Avoiding a marriage visitor visa refusal

marriage visitor visa refusal

A marriage visitor visa refusal can be devastating. In this article we can clarify what a marriage visitor visa is, when to apply for one, and how to avoid a marriage visitor visa refusal.

What is a marriage visitor visa?

The marriage visitor visa  is suitable for nationals from outside of the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe Economic Area (EEA) who wish to:

  • Marry or register a civil partnership in the UK; or
  • Give notice of a marriage or civil partnership in UK; and
  • Leave the UK after their marriage or civil partnership and do not plan to stay or settle in the UK

When making an application, the applicant must demonstrate that they (and their partner) are:

  • 18 years of age or over
  • Free to give notice to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of their arrival
  • In a genuine relationship
  • Visiting the UK for less than 6 months
  • Intending to leave the UK at the end of their visit
  • Able to support themselves without working in the UK or State support, or that they will be financially supported and accommodated by relatives or friends
  • Able to meet the cost of their return or onward journey

Our previous clients, John, a British national living in the United States (US), and his partner Celia, a US citizen,sought advice about how best to marry in the UK. It was important to John for his large family and elderly grandparents to be present at his wedding. He did not want his grandparents to suffer the undue stresses of international travel.For Celia, she loved the idea of having the wedding ceremony at a particular historic venue in Cambridgeshire and fortunately for her, her family were more than willing to travel to the UK.

John and Celia were both over 18, free to marry, had substantial savings, and neither had any intentions of remaining in the UK beyond a few weeks after the ceremony.

For John and Celia, a marriage visitor visa was the correct option. They were able to successfully demonstrate how they met each of the requirements under the immigration rules and Celia secured her marriage visitor visa.

When should you apply for a marriage visitor visa?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) states that ‘the earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel’. This means that if an applicant wishes to travel to the UK on 1 August to give notice to marry or enter into a civil partnership, they may submit their onlineapplication on 1 May at the earliest.

Timing is going to be a key consideration when applying for this type of visa. This is because in order to marry or enter into a civil partnership, the couple must have physically lived in the UK, in the registration locality, for at least 7 full days.

On Day 9, the couple must then give the registry office at least 28 days’ notice of their intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership. If 28 days’ notice cannot be given for exceptional reasons, the Registrar General may authorise for the ceremony to take place.

A question that we are often asked, is whether the non-EEA applicant must remain in the UK for the entire 28 days’ notice period. The answer is no. The applicant can enter the UK, give notice to marry, or enter into a civil partnership. Following their departure, they may return to the UK under the same marriage visitor visa (and providing the visa is still valid) to attend the ceremony. The applicant will need to be mindful however,to carry further documentation with them when returning to the UK, just in case it is requested by the Immigration official at the border.

Another frequent question, is whether the person can forgo the marriage visitor visa application process and marry or enter into a civil partnership under a standard visitor visa or visitor status.The simple answer is, no!

How to avoid a marriage visitor visa refusal?

The marriage visitor visa requirements can seem pretty straightforward, so many people are surprised when they receive a marriage visitor visa refusal. Three of the main reasons, from our experience,for marriage visitor visa refusals are:

  1. Not providing evidence of notice to marriage or civil partnership, or of an intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership
  2. Not evidencing an intention to leave the UK at the end of the marriage or civil partnership, or applying with the intention to stay in the UK permanently
  3. Lack of sufficient finances or financial support for the duration of the visit

Reason 1: Not providing evidence of notice to marriage or civil partnership, or intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership

To assess whether the applicant has an intention to marry or enter into a civil partnership, or that they even intend to actually marry or form a civil partnership, the decision maker will consider the documentary evidence provided. Decision makers are wary of ‘sham marriages’ or sham civil partnership’ used for the purposes of thwarting immigration laws.

In one case, Michela, a Botswana national who had previously (albeit briefly) studied in the UK, had received a marriage visitor visa refusal. Michela had submitted proof of contact with theRegister and of her provisional booking of the wedding venue. Yet, Michela had taken it for granted that the decision maker would accept this as proof of her relationship to Edison. Having provided no further evidence of her relationship with Edison, Michela’s application was refused.

Michela arranged a consultation, perhaps, to get her frustrations out in the open more than anything else. Understandably, Michela was tempted to marry elsewhere, but we were able to persuade her that a marriage visitor visa was still achievable. Michela was advised to submit a selection of photographs of her and Edison together, screenshots of communications between them, and proof of their time together and travels during her studies in the UK from 2014 to 2015 and beyond, to demonstrate that their relationship was indeed genuine and subsisting.

Michela was still required to evidence how she met the remaining immigration requirements. We emphasised the fact that Michela had observed the terms of her previous student visa and set out the reasons why she was keen to marry in the UK, rather than in her home country. Needless to say, her application proved successful.

