new set of rules for visitors to the United Kingdom has been introduced to take effect on all applications made on or after 24 April 2015. The changes are brought about by Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 1025. The changes were billed in advance as a simplification of the old rules. Closer inspection reveals a reduction in the number of categories of visitor but a great deal of added complexity to the way the rules are drafted and a new set of sub-appendices to the appendices. The Home Office is unique in the universe for its immunity to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, it seems.

First of all, the definitions of the different categories of visitor at paragraph 6 to the Immigration Rules are all scrapped, as are paragraphs 40 to 56Z of the Immigration Rules. Some transitional arrangements are inserted here instead, including the following:

From 24 April 2015 the following provisions of these rules will not apply to visitors, except where specifically provided for in Appendix V: Immigration Rules for Visitors:

a. Paragraph 6;
b. Part 1;
c. Part 9;
d. Appendix 1;
e. Appendix R.

The definitions, application formality, general grounds and visa national requirements of the Immigration Rules are disapplied to visitors? Whoa, there! But not all is at it seems.

Ominously, a new Appendix V is inserted. This is not, as far as I can see, a sign of imminent invasion by cunningly disguised and scientifically advanced lizards. Although it would explain a lot about Theresa May. Nor is it a reference to any sort ofmasked anarchist revolutionary out to free us from our fascist overlords. Unfortunately. It is… Appendix V: Immigration Rules for Visitors.

Appendix V itself begins at page 183 of the Statement of Changes. It is broken into parts and Part V1 opens with a pithy and plain language definition of what a visitor is considered to be:

A visitor is a person who is coming to the UK, usually for up to six months, for a temporary purpose, for example as a tourist, to visit friends or family or to carry out a business activity.

The plain language continues with an explanation of the need to obtain permission to enter the UK with either a visit visa or leave to enter, that visa nationals must apply for a visit visa before travelling and that non visa nationals may apply before travelling but do not need to. Words which have specific legal definitions are in italics and the reader is told that the definitions are set out in “Appendix 1″. Further reading reveals this to be intended to refer to a new “Visitors Appendix 1″, which is very different to “Appendix 1″, which I initially thought must have been scrapped.

Experienced immigration lawyers will start to think the requirements sound eerily familiar. It gradually dawns on the expert reader that the plain language is an explanation of the effects of other parts of the Immigration Rules, namely the disapplied Part 1. This attempt at explaining things in plain language is admirable, although having to cross reference different sub appendices to appendices to the rules is somewhat less than convenient or simple. Hyperlinking or “mouse over” definitions would be marvellous for this internet age but seems unlikely given gov.uk is stuck using pdf documents. I confess I have not combed through to see whether all of the requirements at part 1 have been translated or not. Leave a comment if you spot anything missing or additional.

Next we learn that there are to be four categories of visitor, with frankly alarmingly varied use of capitalisation and parentheses:

  • visit (standard)
  • marriage / civil partnership visit
  • Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit and
  • Transit visit.

A table tells us for how long each type of visit visa might be granted. Here, the simplicity of the new categories breaks down. Standard visits will be granted 6 months leave, unless they are for private medical treatment in which case up to 11 months can be granted, or are by an academic as defined, who can be granted up to 12 months as may family members, or a visitor under the Approved Destination Status Agreement can be granted a measly 30 days. Marriage and civil partnership visitors get 6 months, PPE-ists only a month and transit visas 48 hours.

Part V2 tells us about how to make a visit visa application (apply online, pay the fee, etc.), that the date of application will usually be considered to be the date the fee is paid and that withdrawal of the application will not result in return of the fee. This all replaces Part 1 of the rules again.

Part V3 is entitled “suitability requirements for all visitors”. Jane Austen would weep. In fact this part reintroduces the otherwise disapplied general grounds for refusal from paragraph 320 of the Immigration Rules but in plain English, re-entry bans and all. Glancing through it, it looks like a faithful transposition, but I would not be surprised if something had gone astray in this translation exercise. Skipping ahead, Part V9 does the same for grounds for cancelling or curtailing a visit visa.

The Austen theme continues into Part V4, entitled “eligibility requirements for visitors (standard)”. Once again the attempt to simplify the old categories breaks down, with different eligibility criteria for visitors who are children, seeking private medical treatment, donating an organ, ADS agreement visitors and academics seeking a 12 month visit visa. Moving on, though, the next sections seem to me to be a genuine improvement on the old rules, grouping together the old requirements in a more sensible way.

Firstly, we have the “genuine intention to visit” requirement:

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

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

(b) will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home; and

(c) is genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes (these are listed in Appendices 3, 4 and 5); and

(d) will not undertake any prohibited activities set out in V 4.5 – V 4.10; and

(e) must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds. This includes the cost of the return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment.

As far as I can see there are no new requirements, but this rewriting of the rules makes things clearer to the non lawyer than hitherto.

The next section is on maintenance, and this once again seems to me to be an improvement:

V 4.3 A visitor’s travel, maintenance and accommodation may be provided by a third party where the decision maker is satisfied that they:

(a) have a genuine professional or personal relationship with the visitor; and

(b) are legally present in the UK, or will be at the time of the visitor’s entry to theUK; and

(c) can and will provide support to the visitor for the intended duration of their stay.

V 4.4 The third party may be asked to give an undertaking in writing to be responsible for the applicant’s maintenance and accommodation. In this case paragraph 35 of Part 1 of these Rules applies also to Visitors. An applicant will normally be refused where, having been requested to do so, the applicant fails to provide a valid written undertaking from a third party to be responsible for their maintenance and accommodation for the period of any visit.

A number of prohibited activities are then set out in the next paragraphs, which again seems an improvement on the old version of the rules. It looks like there have been some tweaks to the old rules here to facilitate business visits.

Part V5 sets out the eligibility requirements for PPE-ists, Part V6 those for marriage or civil partnership visitors and Part V7 those for transit visitors.

Rules on extensions of visit visas (and the maximum duration to which they can be extended) are set out in Part V8.

Reading on (and on) we reach page 200 of the Statement of Changes and the start of “Visitors Appendix 1″, the one with the definitions. These are all useful, although whether any ordinary human or indeed visitor would ever get this far is rather open to question. “Appendix 2″ (with no “reference to visits this time) sets out the visa nationals list that used to be and indeed still is set out at the main “Appendix 1″ to the Immigration Rules.

“Visitors Appendix 3″ (the reference to visits is back for this one) sets out permitted activities for all visitors except for transit visitors. This is very much NOT a simple list of permitted activities for all visitors. ADS visitors are limited to activities listed at paragraph 3 only: “A visitor may visit friends and family and / or come to the UK for a holiday.” Other activities seem to be tied to the visitor possessing certain attributes, such as being a scientist (does “freelance scientist” count?), being a prospective entrepreneur, being an academic, being an expert witness and so on. And on.

“Visitors Appendix 4″ sets out what reads as an exhaustive list of permitted paid engagements and “Visitors Appendix 5″ sets out the list of permit free festivals at which an artist, entertainer or musician visiting the UK may receive payment at which to perform. Appropriately, the V Festival is listed.

And there we have it. A new dawn of simplified rules is upon us.

In related news, student visitors are rebranded as “Persons seeking to enter the UK for short-term study” and moved to new paragraph A57A to A57H of the rules. The “parent of a child at school” route is rebranded as “parent of a Tier 4 (child) student” and placed into Part 7 of the Immigration Rules.

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