New immigration rules for visitors to the United Kingdom
- Structure of Appendix V
- What has changed from the old rules?
- Where to find law and policy on visitors
- Administrative requirements for visitors
- What is a visitor anyway?
- Categories of visitor
- Suitability requirements for visitors
- What can and can’t visitors do in the UK?
- Extension of stay as a visitor
- Cancellation and curtailment
A new set of rules for visitors to the United Kingdom has been introduced taking 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 new rules are set out in a new Appendix V to the Immigration Rules. V is for Visitor, not Vendetta, nor is it a reference to a trashy 1980s scifi show. Appendix V does not represent any major change in what a visitor needs to show in order to be granted a visa but the rules are now presented very differently to the past and new guidance is also available.
Structure of Appendix V
Appendix V has its own set of appendices, one to five, and these collectively attempt to set out the legal requirements for making an immigration application as a visitor in plain and simple language. At the time of writing navigation of the new Appendix V is not helped by the use on GOV.UK of pdf documents and the lack of a contents page with internal hyperlinks. The new structure is:
- Part V1. Entry to the UK
- Part V2. Making an application for a visit visa
- Part V3. Suitability requirements for all visitors
- Part V4. Eligibility requirements for visitors (standard)
- Part V5. Eligibility requirements for a PPE visitor (PPE stands for Permitted Paid Engagement)
- Part V6. Eligibility requirements for a marriage or civil partnership visit visa
- Part V7. Transit visitor
- Part V8. Extension of stay as a visitor
- Part V9. Grounds for cancellation of a visit visa or leave before or on arrival at the UK border and curtailment of leave
- Visitors Appendix 1. Definitions and interpretations
- Appendix 2. Visa national list (oddly the word ‘Visitors’ is missing from the title, presumably by accident)
- Visitors Appendix 3. Permitted activities for all visitors (except transit visitors)
- Visitors Appendix 4.Permitted paid engagements
- Visitors Appendix 5. Permit free festivals
You will need to open Appendix V and scroll or search (ctrl-f) to find the relevant parts.
What has changed from the old rules?
Lawyers and legal advisers may be interested in the excellent and free practice note on visitors by LexisNexis. 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.
Experienced immigration lawyers will start to think the new requirements in Appendix V sound eerily familiar. It gradually dawns 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.
Where to find law and policy on visitors
Appendix V to the Immigration Rules sets out the formal legal requirements for visitors. The Home Office also publishes guidance for its own staff on how to make decisions and apply the law (Visit Guidance and Considering human rights claims in visit applications) and also guidance for applicants on what documents to submit with an application (Visitor: supporting documents guide).
Administrative requirements for visitors
Part V1 sets out some of the administrative and formal legal requirements for visitors about what they need to do to enter the UK. It explains 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”, which actually means “Visitors Appendix 1”. There are several sloppy drafting mistakes of a similar nature in the rules.
Part V2 tells an applicant 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.
What is a visitor anyway?
The introduction to Appendix V opens with a pithy and plain language definition of what a visitor is and is not 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.
Visitors cannot work or study in the UK unless this is allowed by the permitted activities that are set out in these Visitor Rules.
The rest of Appendix V then struggles to define in both positive and negative terms what a visitor is and is not, drawing on Austen-esque language such as ‘suitability’ and ‘eligibility’ and subcategorising different types of visitor.
Part V4 continues the attempt to define what a visitor is and is not with 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.
The funds can be provided by a third party — often referred to as a sponsor — if the third party has a genuine professional or personal relationship with the visitor, is legally present in the UK (or will be at the time of the visitor’s entry) and can and will provide support for the intended duration of the visitor’s stay: see paragraph V4.3. An undertaking may be requested of the sponsor.
These requirements apply to all the categories of visitor, but some of the different categories also have additional criteria they must meet, described below.
