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UK visitor visa rules

January 30, 2019 1,332

To meet the requirements for a UK visitor visa a migrant must convince the UK Government decision-maker that they have access to sufficient funds, that they are not intending to carry out any prohibited activities, that they are a “genuine” visitor and that they will leave the UK at the end of their visit.

There is also another requirement: that a visitor must not spend more than six months in the UK on any one occasion, and not more than six months in any 12 months. (If you hold a long-term UK visitor visa you will see the figure of “180” written on it: this indicates that you should not spend more than 180 days per year in the UK.)

This six-month principle may not be unreasonable. If you are spending more than six months per 12 months in the UK you look less like a visitor and more like a resident. To put it another way, if you are spending more than half your time in the UK it looks as if you are making the UK your main home. We would go so far as to say that the rule seems fair.

So far so good, but it is not as simple as this.

One of the visitor immigration rules says that the applicant must satisfy the decision-maker that they “will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits”.

What does this actually mean? It’s very difficult to say. What is it supposed to add to the six-month principle? Again, very difficult to say. Not for the first time the immigration rules are impenetrable.

We can probably understand that the word “extended” relates to not spending too long in the UK, but which is in any case already covered by the six-month rule.

And the word “successive” simply means that one thing happens after another. If you make five visits to the UK they are inevitably successive, ie one of them happens after another. It does not seem possible to attach any meaning to this.

The word “frequent” is also worrying. If you make ten visits of a few days each in the course of six months, does this mean that you have broken the rule, even though you have not come anywhere near to breaking the six-month rule?

Well, maybe. The meaning of the wording is just not clear, and we have experienced cases where an applicant has been refused a visitor visa because they have previously spent a lot of time on visits in the UK but short of the six-month limit.

And it is a strange and interesting fact that the published Home Office policy guidance states that there is no “6 in 12 months” rule for visitors. (Which contradicts Home Office guidance given elsewhere, which strongly implies that there is such a rule or principle.)

We detect a sinister motive here. If the Home Office say there is no 6/12 month rule this enables them to refuse somebody who has visited frequently but not broken the rule. If there is no rule then such a person cannot argue that they have not broken the rule, because there is no such rule! But, on the other hand, if they have broken the rule the Home Office can rely on other parts of the guidance and say that they have broken the rule and thus refuse their application.

Bearing all this confusing information in mind our advice is this. It is best to limit your visits to the UK as much as possible and to stay well under the six-month limit. It is also best not to visit too many times per year. It seems that it is better, for example, to visit twice in a year and stay a bit longer rather than visit three times in a year for shorter periods.

This approach may seem illogical but we believe that it is practical. Some people may think that preparing visitor visa applications is simple and straightforward but this is not entirely the case. Sometimes there are complexities that are not always obvious.

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