Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Applying for a UK Visa

After many years of practising UK Immigration Law and Human Rights there are some simple mistakes that I often see people making during the application process for a UK visa. I would like to highlight some very simple mistakes and hopefully may be able forewarn someone who is about to do the same. Below are five common mistakes, in no particular order, that applicants are repeatedly making: 

1.Using the Wrong Application Form

The UK immigration law is constantly changing, and so are the application forms.  It is your responsibility to make sure that you are using the appropriate form. If you or your UK immigration lawyer does not use the up to date form, you could risk making an invalid application and inadvertently becoming an overstayer. This can have a significant impact on your future possibility of making an application to stay in the UK, as well as possibly being quite a costly mistake.

 The UK Immigration Rules state:

34. An application for leave to remain must be made in accordance with sub-paragraphs (1) to(10) below.
(1) (a) Subject to paragraph 34(1)(c), the application must be made on an application form which is specified for the immigration category under which the applicant is applying on the date on which the application is made.
(b) An application form is specified when it is posted on the visa and immigration pages of the GOV.UK website.

UK Immigration applications can be complex and may take several months to prepare; you are best advised to check that the application form has not changed the day before you post it, if you started completing an application form in advance. 

Although the UK Immigration Rules do give a short reprieve of 21 days if an outdated application form has been used (paragraphs 34, Immigration Rules 395), you are better off to be sure you do not exceed this time, as it can have far reaching consequences i.e.:  

You can become an overstayer and section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 – theautomatic extension – will not apply if you don’t make a valid application

You can lose the right to work, use the NHS, or drive etc., as even if you later manage to send the right form after the Home Office returns the invalid application (most of the time this is after the visa has already expired), you will then have no right to live here until the visa is issued, meaning you may need to quit your job in the UK, or can result in difficulties in meeting the income threshold

You can lose your continuous lawful stay under 10 Years Long Residence for Indefinite Leave to Remain 

You may have to leave the country and apply from abroad, especially where there are no children involved, as most UK visas (other than under human rights) require you to have a valid visa in order to apply

Luckily the issue of applying with an outdated form will become rarer from April 2019, as most applications will be done online. Nonetheless, having the online application form does not mitigate the risk of applying using the wrong application form.

2. DIY “Experts”

When my car has an issue, I take it to the mechanic, or if I have a major leak at home, I call a plumber. Why?  It’s not that I prefer to give someone my money, or that I am an idiot that can’t google the issue and fix it myself. I go to an expert as I may benefit from the wealth of his/her experience, which will ultimately save me in the long run from an even bigger bill. 

Hiring a UK Immigration lawyer to assist you with your application is a wise thing to do, and is not just for those who cannot read the rules themselves. Sometimes the most intelligent thing to do is realise that they would be out of their depth to do it themselves and instead get expert advice.

I receive thousands of calls each year through this website and social forums, via which I offer free initial general advice,  and I can attest to the numerous people who have saved themselves from the agony of making a very costly mistake after I advised them on their general options.

There are numerous Immigration lawyers in the UK and several good Human Rights lawyers, who will charge you a reasonable price with options for even paying in instalments. Either way the immediate cost should not blind you on the benefits, as it can save you from a potentially even bigger bill and a great deal of hassle. 

Remember: If you think the legal cost for submitting an application is high, the appeal of such application, once refused, would be even higher. Thus at the very least you should call a UK Immigration Solicitor for a Free Initial Consultation on your case.

3. Calling the Home Office for Legal Advice

Another common mistake is calling the Home Office customer service number for advice on a specific case; although the Home Office operate a general enquiry helpline, this is not meant to give legal advice, but more to check on your application and technical matters e.g. has a decision been made on my case?

Anyone who has called this number may have noticed the automated intro, which states that ”we cannot give any legal advice….“; the Home Office customer service advisors are not legally trained, and are also not the caseworkers dealing with your case, and in fact should not be giving any legal advice. Unfortunately, not all employees follow their bosses advice, and sometime calling the Home Office customer service might result in an advisor saying something that could be taken to be legal advice. Once you submit an application based on this advice it might later on turn out to be wrong.