Categories of visitor
Next we learn that there are to be four categories of visitor, with alarmingly varied use of capitalisation and parentheses:
- visit (standard)
- marriage / civil partnership visit
- Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit and
- Transit visit.
Different periods of leave might be granted to different types of visitor:
|Type of visit||Maximum length of stay|
|Standard visit||Up to 6 months, except:(i) a visitor who is coming to the UK for private medical treatment may be granted a visit visa of up to 11 months; or(ii) an academic, who is employed by an overseas institution and is carrying out the specific permitted activities paragraph 12 of Appendix 3,of these Rules, along with their spouse or partner and children, may be granted a visit visa of up to 12 months; or(iii) a visitor under the Approved Destination Status Agreement (ADS Agreement) may be granted a visit visa for a period of up to 30 days.|
|Marriage/civil partnership||Up to 6 months|
|Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE)||Up to 1 month|
|Transit||Up to 48 hours, except for leave to enter as a transit visitor under the Transit Without Visa Scheme which may be granted until 23:59 hours on the next day after the day the applicant arrived.|
Here we can see that the supposed simplicity of the new visit visa categories breaks down and we can see that there are some subcategories. Standard visitors and transit visitors both have different subcategories of visitor within them.
The “standard visitor” category actually includes several subcategories each of which has additional qualifying criteria. Basically, if a visitor is coming to the UK as a visitor for one of several defined reasons as set out below they will have to meet certain additional requirements over and above a normal standard visitor. If not coming to the UK for one the defined reasons then the visitor will be a true “standard” visitor.
Marriage and civil partnership visitors
Marriage and civil partnership visitors are allowed to do any of the activities listed in Visitor Appendix 3 that a standard visitor can do, but they must also meet the additional requirements of Part V6. These are that they must hold a valid visit visa as a marriage and civil partner visitor and:
(a) intend to give notice of marriage or civil partnership; or
(b) intend to marry or form a civil partnership; and
(c) do not intend to give notice of or enter into a sham marriage or sham civil partnership, within the validity period covered by their visit visa.
Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visitors
PPE visitors are allowed to do any of the activities listed in Visitor Appendix 3 that a standard visitor can do, but they must also meet the additional requirements of Part V6:
An applicant must intend to do one (or more) of the permitted paid engagements set out in Appendix 4 to these Rules, which must:
(a) be arranged before the applicant travels to the UK; and
(b) be declared as part of the application for a visit visa or leave to enter; and
(c) be evidenced by a formal invitation, as required by Appendix 4; and
(d) relate to the applicant’s area of expertise and occupation overseas.
Visitors Appendix 4 then sets out what is meant by a “permitted paid engagement” for the purpose of a visit visa:
(a) an academic who is highly qualified within his or her field of expertise
may examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels, if they have been invited by a UK Higher Education Institution or a UK based research or arts organisation as part of that institution or organisation’s quality assurance processes.
(b) An expert may give lectures in their subject area, if they have been invited by a UK Higher Education Institution; or a UK based research or arts organisation provided this does not amount to filling a teaching position for the host organisation.
(c) An overseas designated pilot examiner may assess UK based pilots to ensure they meet the national aviation regulatory requirements of other countries, if they have been invited by an approved training organisation based in the UK that is regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority for that purpose.
(d) A qualified lawyer may provide advocacy for a court or tribunal hearing, arbitration or other form of dispute resolution for legal proceedings within the UK, if they have been invited by a client.
(e) A professional artist, entertainer, musician or sports person may carry out an activity directly relating to their profession, if they have been invited by a creative (arts or entertainment) or sports organisation, agent or broadcaster based in the UK.
Children cannot be PPE visitors.
Part V7 deals with transit visitors, who are defined as follows:
A transit visitor is a person who seeks to travel via the UK en route to another destination country outside the common travel area.
Reference is made to Direct Airside Transit Visas which can be obtained if the traveller will stay “airside” and never formally enter the UK. Otherwise, a transit visit visa must be applied for in advance of travel or those who qualify for the transit without visa scheme can apply for leave to enter on arrival.
