Following on from the parliamentary debate last week, the Entry Clearance Guidance (ECG, until recently rather quaintly called the Diplomatic Service Instructions – I always thought the idea visa officers were diplomatic was rather optimistic) on immigration rule 320(7B), the automatic re-entry ban for overstayers and other breachers of immigration laws, has been published.
The guidance says that the automatic refusal rules will not be applied to spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, fiance(e)s, children, those who were children at the time they breached immigration law, those exercising rights of access to a child in the UK, spouses or civil partners of people recognised as a refugee or granted humanitarian protection, those accepted to be victims of trafficking and those who fall within the original concession.
However, if the visa officer thinks that any of the above applicants previously ‘significantly contrived to frustrate immigration rules’ then they should still be refused.
Only last week I handled an appeal where the visa officer had refused re-entry to a spouse on the basis of a slight discrepancy of a few days with the date of birth and spelling of surname as recorded by a Home Office official several years ago on this person’s entry to the UK. This was alleged to be reliance on a false identity. With respect, that was clearly rubbish and it was very obviously a slight mistake involving no conceivable attempt to deceive. In the meantime, this man had been forced to wait eight months for an appeal while his wife and child struggled to get by in the UK without him. Visa officers can be complete idiots, unfortunately. If the appeal is successful, it usually takes the entry clearance post another two or three months to get their act together and issue the visa.
As previously dicussed, it would seem that the rule itself is not going to be altered, although this may follow later. At a time when the Home Office is making noises about simplifying immigration law and is even suggesting yet more legislation, with a view to increasing transparency, this is disgraceful. Anyone reading the current rules would think the above policy does not exist, unless they somehow magically know to look at chapter 26 section 17 of the ECG. Which seems a little unlikely.