Case Example: I recently have dealt with an appeal case, where a very intelligent British national with two PhD’s, wished to make an application for his wife’s visa extension. He called the UKVI as he was confused about which form to use, as he had found three forms in his web search. The Home Office told him to use the wrong form and the visa application was rejected.

The problem is, unless the Home Office has put this in writing it is very difficult to use at appeal or prove what was said during the phone call, especially given the backdrop of the automated warning at the start of the call.

In the above example given, the couple had to spend two horrible years and thousands of pounds sorting out the mess. They had to reapply using the right application form as an overstayer, but that was refused due to the Home Office not accepting their human rights claim, and it ended up in court.

4. Sitting for the Wrong English Exam

This mistake might be the smallest and most frustrating mistake, as sitting for the higher-level English exam, which is not approved by the UKVI, means that an application would be refused.  The English requirements vary from one application to another and so does the acceptable English Test, dependent on which country you come from.

If you are over 65 years old, under 18 years, a Nationality from a majority English Speaking Country, have a UK degree or a qualification equivalent to a UK Degree (confirmed by a  letter from UK NARIC) then you don’t need to sit for an exam.

On the other hand, if the above does not apply, you may have to sit for an exam to prove that you can speak English.

For a Spouse Visa entry you must sit and pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) in at least CEFR level A1 in Speaking and Listening. For Extension of your Spouse visa, you must sit and pass the higher level English Exams, A2.

I have mainly seen two issues:

  • The first is applicants for a UK Spouse visa sitting for the English General Training Level A1, instead of English Life Skills Level A1. While these are similar exams, the former is not accepted by the Home Office, as Only the Life Skills have the relevant UKVI reference number needed. The test certificate looks almost identical, save for the UKVI number.
  • The second common mistake, made by applicants already in the UK on a spouse visa and seeking to extend their visa, is submitting their old English exam Level A1 certificate, resulting in the visa being refused.

5. Using an Unregulated UK Immigration “lawyer, adviser or agent

The only thing worse than not using a UK immigration Solicitor in a complex application is using a fake lawyer, unregulated advisor or one of the “agents” that seem common in India, Pakistan and Nigeria. It might turn out that they have never submitted a valid application on your behalf, or even worst submitted some additional fake documents, which can result in you being banned from entering the UK for 10 years.

By law, anyone practicing Immigration Law must be regulated by either OISC or member of regulate body such as The Law Society – we refer you to the Government guide which states:

  • “It is a criminal offence for a person to provide immigration advice or services in the UK unless their organisation is regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) or is otherwise covered by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Members of certain professional bodies may give immigration advice without registering with OISC .

These include:

  • General Council of the Bar
  • Law Society of England and Wales
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
  • Faculty of Advocates
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland
  • Law Society of Northern Ireland “
Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-become-a-regulated-immigration-adviser/how-to-become-a-regulated-immigration-adviser  

We have in previous article tired to warn people against fake “lawyers” working unregulated and wrecking havoc in people life – see Article here ” Fake Immigration Lawyer” .

Also a few years ago we also published an article on the Difference Between Titles :Solicitor, Lawyer and Advisor .This article may also help you to understand the different titles used in the immigration legal sector and might save you from getting scammed by using an unregulated “adviser” and also help you get your money worth when engaging the various legal assistance you can use.

Conclusion

Sometimes, at first sight, a visa application might seem straightforward and easy, until you make one minor mistake, which can cost you thousands of pounds and moreover might result in destroying your clean immigration history. Therefore, it is always advisable to at least call a UK immigration lawyer for a free general consultation on your matter, or pay an expert to minimise the risk of your application going wrong. I appreciate that is difficult to trust my advice on this matter, as after all I may benefit if you do decide to use my services. I find it really frustrating that I receive calls from people who I could have saved from making simple mistakes. Often their cases are then much more complicated, and it takes a lot more work on my part, and causes them more stress, than if I had helped them from the start. There are times when a free initial consultation would have been all that was needed, and I would much prefer to do that, than unpick a difficult situation later on.