To qualify for a transit visa or leave to enter on arrival for transit the traveller must show they:
(a) are genuinely in transit to another country outside the common travel area, meaning the main purpose of their visit is to transit the UK and that the applicant is taking a reasonable transit route; and
(b) will not access public funds or medical treatment, work or study in the UK; and
(c) genuinely intend and are able to leave the UK by 23:59 hours on the day after the day when they arrived or within 48 hours after their arrival where they hold a transit visit visa; and
(d) are assured entry to their country of destination and any other countries they are transiting on their way there.
The transit without visa scheme also has additional requirements which are set out at paragraphs V 7.6 to 7.9.
Suitability requirements for visitors
Part V3 is entitled “suitability requirements for all visitors”. Jane Austen must be turning in her grave. In fact this part reintroduces the general grounds for refusal from paragraph 320 of the Immigration Rules but in plain English. This mandates or requires refusal of an application in some circumstances (‘will be refused’) and enables discretionary refusal (‘will normally be refused’) of an application in some circumstances.
The following list of the main suitability requirements (for the full list see Part V3) should be read as ‘or’: any one of these may trigger refusal:
Minister personally directs exclusion of applicant
Currently subject of a deportation order
ECO believes exclusion of applicant is conducive to public good because of their conduct, convictions, character, associations or other reasons
Sentenced to imprisonment of 4 years or more
Sentenced to imprisonment between 1 and 4 years unless 10 years has passed since end of sentence
Sentenced to imprisonment less than 1 year unless 5 years has passed since end of sentence
False representations have been made or false documents or information have been submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge) or material facts have not been disclosed
Applicant, when aged 18 years or over, breached the UK’s immigration laws: (a) by overstaying (except where this was for 90 days or less and they left the UK voluntarily and not at public expense); or (b) by breaching a condition attached to their leave; or (c) by being an illegal entrant; or (d) if deception was used in relation to an application or documents used in support of an application (whether successful or not). If one of these triggers applies, a re-entry ban of between 1 and 10 years will apply depending on circumstances and the highest relevant exclusion period will apply. An exclusion period of 10 years starting from when the trigger occurred is imposed if deception was used in an application for entry clearance or if the applicant was previously removed from the UK. Otherwise, an exclusion period of 5 years applies where the person left or was remove from the UK as a condition of a caution or where they left voluntarily but at public expense. Failing that, a 2 year ban applies if they left voluntarily at public expense or a 1 year ban applies if they left voluntarily at their own expense.
Applicant fails to produce a valid travel document that satisfies the decision maker as to their identity and nationality
Applicant fails without reasonable excuse to comply with a requirement to attend an interview, provide information, provide biometrics or undergo a medical examination or provide a medical report.
Convicted of or admits to offence in last 12 months resulting in non custodial sentence or out of court disposal recorded on criminal record
In view of Secretary of State the applicant’s offending has caused serious harm
In view of Secretary of State the applicant is a persistent offender
If the application has previously breached UK immigration laws but is outside the relevant re-entry ban time period the application will normally be refused if there are other aggravating circumstances, such as a failure to cooperate with immigration control or enforcement processes. This applies even where the applicant has overstayed for 90 days or less and left voluntarily and not at public expense: see below.
On the advice of the medical inspector, it is undesirable to grant the application for medical reasons
Where the applicant owes in excess of £1,000 of unpaid NHS charges
It is worth making representations for a ‘will normally be refused’ application because there is a discretion to grant the application and even if refused an appeal might potentially succeed. Where a refusal is mandatory, it would be very exceptional for an application to be granted, but it may be possible in some circumstances where the refusal is based on previous convictions: see this earlier blog post.
What can and can’t visitors do in the UK?