Reason 2: Not evidencing an intention to leave the UK at the end of the marriage or civil partnership or applying with the intention to stay in the UK permanently

The marriage visitor visa is a short term visa. The applicant is largely expected to enter the UK, marry or enter into a civil partnership, and leave. They do not need to immediately return to their home country and can instead leave the UK and travel, say, to a honeymoon destination elsewhere. Yet, it is advisable to evidence this by way of on onward travel ticket.

Even then, the decision maker may still expect to see documentary evidence that the applicant has a reason to return to their home country or country of residence.

In the case of John and Celia above, we were able to clearly show that they both had family and employment roles to return to in the US. We had provided their contracts of employment, recent payslips and return tickets.

In another case, we had advised a non-EEA partner, Stu, who wished to enter into a civil partnership with his British partner, Graham, to instead consider applying for a fiancé visa. We are in the process of assisting Stu with that visa application. Yet had Stu applied for a marriage visitor visa, that application would have certainly failed because Stu clearly intends to relocate to the UK and reside with Graham, in Bristol, on a permanent basis. As such, Stu has no intention of leaving the UK after his civil partnership.

Reason 3: Lack of sufficient finances or financial support for the duration of the visit

We are aware of instances, where bank statements and payslips have been provided, and yet, the decision maker was not convinced that the applicant had sufficient funds to cover their reasonable costs in the UK, without a need to claim public funds or enter into UK employment,

With this in mind, applicants are advised to demonstrate that they have enough funds to pay for their wedding or civil partnership expenses, and travel and accommodation costs for the duration of their visit. If a family member or friend is covering some or part of the applicant’s costs, this must be documented.

Conclusion

A marriage visitor visa is intended to be a short term visa for a specific purpose, and it may not always be a suitable option for individuals seeking to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK. Once identified as the best option, applicant should demonstrate how they meet each of the immigration requirements to give themselves the best chance of securing a marriage visitor visa. By following the above tips, we hope that you will avoid receiving a marriage visitor visa refusal.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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UK elderly dependent visa

UK elderly dependent visa
A UK elderly dependent visa, adult dependent visa can be a useful tool for helping an elderly family member travel to the United Kingdom (UK) and reside long term. The problem? Such visas are very difficult to obtain.

Muneer contacted us about securing a UK elderly dependant visa for his mother. Muneer, a high-earning British business account manager, had lost his father to illness, in Dubai, almost 18 months ago. As a result, he had grown increasingly concerned about his 67 year olds mother’s well-being as she would sometimes suffer panic attacks and loneliness.

Muneer tried to visit is mother whenever his job allowed or his business travel took him to the Middle East.

Fortunately, Muneer’s mother had a very good immigration history of adhering to UK immigration laws following her visit to the UK last year. Unfortunately, the circumstances outlined by Muneer were unlikely to persuade the Home Office to grant his mother a UK elderly dependent visa.

Eligibility

To be eligible for a UK elderly dependent visa, an applicant must apply from outside of the UK and evidence that they are in need of long-term care from a parent, grandchild, brother, sister, son or daughter, who is permanently living in the UK.

Requirements

In order to sponsor an applicant’s application, the sponsor must be:

  • A British citizen, or be settled, or have ‘settlement’ status in the UK or proof of permanent residence or have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
  • Over 18 years of age

The applicant and sponsor must also prove all of the following:

  • That the applicant is in need of long-term care to do every-day personal and household tasks because of either illness, disability or age
  • The required care is not available or affordable in the country where the applicant lives
  • That the sponsoring relative in the UK is in a position to support, accommodate and care for them without claiming public funds for at least 5 years

Length of the visa

An applicant in receipt of a UK elderly dependent visa may enter the UK and stay for an unlimited period of time. For that reason, the visa holder will not be required to extend their visa or apply for settlement status, unless the sponsoring family member has refugee status or humanitarian protection.

Concerns

Muneer had presented a sympathetic case for a UK elderly dependent visa on behalf of his mother. He found it physically challenging to travel to Dubai with such regularity. Plus, his mother appeared in need of support due to her panic attacks. Although Muneer’s mother had savings of her own, Muneer provided for her financially, and helped manage the maintenance of her home.

Muneer felt that the Home Office would agree with his assessment and grant the visa. In fact, his reason or contacting us was to gather information about documents to be submitted and timescale. Yet, it was important that Muneer had an accurate understanding of how the Home Office would likely view his mother’s application.

We discussed the facts of the recent Court of Appeal case of Ribeli v Entry Clearance Officer, Pretoria [2018] EWCA Civ 611 (27 March 2018).

In that case, the applicant was a 65-year-old South African national. She suffered from a variety of medical conditions, including a degenerative back disease, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. With the help of her British daughter, her sponsor, she had applied for a UK elderly dependent visa to enter the UK and permanently reside with her daughter – an application that was refused.

