"Once I come to the UK, I will apply for a different visa so I can stay there longer and work."
If you have entered the UK on a visa, what you can do in the UK whilst you are here and whether you can extend your visa will depend on the visa category you have chosen. Immigration law has become rather complicated. It is no longer possible to 'switch out' of some visa routes, therefore there is no guarantee in some routes you will be able to extend your visa for longer. Also, there are many visa routes which only allow certain categories of visa holders to 'switch into' them. There is a lot more forward planning required now and unfortunately some people I meet in my capacity as a lawyer have realised this too late.
If you are coming to the UK, it is important to check whether the visa you enter on will allow you to do what you hope to do either when you enter the UK or in the longer term. If not, there may be another visa type which better suits your circumstances and will allow you the flexibility to stay on in the UK longer term because there are prospects to either extend that type of visa or 'switch' into a different category of visa without having to leave the UK.
One example of a visa that has limitations is the popular 'visitor visa'. Some people have hoped to come to the UK initially as a visitor for different reasons, but then believed that they could apply to switch into a different visa category from within the UK after arrival by making an application to the Home Office by post or in person once here. This may be into a 'partner' visa (such as a spouse, civil partner, or unmarried partner visa) or a working visa (such as Tier 1, 2, or 5). A consultation appointment in advance of coming to the UK could clear up any misunderstandings and give you pointers to avoid hassle, time, and any expense in the long run.
"I am a British citizen, so my partner should be able to live with me here in the UK."
Though there are no issues with British nationals themselves coming and going from the UK freely, if their partner is not a European national they are subject to immigration control. The partner requirements have changed drastically since July 2012 meaning that it is no longer as simple for British nationals and their partners to return to the UK as they once did or to enter this visa route from inside the UK.
For example, it is now necessary to meet an 'income threshold' in partner based visa applications. The level of income required by the immigration rules is £18,600 per year and this increases if the couple have any non-British children. There are prescribed ways this can be met depending on whether your application is from overseas or whether your application is from inside the UK, and only certain evidence is accepted. There are complex rules relating to other sources of income and it is also possible to rely on savings held by either the British citizen or their partner. You can see my colleague Stuart's article for some more detail on the requirements of this immigration route here.
Whatever your opinion of the rules themselves, if you and your partner are contemplating whether this visa type is best for you it may be worth you finding out more about meeting the requirements before making an application. As the cost of the application is higher than most other categories of visa there is a greater fee to lose if your visa is refused. It may also save you and your partner a lot of time and difficulty too.
"Appealing the Home Office's decision to refuse my visa application is my only remaining option."
Having assisted in many appeal hearings, appealing the Home Office's decision to refuse your visa application can be a really good option and I have now seen many situations turned around after an appeal. Sometimes there is a possibility that an Immigration Judge may apply the immigration requirements differently from a Home Office Immigration Official, there have been mistakes made by the Home Office, or you may be able to produce more evidence in some circumstances.
However it really comes down to the facts of your case. It is important to know that there may be other ways of reaching the outcome you hope for, in the timescale you need, and all at a lower cost.
The UK government reduced the statutory appeal rights of student visas for those who made a visa application within the UK from 20 October 2014. This means that some people will have no other option but to look at alternative ways of moving forward if their application is refused.
Even if you have a right of appeal, it does not mean that it is necessary the best option for you or your family member in your particular circumstances. It may be quicker to resolve your immigration issue by making a new application, making a different visa application, applying for a visa at a different time, pursuing administrative review, or raising what is known as judicial review proceedings in the Court of Session. These processes have varied costs and timescales.
"To keep costs down, I shouldn't involve an immigration lawyer."
We all want to make good decisions with our money, so that we have more to spend on the things that are important to us. In this area of law, I frequently meet people who have not expected to instruct a lawyer in their lifetimes in anything other than writing a will or selling their home. However, after handling their immigration visa for so long themselves they realise it can be an expensive process.
Involving a lawyer does involve paying a fee for their services but many people do not realise that fees can be fixed and tailored to meet your own budget and what work you most want help with.
Unfortunately, visa application fees to the Home Office can be expensive and it becomes even more expensive if an application is refused because application fees are not refunded if an application is unsuccessful. If you made an application from inside the UK that is refused, sometimes it can be expensive to rectify a refusal decision either by leaving the UK to reapply from outside the UK or by raising court proceedings in the UK where there are additional fees to pay to the Tribunal Service. If an application was made from a Visa Application Centre overseas, often it is necessary to resubmit an application and repay the application fee to the Home Office whilst remaining abroad. If you are a non-visa national and have arrived in the UK hoping to pass through UK Immigration Control at an airport or port, it can become expensive if Immigration Control refuse you entry meaning that you cannot undertake what you planned to do in the UK and need to make arrangements to stay elsewhere.
In the long run, it seems less expensive to get some quick advice before you travel or you make an application. This way you can check whether what you hope to do in the UK does match with the visa application you think you should make before you go ahead. Any issues can be spotted in advance, so that you have time to change the visa application you make or obtain any further supporting documents which will help your application be successful first time around.
"To instruct a specialist immigration lawyer in Scotland I need to be in Glasgow or Edinburgh."
As the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal is on Bothwell Street in Glasgow, most lawyers who practice in immigration do tend to be found in the central belt for this reason.
However, working in immigration we are the last to be constrained by borders, distance, or language when it comes to assisting someone with a legal issue. We can offer consultations by Skype or telephone whether you are currently residing in Scotland, in England, or you are overseas and looking to move to the UK. Immigration law is not an area which is devolved to Scotland, therefore we can advise you on the same UK law as our legal counterparts in England however our fixed fees may be more competitive.