Report on UK visa applications

In order to travel to the UK, whether it is for a holiday, work or business, all non-British individuals must apply for a visa. The application process is typically online (via the gov.uk website) involves answering a series of questions about the purpose of the visit and the applicants personal and financial circumstances and requires making a non-refundable payment.

Application documents are reviewed by an Entry Clearance Officer. The UK Immigration Office apparently use a points-based system and can choose to reject an applicant’s visa if it finds there is no reason for the applicant to visit the UK based on the information submitted in the visa application form.

If the applicant is unsuccessful, the visa rejection letter will specify if the applicant is permitted to appeal the decision. If the applicant does not have the right to appeal, the applicant will have to file a fresh visa application!

The UK Immigration Act 2014 led to New Immigration Rules introduced in April 2015. According to the Home Office, this Act changes the removals and appeals system with the aim to / purpose of prevent illegal immigrants accessing public services or the labour market, make it easier and quicker to remove those with no right to be here, end the abuse of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to respect for family and private life.

Since the new rules were introduced, it has reportedly become more difficult to get a UK Visitor Visa (UK Immigration Lawyers. 2018). Furthermore, the changes in UK law have decreased the possibility of appealing against a refused UK visit visa. Previously, an applicant could seek a review of a visa refusal. The decision by the Entry Clearance Officer could be reviewed by an Entry Clearance Manager, if an applicant provided evidence that the Entry Clearance Officer committed an error of law or fact, or misinterpreted the Immigration Rules (Acheampong /ghanaweb.com).

Understandably there is a high demand, there are thousands of visa applicants each month BUT, should / you have a genuine query regarding reasons for refusal then good luck finding someone to listen! One finds themselves directed around the gov.uk website or phone system. One might eventually find the link to Contact UK Visas and Immigration to be told that calls cost £1.37 per minute on top of your standard network charges and email enquiries cost £5.48!

Refusal rate varies from region to region of world. Disparity in the UK Visa Refusal Rates is due to the difference in the Security Risk perception of the respective countries. Reasons for refusal of 80–90% of visitor visa applications relate to establishing income (UK Immigration Lawyers, 2018). Put more simply, as a means of deciding whether to issue a visa the applicant’s finances are assessed – this suggests that those with money are allowed in, those without are not, as they are judged to be a greater risk of remaining in the UK!

In The Gambia, for example, the majority of Gambians do not have a bank account or the opportunity to earn large amounts of money. That is not to say they are not working hard, but in general, salaries are low and due to the economic system, proof of income is also difficult. Few people have written contracts with an employer or receive salary slips, and payment is commonly in cash rather than a bank deposit. Thus, it is a challenge for people to provide documents tracing their income or assets.

In 2018, a Gambian man wishing to visit the UK for a two-week honeymoon with his British wife, was refused a visa. The reasons for refusal were contradictory – the clearance officer stated that he/she is satisfied that the wife could cover ALL the costs of their trip. But later it was stated, after assessing the man’s personal finances, that he/she was not satisfied that he had the funds available to afford a trip to the UK or sufficient funds to cover his costs whilst in the UK. Despite having demonstrated that he was a property owner with a small business and his wife a Gambian resident, they stated that they did not believe the man would leave at the end of his trip. As Gambians know, family is important, yet this man, and I am sure there are others like him, was denied the right to ever meet his in-laws.

Most recently, an 8 year-old Gambian boy born without ears was denied the opportunity to receive medical treatment in Scotland. Despite the Project Gambia People Feeding People having coordinated for the boy to have an operation that would allow him to hear properly for the first time, the UK government decided his fate. His health ever affected by the decision of the UK to deny entry to the boy (Face2faceafrica.com 2018).

One may interpret from the Immigration Act 2014 that the British government feels that non-British people are a burden on the UK’s resources, that so far it has been too difficult to rid the country of foreign citizens, because they have rights.

The question is, are British authorities making a general assumption about all foreign visitors? Thus, making it extremely difficult for those with the genuine intention of just visiting, of ever getting in to the country.

Do they assume that all foreign visitors will want to stay in the UK? Are they afraid that even if a 6 month visa is issued to a person from a poorer nation, they will refuse to leave after 6 months? Do the British government not believe that people just want to make a short visit to the UK, to see the sights, experience the culture, visit friends?

It seems unfair to take the payment from people applying for a visa then reject them because they don’t have enough money! I am sure there are many people who are offended by what is implied by the Immigration Act and by British government’s treatment of visa applicants.

Immigration statistics for 2005 to mid-2017 are available from the UK Home Office. Taking into account all types of visa application, the Home Office has granted a minimum of 78% of the total visa applications each quarter, thus refusing just 9 – 20% of applications every 3 months.

Yet when one examines the figures for different countries, this high rate of acceptance is not always the case. There are 242 nations lumped into the category Sub-Saharan Africa and acceptance rates differ amongst them.

Looking at the data for The Gambia, even though the annual number of applications for a UK visa have decreased, the percentage of applications refused has actually increased. From 2013 onwards, the UK has refused more than half of applications made by Gambian citizens. Compared to 2005 when 35% were refused and 2010 when 31% were refused.

In comparison with a small number of other countries, it is evident that a higher percentage of visas have been refused from the West African nations of Gambia and Senegal compared to Kenya in East Africa and even Iraq in the Middle East (Figure 1). This pattern is nearly consistent across each year, with the exception of 2007 and 2015.

Figure 1. Percentage of total visa applications refused each year from 2005 to 2016

It is interesting that citizens of Gambia, a former British colony, should so frequently be refused a visa (percentage refusal ranges from 31% to 59%). There has even been a greater percentage refusal than that of neighbouring Senegal each year from 2005 to 2016 (percentage refusal ranges from 17% – 43%).

Conclusion

The question remains, are visits to the UK to be an activity exclusively for the wealthy? Should action be taken? What can be done? Do Gambian authorities care enough to take action to improve the opportunities available to Gambian citizens?

By K. Fatty

Sources

What can you do after your UK visit visa is refused? Emmanuel Opoku Acheampong. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/What-can-you-do-after-your-UK-visit-visa-is-refused-402761

Face2face Africa 2018. https://face2faceafrica.com/article/tears-and-anger-over-uk-visa-denial-for-gambian-boy-born-without-ears

UK Immigration Lawyers. 2018. How hard is it to get a Standard Visa? https://ukvisa.blog/2018/02/2

UK Government website. https://www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-inside-outside-uk/y/outside-the-uk

UK Government. Home Office Immigration Statistics.

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