The Court of Appeal considered the matter but dismissed the appeal against the decision to refuse the UK elderly dependent visa on the basis that the requirements, as set out by the Home Office, had not been met.

The Court of Appeal noted that the Home Office’s requirements were ‘extremely rigorous’ and onerous, but also (helpfully) outlined some of the documentary evidence that would be needed to support an application for a UK elderly dependent visa – such as:

  • Evidence that, as a result of age, illness or disability, the applicant requires long-term personal care in the form of:
    • Independent medical evidence that the applicant’s physical or mental condition means that they cannot perform everyday tasks; and
    • This must be from a doctor or another health professional.
  • Independent evidence that the applicant is unable, even with the practical and financial help of the sponsor in the UK, to obtain the required level of care in the country where they are living, in the form of:
    • a central or local health authority;
    • a local authority; or
    • a doctor or another health professional.
  • If the applicant’s required care has previously been provided through a private arrangement, the applicant must provide details of that arrangement and why it is no longer available.

In light of the findings of the Court of Appeal in the case of Ribeli, Muneer was advised that his mother’s application would likely have a low chance of success, if any. Indeed, there was a strong chance that the application would fail.

Alternatives

Before concluding our discussions, we explored the options open to Muneer’s mother. Though not as advantageous to the permanent nature of the UK elderly dependant visa, Muneer decided to help his mother apply for 10-year standard visit visa, which would allow Muneer’s mother to enter the UK for up to 6 months at a time, for the duration of the visa.

Rather crucially, Muneer’s mother must make sure that she does not enter the UK for than 6 months in any 12 months’ period, or she would fall foul of UK immigration laws.

Should the need arise, Muneer could revisit the UK elderly dependant visa application in future.

Conclusion

The UK elderly dependant visa is an extremely difficult visa to secure because of the high threshold and evidential bar to be reached by applicants and their sponsors. Therefore, it is understandable that in March 2016, 39,560 people signed a petition to request a parliamentary debate about potentially loosening the strict Home Office requirements.  The petition fell short of its target, probably because this area does not gain attention until a person is directly impacted.

Nevertheless, before preparing an application, it may be helpful to seek expert advice to assess the chances of successful and determine how best to strengthen the application.

And if you would like advice, we can arrange a telephone consultation to discuss your immediate and longer term options or assist you with the application process.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

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Settled Status Scheme

Settled Status Scheme
The UK Government has set out their latest position on the settled status scheme, as it will apply to EEA nationals and their family members.

The statement rehashes much of the information provided by Prime Minister Theresa May on 26 June 2017, about the new ‘settled status’ and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Sajid Javid on 22 June 2018.

The statement reads as follows:


The Home Office has been working to develop a new scheme which allows resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain the UK immigration status they will need in order to remain here permanently.

The EU Settlement Scheme will be fully open by 30 March next year. EU citizens and their family members will have until 30 June 2021 to apply, in line with the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Testing is already underway. Since August, EU citizens working for a small number of NHS trusts and universities in the north west of England, and students at those universities, have been able to apply for status under the scheme.

A new phase of testing will begin next month. It will involve many more organisations across the UK, including higher education institutions and organisations in the wider health and social care sector. Testing the system with real applicants helps the Home Office ensure the new system operates effectively when it opens fully.

You do not need to do anything for now. EU citizens eligible to apply in the latest test phase will receive information from their employer.

Further information about the scheme can be found on GOV.UK.

 


What next?

At the risk of being repetitive, it must be stressed that if you are an EEA national, or family member, residing in the UK, nothing has changed. After all, the UK is still a Member State of the EU.

 

It can be beneficial to wait until the new settled status scheme has been fully rolled out and apply for recognition under that scheme.

 

Nevertheless, we are aware of many EEA nationals, and their family members, who have already resided in the UK for a significant amount of time, and who have submitted an application for certification of their permanent residence status in order to better meet the requirements to naturalise as British citizens.

 

Of course, time will be a major factor as applications will need to be submitted soon.

 

The key is to and seek advice and plan the best way forward for you and your family. We can arrange a telephone consultation should you wish to discuss your immediate and longer term options.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

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British passport renewals

UK immigration
British passport holders may renew their passport well before the end date of the passport. The time remaining on the existing passport, of up to 9 months, was merely added to the new passport.

Fair enough – the time left on the existing passport has been paid for after all.

But now, the Home Office and HM Passport Office has now admitted a  change to this policy, so that new passports will be issued without the remaining time being added. Thank you Callum Mason, reporter, and Martin Lewis, founder, of Moneysavingexpert.com for putting this before the mainstream media!

It is no coincidence that the announcement comes at a time of much Home Office Brexit contingency planning and Home Office announcements in the case of a ‘no deal’ departure from the European Union.

