Changes in the rules of UK Settlement Visas were addressed recently by the Minister for Borders and Immigration, Liam Byrne. Following the updates put in place from April 1st 2008 onwards, the minister was able to clarify a few points that were raised.
It is clear that the changes to the rules on refusal of a UK Settlement Visa were introduced in order to offer a more flexible, fair approach to the strict guidance notes that had previously been put forward without necessarily taking into consideration issues that could not be avoided. This is not to say that the updates to the rules have relaxed in any way, more that, as Mr Byrne said, “…discretion should apply.”
The initial changes in rules affecting settlement visas for individuals and dependants were focused on two key areas of the UK immigration application process; refusal on grounds of deception and refusal for applicants who have previously breached immigration laws. Mr Byrne was clear that the amendments to the original regulations regarding the refusal of UK visas were not to allow a “…green light for the groups I have mentioned to deliberately overstay. We need to bring forward fresh proposals to ensure that there are consequences for these actions.”
In the first area of amendment – refusal on grounds of deception – the changes illustrate the need for understanding the circumstances relating to the initial application. Here, making a false representation, submitting false documents or failing to disclose material facts are grounds for visa refusal, although it is the responsibility of the government department to prove this with positive evidence. An example of this would be if a wife applies to join her husband in the UK on his visa as a dependant but does not state in her application that their marriage has broken down. Positive evidence would include a letter from her estranged husband explaining their situation.
The second area of amendment – UK visa applicants who have previously breached immigration laws – the changes will allow those people who were under the age of eighteen when the breaches were committed, or who are applying to join settled members of their family in the UK to not necessarily face the mandatory bans on re-entry.
The main groups that the two areas of amendment are addressing seem to be people that are applying to join their family permanently in the UK, such as husbands, wives, fiancées, same sex partners, grandparents or people with humanitarian protection, or subject to trafficking issues. The minister was careful to point out that applicants will still be required to meet the requirements as set out in the immigration rules, but that discretion rather than automatic refusal would apply.
Minister for Borders and Immigration Liam Byrne did hint that those who overstay but then reapply to enter as a family may face difficulties or delays in gaining citizenship, but he was quick to clarify that this issue will be discussed at a later date and no decisions have yet been made.