Foreign nationals refused a visa for a short visit to see family members in the UK will lose the full right to appeal the decision in the courts, the department of immigration has announced.
The step is a necessary one and will save tens of millions of pounds and free up tribunals to deal with more serious cases said immigration Minister Damian Green.
In future the vast majority of failed applicants will have to re-apply, rather than launching a lengthy, taxpayer subsidised appeal.
‘We are not stopping anybody visiting family in the UK. If an applicant meets the rules they will be granted a visa. However, it is grossly unfair that UK taxpayers have had to foot the huge bill for foreign nationals who, in many cases, have simply failed to provide the correct evidence to support their application,’ explained Green.
‘These changes will save tens of millions of pounds and free up immigration tribunals to carry out the much more important work they were intended for,’ he added.
The number of appeals has soared since 2000, when full appeal rights were re-introduced for family visit visas. It was expected that there would be a maximum of 20,000 appeals per year but by 2010/11, the number had risen to almost 50,000.
The cost of processing these appeals is estimated at £29 million per year. They now account for almost 40% of all immigration appeals, burdening the system and diverting resources which could otherwise be used to settle asylum claims and foreign criminals’ deportation cases.
Green said the department is also removing the full appeal right because taxpayer expenditure on family visit visa appeals is disproportionate to the denial of a visa for a short term visit to the UK, especially since individuals are able to re-apply and it is out of step with every other category of visit visa, such as the business or tourist visa, none of which attract a full right of appeal.
Green also pointed out that in many cases new evidence is provided at the appeal which should have been submitted with the original application. Applicants wishing to provide additional information should re-apply, not use the tribunal as a second application.
He said that a decision on a fresh application will be received much more quickly than an appeal, typically within 15 days, in comparison with the appeal route which can take up to eight months.
The change is included in the Crime and Courts Bill, which was published on Friday 11 May 2012. Subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, it is expected to come into force by 2014.
In the meantime, interim measures will ensure that the full right of appeal will be limited to those applying to visit a close family member. Secondary legislation is expected to be laid before Parliament next month which, subject to Parliamentary approval, will mean that from July 2012 those applying to visit a cousin, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew will no longer have a full right of appeal.
In addition, in order to engage a full right of appeal, the person being visited in the UK will also have to have settled, refugee or humanitarian protection status. A full right of appeal against refusal of a visa to visit a person who is themselves only in the UK on a temporary basis is particularly excessive.