Here’s the concern – British passport holders may start holding onto their passports as close to the end date as possible, before submitting an application for a new passport.

Yet, for immigration purposes, many countries will not allow a person to enter or cross the border unless they have 6 months’ validity to run on their passport. Indeed, the United Kingdom, requires non-EEA visitors to present a passport with 6 months’ validity.

Alternatively, British passport holders may wait until the passport has 6 months to run and then submit new passport application, so that in effect, as Martin Lewis put it, ‘passports will now only last nine and a half years’.

Watch this space.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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Latest Position on Brexit

Latest position on Brexit
Here, is the latest position on Brexit, as it applies to EEA nationals and their family members, following the Home Office’s latest statement.

Settled Status
On 26 June 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May, announced plans to grant nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA), a new ‘settled status’ following the United Kingdom’s (UK) formal departure from the European Union in March 2019.

The new settled status will replace the current ‘permanent residence’ status and allow EEA nationals and their family members, the right to live, work and study in the UK.

On 22 June 2018, almost one year later, the new Secretary of State for the Home Department, Sajid Javid, has released the Home Office’s latest position on Brexit, as it relates to the rights of EEA nationals, as follows:

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As Home Secretary, I take immense pride that so many EU citizens like you have made your home here.

Safeguarding the rights of EU citizens in the UK has always been our first priority and the agreement we reached with the EU earlier this year did just that. The rights that you and your family currently have been protected which include access to healthcare, benefits and pensions.

Away from the negotiations, my team in the Home Office have been working hard to develop the service that you’ll use to get your settled status. This work will continue as we make sure that the system and processes are rigorously tested and meet every requirement ahead of the launch.

Today I am able to announce in more detail what this system will look like.

Most importantly, the application process is designed to be simple. Most people will only need to complete three sections to prove their identity, show that they live here and declare that they have no serious criminal convictions. We will also check employment and benefits records we already hold in government which for many people will mean that their proof of living here is automatic.  We hope therefore most people will not need to do anything beyond typing in personal details.

What’s more, settled status will cost less than the fee for a British passport – £65 and £32.50 for children under 16. For those who already have valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain documentation, they will be able to exchange it for free.

There will be support for the vulnerable and those without access to a computer, and we’re working with EU citizens’ representatives and embassies to ensure the system works for everyone.

I should stress that you do not need to do anything just yet. The scheme will open later this year and we are on track to open the scheme fully by 30 March 2019. The deadline for applications to the scheme will be 30 June 2021 so there will be plenty of time for you to apply and there are absolutely no quotas for applications.

I hope you will agree with me that this is an important step towards the commitment we made to you and your families so that you can continue your lives here.

Yours sincerely,

Sajid Javid
Home Secretary

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What next?

If you are an EEA national residing in the UK, it must be stressed again, that nothing has changed. The latest position on Brexit refers to the UK governments plans post-Brexit and in any case, the UK is still a Member State of the EU.

Thinking ahead, it may prove beneficial to wait until the introduction of the new settled status and submit, what promises to be, a streamlined application to register and recognise your UK status. EEA nationals will have the option of doing from March 2019 until 30 June 2021.

However, for many EEA nationals, and their family members, who have already resided in the UK for a significant amount of time, it may be advantageous to apply to certify your permanent residence, so as to facilitate an application for British citizenship. Of course, time will be a major factor as applications will need to be submitted before the end of March 2019.

The key is to plan ahead, and seek advice if you are unclear or wish to discuss your, and your family members’, immediate and longer term options.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

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Cross Bones Graveyard

Cross Bones Graveyard
You have probably heard it all before. London is vibrant, cosmopolitan, historical, yet modern, lively and diverse. And we agree. So we are starting a series that explores a small part of London. Today, we look at the Cross Bones Graveyard and the Cross Bones Memorial Gates.

Long before The Shard towered over Southwark, a nearby area, known then as The Mint, was infamous for being a violent slum for the poorest Londoners.

By the time of the 19th century, ‘25% of the population was living at or below subsistence level’ in the United Kingdom (UK) according to LocalHistories.org.

LocalHistories.org goes on to say that;

‘Surveys indicated that around 10% were very poor and could not afford even basic necessities such as enough nourishing food. Between 15% and 20% had just enough money to live on (provided they did not lose their job or have to take time off work through illness)’.

For those who had lost their jobs or had no jobs at all, the dreaded and often feared workhouses awaited. Workhouses were designed to be austere, harsh and very unpleasant so as to discourage only but the extremely poor from seeking State support.

Rather than turn to the workhouses, those facing poverty often took their chances on the streets. To counter this, in 1834, Parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act, designed to move beggars and ‘paupers’ off the streets and force them into workhouses. The Act also sought to reduce the financial cost, to the State, of looking after the poor.

In London, those facing extreme poverty were deemed outcasts and buried within Cross Bones Graveyard on Redcross Road, SE1.