The rules on what visitors can and cannot do are complex. Because of the ‘negative freedom’ way in which the law operates so as to allow all things which are not specifically prohibited, it is sensible to start with the specific activities that visitors are prohibited from carrying out. Conceptually, visitors are then permitted to carry out any other activity.
There is a distinction between breach of a formal condition stated on a visa and doing something that is not permitted under the Immigration Rules for a particular type of visitor. The former is a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971. The latter is a breach of the Immigration Rules and a breach of trust, effectively, and will have adverse future immigration implications if discovered by the Home Office. It is not a criminal offence, however.
Extension of stay as a visitor
It is possible to extend stay as a visitor only in very limited circumstances under the rules. In exceptional circumstances and application outside the rules might be contemplated, however.
An extension is explicitly ruled out for a PPE visitor or transit visitor. Other types of visitor can potentially apply to extend their stay if they meet the following criteria:
- An application for an extension of stay as a visitor must satisfy the decision maker that they continue to meet all the suitability and eligibility requirements for a visit visa.
- The applicant must not be in the UK in breach of immigration laws, except for any period of overstaying of 28 days or less which will be discounted.
- If the applicant is applying for an extension of stay as a visitor for the purpose of receiving private medical treatment they must also satisfy the decision maker they:
(a) have met the costs of any medical treatment received so far; and
(b) provide a letter from a registered medical practitioner, at a private practice or NHS hospital, who holds an NHS consultant post or who appears in the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council, detailing the medical condition requiring further treatment.
The following extensions of stay are permissible:
- A standard visitor or a visitor for marriage or civil partnership who was granted a visit visa or leave to enter for less than 6 months may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor so that the total period they can remain the UK (including both the original grant and the extension of stay) does not exceed 6 months.
- A standard visitor who is in the UK for private medical treatment may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor for a further 6 months, provided this is for private medical treatment.
- A standard visitor who is an academic on sabbatical leave and is in the UK undertaking their own research, or the spouse, partner or child accompanying such an academic, can be granted an extension of stay as a visitor so that the total period they can remain in the UK (including both the original grant and the extension of stay) does not exceed 12 months.
- A standard visitor may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor for up to 6 months in order to resit the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) Test, provided they meet the requirements at Appendix 3, paragraph 22(b)(i) of the main Immigration Rules.
- A standard visitor who is successful in the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board Test may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor to undertake a clinical attachment, provided they meet the requirements of Appendix 3, paragraph 22(a) so that the total period they can remain in the UK (including both the original grant and the extension of stay) does not exceed 18 months.
There is no provision in the rules for extensions of stay beyond these limits.
Cancellation and curtailment
Visit visas can be cancelled or curtailed in certain circumstances. These are set out in Part V9.
Cancellation while outside the UK or on arrival may occur where:
- there has been such a change in the circumstances of the case since the visit visa or leave to enter or remain was granted that the basis of the visitor’s claim to admission or stay has been removed and the visa or leave should be cancelled.
- the visitor holds a visit visa and their purpose in arriving in the United Kingdom is different from the purpose specified in the visit visa.
- false representations were made or false documents or information submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge)
- material facts were not disclosed
- it is undesirable to admit the visitor to the UK for medical reasons, unless there are strong compassionate reasons justifying admission.
- conducive to the public good criteria apply
- the person is outside the UK and there is a failure to supply any information, documents, or medical reports requested by a decision maker.
Curtailment within the UK may occur where:
- false representations are made or material facts are not disclosed as above
- the visitor ceases to meet the requirements of the Visitor Rules
- the visitor fails to comply with any conditions of their leave to enter or remain
- conducive to public good criteria apply, in particular if the visitor has committed a criminal offence and received a sentence of imprisonment, but also in wider circumstances
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.
For more information on visit visas, the classic reasons for refusal and how to challenge a refusal, see my updated ebook now covering the new Appendix V rules and Home Office policy on when visits might engage human rights and generate a right of appeal: