My ILR Application Is Refused Due to A CCJ. What Can I Do?
Having gone to the considerable expense and effort of applying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), only to receive a letter of refusal, can be heart wrenching and distressing. For many migrants, reaching the point of eligibility for ILR is a landmark moment. With ILR, those from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) can remain in the UK indefinitely and can work, leave/enter the country, and use the healthcare system without restriction. Unfortunately, ILR refusals occur for many different reasons, including not meeting the eligibility criteria, not providing sufficient evidence documents, a criminal record, failure to disclose information, or a breach of the terms of a previous visa.
Often there is confusion as to what must be disclosed in a UK visa or ILR application. When it comes to County Court Judgements (CCJ), there is a common misconception that because they are not a criminal matter, they do not need to be disclosed. In this article, we will explain the immigration rules relating to CCJs, and what you can do if you are refused ILR because, as a result of a CCJ.
What Is A County Court Judgement (CCJ)?
CCJs are issued by the County Court where the money is owed by one person to another, and payment has not been made. Receiving a CCJ means that the County court accepts that the person owes money to the applicant, and makes it a legal requirement that the amount be paid. CCJs include how much is owed, how much needs to be paid (whether in full or in instalments), and the deadline for payment. These judgments are added to the central Register of Judgments, Orders, and Fines, which can be checked by credit reference agencies and also the Home Office. A CCJ is kept on the register for six years unless it is paid off in the first month.
Do I Need to Include A CCJ In My Visa or ILR Application?
Yes. Even though it may not be a criminal matter, you are legally required to include the fact that you have had a CCJ. The official guidance of the grounds for refusal states the following:
“An applicant who has been handed a CCJ must declare it on their application form as long as the CCJ continues to appear on the register. If the CCJ remains on the register, but the debt has been paid off in full, the applicant must provide details of when the debt was cleared, or alternatively if paying in instalments, provide details of those arrangements, including the total amount paid to date.
An applicant is not required to declare a CCJ that no longer appears on the Register of Judgments, Orders, and Fines”.
Therefore, this confirms that:
- You must declare a CCJ if it is still on the register
- If you have paid off the debt or are paying it off currently, you need to provide details of this, including how much has been paid off to date, how much is being paid, and how often.
- If your CCJ is no longer on the register, you do not need to mention it.
Can A CCJ Lead to Refusal of My ILR Application?
The Home Office grounds for refusal outlines the following guidance for case officers presented with an applicant with a CCJ:
“You must not refuse an application only because a person is in debt, especially if repayments have been made as agreed or if acceptable efforts are being made to pay off accumulated debts. However, where a person deliberately and recklessly builds up debts, and there is no evidence of a serious intention to pay them off, you must refuse under character, conduct, and associations grounds”.
The Home Office policy, therefore, is that debt is typically not a reason on its own for refusal. It may add to the case for refusal if you have not disclosed a CCJ currently on the register. If, on the other hand, you have built up a large debt and have not worked out a repayment plan with the person you owe money to, then there is a strong likelihood of refusal of your ILR application based on your character and conduct.
For these reasons, it is essential that before you submit your application for ILR, you come to an arrangement regarding any outstanding debt related to CCJ, and provide proof of the agreement with the person you owe money to, with your application. Doing so will help you to avoid the possibility of a refusal.
What Should I Do If My ILR Application Has Been Refused Due to A CCJ?
The first issue to address is why your application was refused. Was it an error on behalf of the Home Office, did you fail to declare the CCJ, is there no arrangement to pay your debts, or did you not provide sufficient information to show you have paid or are paying your debts?
At this stage, your choices will be to:
- Appeal – this will depend if you have the right to appeal – you will need to check your refusal letter to confirm this.
- Administrative review – to have your application reconsidered by a different Home Office case officer based on the errors you have found in the decision making.
It is preferable for anyone with an outstanding CCJ to ensure they have an arrangement in place with the person they owe money to and to provide evidence of this to the Home Office. If you have been refused due to a CCJ, it is important to speak to a team of experienced immigration Solicitors as soon as possible, as they will be able to explain your best option and help you receive a positive decision. If they do recommend you should appeal, then you will only have 14 days to do so from the receipt of your refusal if you are in the UK, or 28 days if you are outside of the UK, hence you need to act without delay.