Redcross Way SE1

When the Cross Bones Graveyard closed in 1853, it was said to have held the remains of 15,000 paupers, including the bodies of The Winchester Geese, licensed sex workers during medieval times, who were then taxed severely by the Bishop of Winchester.

Many of the bodies of the paupers were removed following the Jubilee Line extension.

The Cross Bones Memorial Gates now holds colourful ribbons, seen here, dedicated to the forgotten outcasts, the forgotten paupers, the forgotten Londoners.

Check out crossbones.org.uk for more information about their campaign to preserve the site and gardens.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

 

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Brexit Update

Brexit Update
On 23 March, the Home Office issued an update to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals on their status after Brexit on March 2019, when the United Kingdom (UK) formally leaves the European Union (EU).  This follows the Department for Exiting the European Union’s policy paper, which was published on 28 February 2018.

The Home Office maintains that EEA nationals’ rights to reside in the UK will continue to be honoured until 29 March 2019.

From 29 March 2019 until 30 June 2021, EEA nationals and their families, will be allowed to apply for a new status that will allow them to continue to work, study and reside in the UK.

It was announced, that the system for registering for the new settled status will be straightforward and streamlined, and compatible with EU Directive 2004/38 (Article 8).

At the present time, it is still unclear what immigration framework EEA nationals, and their families, will be subjected to post 30 June 2021 and so we await further details.

For the Home Office’s full update, read on…

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As Brexit negotiations continue, this is the latest information on the status of EU citizens in the UK and how you are affected.

You may have seen this week that the UK and the EU have now reached an agreement on what happens during the period immediately after Brexit, known as the implementation period. This is important as it will give citizens and businesses on both sides time to adjust before a new relationship with the EU is agreed.

So, what has been agreed so far and how will you be affected?

EU citizens currently in the UK

The agreement on citizens’ rights reached in December has now been formalised into a draft Treaty text, meaning it is in the right form to be written into law.

The agreement means that if you are an EU citizen living in the UK before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 you will be able to continue to live and work in the UK. Your rights to healthcare, work arrangements and access to benefits will continue. Also, your existing close family members will be able to join you in future in the same way that they can now. You can read more here: Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know.

From this week, EU citizens in the UK have been seeing digital adverts encouraging you to ‘stay informed’. The activity is part of an ongoing effort by the Government to build awareness about the agreement to protect EU citizens’ rights ahead of the roll-out of the settlement scheme. As a member of this mailing list, you will continue to receive the latest information on how you are affected and what action you will need to take in future.

Settlement scheme

If you are an EU citizen or family member already living in the UK, a user-friendly scheme to enable you to secure your settled status here will open later this year. But there is no rush – you will have up until 30 June 2021 to make your application.

We will provide more information on the scheme and how to apply in the coming months. You do not need to do anything further at this point.

Implementation period

The agreement we reached with the EU this week extends the citizens’ rights protections above to include EU citizens and their family members arriving in the UK during the implementation period (from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020). This ensures that those planning to come to the UK after March next year know what the arrangements will be. During this time, new arrivals will need to register through a new Home Office registration scheme after three months in the UK.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EU Citizens Brexit Update

EU Citizens Brexit Update
On 19 December 2017, Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, issued an update to EU citizens on their status once the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019. So how does the UK Government intend to protect EU citizens, and their families, after Brexit?

In essence, the Home Secretary maintains that EU citizens’ Treaty rights will continue to be honoured until March 2019. Thereafter, EU citizens will be granted a new status that will allow them to continue to work, reside, study in the UK.

For the Home Secretary’s full update, read on…

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I’m proud that so many EU citizens like yourself have built your lives in the UK and made it your home. We value your contribution which is why the Government put safeguarding your rights as the first priority in the Brexit negotiations.

I am absolutely delighted that we have now reached an agreement with the EU that does this. I know that at times you’ve had an anxious wait while the fine details were ironed out, but we wanted to get it right and we have always had you at the forefront of our thoughts.

We have always said that we will continue to recognise the value you bring to our society, and that we will remain an open and diverse country. Hopefully this deal provides reassurance that we will do just that.

The agreement we have reached ensures the rights you and your family currently have remain[ed] broadly the same with access to healthcare, benefits and pensions protected. And your existing close family members living outside the UK retain the right to join you in future. These rights will be cemented in UK law meaning you can live your life as you do now with the security of knowing they won’t change. Irish citizens also have their existing rights, associated with the Common Travel Area arrangements, protected.

Away from the negotiations, my team at the Home Office has been working hard to build the digital system that you’ll use to get your new status. It’s being designed from scratch to be quick and simple to use. There won’t be bureaucratic hurdles – those processing applications will work in your favour.

