Who needs a visa?
Anyone from outside the EU needs permission from the UK Government before they can travel to the UK. For most nationalities this means applying for a visa before they leave their home country. This is done online and by booking an appointment at a visa centre.
It is often said that some nationalities, for example Americans and Canadians, do not need a visa to enter the UK. This is not strictly correct. Whilst it is true that they do not need to apply for a visa before coming they still require permission from the Home Office to enter the UK. Rather than applying before coming to the UK they are instead assessed by an Immigration Officer at their port of entry. This is not always straightforward and the Immigration Officer does have the power to refuse a person entry to the UK if the view is taken that this is not a genuine visit.
Regardless of where someone seeks permission to enter the evidence to be provided to allow the decision maker to assess their application must be carefully considered.
Who is a genuine visitor?
For immigration purposes a visitor is defined as anyone who is coming to the UK for less than 6 months, and is not intending to work, study or get married here. People who are due to speak at events, such as the Edinburgh Book Festival, are covered by this definition.
However, the Home Office and Immigration Officers do not simply take someone's word when considering why they are here and how long they intend to stay. People who have previously been refused visas and people who do not provide precise details about their visit can experience difficulty when coming to the UK.
In our experience most people who are refused permission to enter the UK (either because they have been refused a visa or because they have been stopped at the airport) are refused because the person assessing their application is not satisfied that there is an intention to return to the country of origin at the end of the trip. This is particularly difficult where someone has to apply for a visa before travelling.
If someone is applying for a visa before coming to the UK, it is unlikely they will have booked their flights since there is no guarantee that their visa will be issued in time. In the absence of a return flight ticket how can someone prove they intend to return to their home country? There is no list of evidence that the Home Office requires for these applications and what should be provided depends on an individual's circumstances. We usually recommend providing as much evidence of a person's ties to their home country including evidence of any family connections or business commitments that they must return for.
How much money is needed?
Another important consideration is how much money is needed to pay for a trip. If someone applies to come to Scotland for 4 weeks but has no savings, the Home Office may legitimately ask as to how they will pay for their living expenses while they are here. If someone cannot establish they have sufficient funds to support themselves they may not be allowed to enter the UK as it may be argued that they may seek to work while they are here.
Regardless of where someone applies to enter the UK they should ensure they can provide evidence that they will be supported financially. This can include bank statements showing savings, or a letter from a friend confirming they will meet the cost of the trip along with evidence of their savings.
It is also important to take the time to explain any unusual recent deposits shown in the bank statements. For example, if someone has recently received a large cash deposit the Home Office may question whether this is genuinely available to them or if it has been deposited to make the visa application stronger. This can be a problem for people, such as authors, who are not in regular employment and do not receive a regular salary as their bank statements will show varying amounts of income which can lead to misunderstandings by the Home Office.
What happens if the application is refused?
If someone is refused a visa, they cannot appeal this to the Immigration Tribunal unless there is a potential breach of their human rights. This is difficult to establish and can take a long time to resolve so it is rarely a solution for someone who wants to attend a time sensitive event such as a festival.
Although it is open for someone to make a fresh application, this is not guaranteed to be successful, because the Home Office will consider the previous reasons for refusal.
The Home Office and Immigration Officers have a great deal of discretion when deciding if someone is a genuine visitor or not, and when planning any trip it is important that this is taken into consideration.
Our immigration team can help ensure the visa process is smooth and your trip doesn't start with an unexpected refusal. Let us make your experience in Scotland more enjoyable by starting your journey by contacting us: