Invalid immigration applications cause serious difficulties. The problem is that the UK Border Agency advises people not to make applications until shortly before their existing leave is due to expire. However, it often takes the Border Agency days or weeks to look at the application, by which time the person’s existing leave has expired. As long as the application was valid, this causes few difficulties because the person’s leave is automatically extended by section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 until the end of the application or appeal process. A serious problem arises where the Border Agency in their wisdom return the application as invalid: the person becomes an overstayer, commits a criminal offence by even remaining in the UK to re-submit the application, risks a re-entry ban and loses any right of appeal if the re-submitted application is unsuccessful.
There are many reasons why applications are declared invalid. In fact, it is quite difficult to get absolutely everything right. I once acted in a case where an application where it was declared invalid because the applicant had not entered a land line telephone number in the mandatory box. He had no landline. Applications are sometimes rejected because the photographs are too small, too smiley or too frowny. Submitting the incorrect fee (too much or too little does the trick) leads to automatic refusal, despite the difficulties calculating that fee when there are dependents involved. All of this would be good reason to hold the application and ask for further information or repayment, but it is not a good reason to criminalise the person concerned. Some might think that it makes such a mockery of the idea of criminal immigration offending that UKBA can hardly continue to go around saying that overstaying is a serious matter.
There are several cases where these issues have been canvassed. One of the most useful is that of Forrester, which I wrote about at the time. A handy little new case has just come out that may help some people: R (on the application of Kisuule) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2966 (Admin). In this case the application was refused on the grounds that photographs were not included at all. The applicant insisted that he was very sure he had included them. The judge sided with him and held that the application had been validly made in the first place. The Border Agency will have had to pay the claimant’s costs.
These invalidity cases are a huge waste of everyone’s time and effort, they make a mockery of a criminal offence and it is high time the Border Agency reverted to the old system where leave was automatically extended for 28 days to give an opportunity to resubmit an application.