What’s more, it will cost no more than the fee a British person pays for a passport and if you already have valid permanent residence documentation it will be free. There will be support for the vulnerable and those without access to a computer, and we’re working with EU citizens’ representatives and embassies to ensure the system works for everyone.

You do not need to do anything just yet. You will see more detail about the settled status scheme from us in the new year and we expect applications will open during the second half of 2018. In the meantime, please do share this message with your friends and family so that they too can stay up to date through our mailing list.

I hope that the agreement we have reached provides certainty to you and your family ahead of Christmas. EU citizens, like yourself, who have made the UK their home are our family, our neighbours and our colleagues and we want you to stay.

Have a very happy Christmas.

Yours sincerely,

Amber Rudd
Home Secretary

 

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EEA PR applications: Assessing your options

EEA PR applications
There is still a lack of clarity about the position of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals in the United Kingdom (UK) post Brexit and this is having an impact on EEA PR applications.

As highlighted in past blogs (and newsletters to our subscribers), EEA nationals will be expected to ‘upgrade’ their current status to the new ‘settled’ status from March 2019, when the UK formally leaves to the European Union (EU).

While nothing has changed for the time being, many clients are instructing us to assist them with their applications to certify their permanent residence (PR).

But before launching into the applications, it helps to understand our clients’ reasoning and assess whether the legal requirements are met. After all, we want to make sure that our clients’ immediate and long terms needs are fulfilled and that the applications are in their best interests.

For example:

Case study 1: Sarah

Sarah is a French national who has lived and worked in the UK for over 10 years.

She owned her own home, had a stable and well paid job, had not used the National Health Service (NHS), apart from the odd check-up at her local doctor’s surgery) and until recently, felt very settled in the UK.

Sarah wished to apply for British citizenship to give her peace of mind in light of the lack of clear Government assurance for EEA nationals.

During our consultation, it became clear that Sarah had automatically acquired permanent residence (PR) in the UK once she had exercised her Treaty rights and continually resided in the UK for 5 years.

Nonetheless, that status had not been certified by the Home Office, a prerequisite for applications to naturalise as a British citizen.

Sarah was advised to submit an application to the Home Office to request that they certify her PR status. Once Sarah had held certified PR status for 12 months, she was advised to apply to naturalise as a British citizenship.

This was additional time that Sarah had not foreseen. Yet we reduced this timeframe by advising Sarah to gather specific documents, as advised by us, to cover a period of 6 years, rather than the required 5-year period.

By doing so, Sarah’s EEA PR application, similar to other EEA PR applications we have submitted, was recognised by the Home Office for a 6-year period, allowing her to immediately apply for British citizenship, an application that is now being considered by the Home Office.

Case study 2: John-Pierre

JP had lived the UK for 10 years after having travelled to the UK, from France, to study.
Three years ago, and at the end of his degree and postgraduate degree studies, JP became self-employed.

JP wished to apply for PR status also.

We reviewed JP’s immigration history. During his studies, JP never held Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) or been issued a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The requirement to hold CSI was not highlighted by the Home Office and when JP once sought treatment on the NHS, it was ever raised as an issue. In fact, JP’s university had not told him about the requirement at the time.

Yet the impact of not having CSI as an EU student in the UK is serious, as JP would find it difficult to demonstrate, to the Home Office, that he was exercising his Treaty rights during his time as a student, as supported by case law.

So what were JP’s options?

JP was advised against submitting an application to certify his PR status at this time.

Could JP instead apply for settlement in the UK on the basis of 10 years continuous and lawful residence in the UK under the UK ? immigration laws?

Well yes and no.

Under the long residence requirements EEA nationals exercising who have exercised Treaty rights in the UK, but not yet certified their permanent residence status, are excluded from the provisions.

Why? Because EEA nationals are not subject to UK immigration rules and therefore cannot rely on those rules for redress.

Nevertheless, JP could submit a discretionary long residence application to the Home Office, outside of the UK immigration rules.

The issue?

JP would need to evidence that he had lawfully and legally exercised his Treaty rights in the UK for the entirety of his time in the UK, a hurdle that would be difficult for JP to overcome as he was not exercising Treaty rights as a student (remember the CSI requirements during his studies?).

Even if that discretionary application were to be approved by the Home Office, it would likely not have been in JP’s interests to make at this time, due to cost factors.

Of most concern to JP, was his wish to sponsor his non-EU girlfriend to join him in the UK, after their wedding early next year (and prior to the UK’s formal exit from the EU). JP did not wish to spend significant amounts of money on an application to the Home Office, unless it was absolutely necessary.

Previously, securing his status under UK immigration laws would have meant that JP would no longer have been recognised as an EU national exercising his Treaty rights in the UK.

Instead, JP would have been treated as a British citizen, and would therefore have been expected to sponsor his wife’s application under harsher and stricter UK immigration rules, rather than EU regulations.

We were pleased to inform JP that any application for British citizenship would not prevent him from exercising his Treaty rights and sponsoring his wife’s application for an EEA family permit due to recent case law.

And, it should be pointed out that UK immigration laws permit British citizens to sponsor their fiancées, a category of persons not strictly recognised as EEA family members.

That said, based on JP’s circumstances and longer term plans, JP was advised to take a wait- and-see approach to his status and arrange for his wife (once married) to apply for an EEA family permit to join him, soon afterwards, in 2018.

Under the Government’s proposals, EU nationals would be granted new settled status once they had completed 5 years’ lawful continuous residence in the UK. More importantly, that status would be granted, according to the Government, whether or not the EU national held CSI as a student (or self-sufficient person) or not.

Of course, the Government’s intentions are not set in stone.

Still, it is an option that would allow JP the opportunity to secure permanence in the UK after March 2019 and to sponsor his wife’s application, once married, under present EU regulations.

Have you experienced any of the above when making an application for PR status? What considerations or issues have you faced?

______________________________________________________________

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and organisations.

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Refusal of British citizenship

Immigration

Tips to Avoid the 3 Main Reasons for a Refusal of British citizenship

When Jodi contacted us, the Home Office had refused her application to naturalise as a British citizen. She was understandably upset because she had indefinite leave to remain and, based on her understanding of the law, she appeared to be a good candidate for British citizenship.

No criminal behaviour, no court action, continuous employment since her arrival to the United Kingdom (UK) as a Tier 2 (General) highly skilled worker, involvement in community activities and yet, three months later and at great financial cost, Jodi’s application was refused.

We reviewed Jodi’s application and found that she had made one of 3 common errors. Below we set out our 3 tips to avoid a refusal of British citizenship applications.

The basics

A person may naturalise as a British citizen, under:

  • Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981), as a person applying in their own right who is not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • Section 6(2) BNA 1981, as a person married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen.

The requirements to be met depend on whether you are applying to naturalise under section 6(1) BNA 1981 or section 6(2).

The requirements

Section 6(1) BNA 1981

The key requirements to be met:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Meet the 5-year residence requirements
  • Have indefinite leave to remain (settlement) or permanent residence status for at least 12 months
  • Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Intend to make the UK your home

Section 6(2) BNA 1981

The key requirements include:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • Meet the 3-year residence requirements
  • Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Intend to make the UK your home

Children and those under the age of 18 years cannot apply to naturalise as British citizens. Instead, they may apply to register as British citizens.

When preparing applications to naturalise, some applicants often fail to submit documents to demonstrate how they meet the requirements, which can lead to a refusal of the applications.

In fact, from experience, regardless of whether the application falls under section 6(1) or section 6(2) BNA 1981, there are 3 common errors which stand out. They are:

  • Not meeting the residence requirements
  • Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Not meeting the English Language requirements

Let’s look at each one in turn, so that you too, can avoid a refusal of a British citizenship application:

  1. Not meeting the residence requirements

As highlighted above, the residence requirements differ depending on whether you are applying to naturalise on the basis of a marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen or not.

If you are applying on the basis of your marriage or civil partnership, you must meet the 3-years residence requirement. Apply in your own right and you must instead meet the 5-years residence requirements.

How does this work in practice?

Under section 6(1) BNA 1981, you must show that you have been resident in the UK for 5 years preceding the date of the application. This is also known as the Qualifying Period.

During that time, you must not have been absent from the UK for:

  • 450 days in total: and
  • 90 days in the 12 months’ period immediately preceding the date of the application

Conversely, under section 6(2) BNA 1981, you must evidence that you have been resident in the UK for 3 years preceding the date of the application.

During that 3 year’ qualifying period, you must not have been absent from the UK for:

  • 270 days in total: and
  • 90 days in the 12 months’ period immediately preceding the date of the application

Not only that, but in both instances, you must have been physically present in the UK at the start of the qualifying period, whether it is 3 years or 5 years ago. There are exceptions for those who may have been in the armed forces at the start of the qualifying period.

Some applicants fall foul of the absence requirements. Yet, it is important to note that if all the other requirements are met, the Home Office can exercise its discretion in favour of the applicant.

Our client, Jodi, found herself in exactly that position. Even though Jodi’s total absences were recalculated when we prepared the application, she still had absences of 502 days during the 5 years qualifying period.

To overcome this, we made representations to the Home Office, to request that it exercises its discretion in Jodi’s favour. We also submitted documentary evidence to demonstrate that much of Jodi’s travel was due to her employment commitments because of the seniority and nature of her role.

In another past case, where the client had exceeded his permitted absences by 35 days, we submitted medical documentary evidence to illustrate that his travel was necessary. We also provided the Home Office with evidence of his strong ties to the UK by way of mortgage statements for his residential home and family ties.

It is, of course, up to the Home Office to exercise its discretion and each case will be assessed and decided on their individual merits.

Nonetheless, the above examples highlight that it is possible to avoid a refusal of British citizenship applications where the absences requirements are exceeded, provided strong evidence is submitted to persuade the Home Office to exercise its discretion favourably.

  1. Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirements

The Home Office will assess if you are of sufficient ‘good character’ to be granted British citizenship or whether your previous conduct should adversely affect your application.

To be considered as having good character you must have “shown respect for the rights and freedoms of the United Kingdom, observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK.”

This is quite a broad test, but essentially the Home Office will carry out criminal and civil record checks in every application. As the Home Office is not bound to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, this means that every criminal offence will be considered as part of your application to naturalise, no matter how minor or when the act was committed.

Any criminal offence committed, both in the UK and abroad, such as theft, drink driving, use of a mobile phone while driving and driving while disqualified may prevent you from naturalising until a certain period of time has lapsed from the date of conviction.

You may also be prevented from applying successfully if you have any financial issues such as bankruptcy or not having failed to pay your council tax.

It should also be noted that failure to declare any of the above, could also be viewed negatively.

Examples

A previous client, who successfully applied to naturalise as a British citizen, had 5 fixed penalty notices for speeding and 2 others for parking related offences. In light of the number of penalty notices, we were wary that such behaviour could show a pattern of non-compliance with UK laws.

We therefore took the precaution of highlighting broader aspects of that client’s good character. We also submitted information from DVLA to prove that the client’s overall driving record was positive and that all penalty notices had been resolved.

In another instance, Jimmy had recently been declared bankrupt and sought a telephone consultation to discuss his chances of securing British citizenship.

Jimmy was advised against making an application to naturalise, at this time, as it was highly likely, in our opinion, and based on his wider financial dealings and lack of strong UK ties, that the application would fail.

Jimmy appeared to have sought assistance elsewhere and submitted an application to the Home Office. He contacted us by email to say that he had been invited by the Home Office to provide his biometric data. We informed Jimmy that the receipt of a biometric letter did not equate to approval of his application. Hopefully a decision will go in his favour!

Not meeting the good character requirements could lead to a refusal of British citizenship applications and it may be sensible to allow time to lapse before making an application. Nevertheless, there are times when a refusal can be avoided, provided strong evidence is submitted to persuade the Home Office of your good character.

  1. Not meeting the English Language requirements

Nationals of majority English speaking countries are not required to demonstrate English language proficiency. Majority English speaking nationals are those from:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America

If you are from a country not listed above, you must pass an English language test (SELT), at B1 CEFR or higher.

It is not uncommon for applicants to provide an English language test certificate below the required level, leading to a possible refusal of the application.

Alternatively, if you hold an equivalent level qualification, such as a degree taught in English, such evidence may be submitted with the application instead.

The issue often occurs where the applicant received a degree qualification taught to them in English, from an approved university or educational establishment from outside of the UK.

Where this occurs, extra steps are required to illustrate how the applicant meets the requirements. For instance, Jodi, had previously submitted evidence of meeting the English language requirements, during her initial application for a Tier 2 (General) visa application and again in her application for indefinite leave to remain. At that time, Jodi had submitted a print out of the  Points Based Calculator detailing how her degree certificate met the requirements.

To Jodi’s surprise, the fact that she had met the requirements previously, did not preclude her providing such evidence again. And unfortunately, since 6 April 2016, the Home Office no longer accepts the Points Based Calculator as evidence of meeting the English language requirements.

Therefore, we approached UK NARIC for an Academic Qualification Level Statement from UK NARIC confirming that Jodi’s degree qualification was comparable to a UK degree. We submitted this statement, together with on official letter from Jodi’s overseas university stating that the degree was taught in English and also submitted her original degree certificate as part of the application.

As a result, we were clearly able to verify that Jodi met the English language requirements.

Conclusion

We hope that the 3 tips to avoid a refusal of a British citizenship application have been helpful.

As for Jodi, her application for British citizenship was approved and she had since attended the Citizenship Ceremony. As for Jimmy, if you are reading this, not your real name but you know who you are, please feel free to update us on your application and share your experience.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EU Settled Status Latest

Settled Status
On 7 November 2017, the Home Office issued an update to EU nationals on the proposed EU settled status due to come into effect post Brexit. Read on…

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Thomas Chase,

Brexit negotiations latest

Brexit negotiations
On 19 October, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has issued an update, via email, about the Brexit negotiations and their impact on EU nationals.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Thomas Chase,

As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.

 

I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.

 

When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

 

But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK will not diverge over time.

 

What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise.  That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement.  I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

 

I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way.  We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport.

 

The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement.  People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules.  And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.

 

To keep development of the system on track, the Government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU.  We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU Member States to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.

 

We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that Member States value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.

 

Yours sincerely

Theresa May, Prime Minister

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

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