What Are the General Grounds for Refusal?
Migrants to the UK typically need to understand the grounds for refusal either because they want to avoid the potential for a refusal of their entry clearance or permission to stay or because they have recently been refused. Taking the time to understand the grounds (i.e. reasons) why immigration permission can be refused means that you can provide additional information with your application where it is needed or seek legal advice from an immigration Solicitor before applying. Doing so will not only avoid the potential for refusal it will ensure that your application is processed without unnecessary delay. In addition, understanding the general grounds for refusal can help avoid the possibility of having your visa’s duration shortened (curtailed) if any of these grounds are invoked due to your actions while in the UK. Here, we will outline the grounds for refusal of immigration clearance under part 9 of the immigration rules, how these are applied by the Home Office, and what you can do if you are refused.
What are the general grounds for refusal?
The “general grounds for refusal” explain the reasons why a migrant may be considered unsuitable (e.g. criminality) to enter or stay in the UK, and are outlined in part 9 of the immigration rules.
To enter or stay in the UK, you must meet a set of suitability, validity, and eligibility criteria laid down by the Home Office. Validity is about ensuring your application is submitted correctly (e.g. whether you have used the correct application form and you have paid the required application fees), and eligibility is about making sure you meet the criteria for the specific permission you are seeking (e.g. you have a job offer if applying for a Skilled Worker visa). Suitability is about ensuring you do not meet one of the grounds for refusal.
Where a ground for refusal is met, a migrant may either have their clearance or permission application refused, or if they are already in the UK, it may be shortened or even immediately cancelled, meaning you are required to leave the UK.
It is important to note that the part 9 general grounds for refusal don’t apply in all circumstances. Section 9.1.1 of the rules outlines a large number of exceptions, including, for example, where a person is applying to stay in the UK on the basis of their family, on the basis of their rights as an EU national (or relationship to an EU national), or they are applying for an S2 Healthcare Visitor visa.
What is included in the general grounds for refusal?
The main grounds for refusal (or cancellation) of entry clearance, permission to enter, and permission to stay in the UK as a migrant are set out in detail in Section 2 of part 9 of the immigration rules; these are as follows:
Ground 1: Exclusion from the UK
Permission must be refused or existing clearance or permission cancelled where the applicant has been excluded from the UK or been issued with a deportation order.
Ground 2: Approval is deemed not conducive to the public good
Permission must be refused or existing clearance or permission cancelled where the applicant’s presence in the UK is considered not to be in accordance with the “public good”. This might be based on the applicant’s conduct, character, or other reasons. This includes convictions that do not fall within the criminality grounds (see below).
Ground 3: Criminality
Permission to enter or stay must be refused or existing clearance or permission cancelled where the applicant:
- has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more; or
- is a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law; or
- has committed a criminal offence, or offences, which caused serious harm.
An application or existing permission may be refused/cancelled where the applicant:
- has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of fewer than 12 months; or
- has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a non-custodial sentence or received an out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record.
In addition, an application for entry or to stay as a visitor must be refused where the applicant:
- has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of fewer than 12 months unless more than 12 months have passed since the end of the custodial sentence; or
- has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a non-custodial sentence or received an out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record unless more than 12 months have passed since the date of conviction.
It is important to note the stricter interpretation of the rules for visitors, for whom refusal must be given even if they received a custodial sentence of fewer than 12 months (assuming less than 12 months has passed since the end of the sentence).
Ground 4: Exclusion from asylum or humanitarian protection grounds
Permission to enter or stay may be refused or existing clearance or permission cancelled where the Secretary of State has determined that a person:
- should be excluded from Refugee Convention
- is a danger to the UK
- should be excluded from a grant of humanitarian protection
- should have their humanitarian protection revoked on the grounds of exclusion
Ground 5: Involvement in a sham marriage or sham civil partnership grounds
The Home Office may refuse or cancel permission where it is considered more likely than not that the applicant is, or has been, involved in either a “sham” marriage or civil partnership. A “sham” marriage, civil partnership, or relationship is one that is fake and solely for the purposes of gaining a visa under a false pretence.
Ground 6: False representations
Permission may be cancelled or refused where the Home Office believe that in order to obtain documents in support of the application, false representations have been made, false documents or false information submitted, or relevant facts are not disclosed, whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge. This is also the case if it is more likely than not the applicant used deception in their application for permission to stay.
Ground 7: Previous breach of immigration laws grounds
Permission must be refused or cancelled where it is found that an applicant has previously breached immigration laws. This depends on the circumstances of each case. For example, a period of overstaying may be disregarded if it did not exceed 30 days. Other factors include when the person left the UK, whether they left voluntarily, and whether this was at their own expense or that of the public.
Ground 8: Failure to provide the required information
Permission may be refused or cancelled where a migrant fails (without a valid excuse) to comply with a reasonable requirement to:
- attend an interview; or
- provide information; or
- provide biometrics (whether or not requested as part of an application); or
- undergo a medical examination; or
- provide a medical report.
Other grounds for refusal include:
- Admissibility to the Common Travel Area or other countries – whereby a person is seeking entry to the UK with the intention of entering another part of the Common Travel Area
- Debts are owed to the NHS
- Litigation costs were awarded to the Home Office in a previous case, and these are unpaid
Difference between a discretionary and a mandatory general ground for refusal
As outlined above, each ground in the Part 9 rules states whether a Home Office Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) must (i.e. it is mandatory) or may (i.e. it is at their discretion) refuse or cancel permission.
This means that if you meet one of the grounds for refusal, the precise circumstances of what happened may mean your application may still be approved. For example, the criminality grounds for refusal state a person may have their permission refused or cancelled if convicted and given a custodial sentence of fewer than 12 months. If they received a custodial sentence of more than 12 months, their permission must be refused or cancelled.
If you are due to submit an application to the Home Office and you are concerned that you may fall foul of one of the general grounds for refusal, and there is discretion available, it is essential to provide the necessary information on which to make a decision in your favour. An immigration Solicitor will be able to advise how you can mitigate any concerns that a Home Office ECO may have and ensure that your permission is granted.
Can you appeal if your application is refused under the general grounds for refusal?
If you have received a letter of refusal or cancellation of your immigration permission from the Home Office, it is important to carefully read the wording carefully. Your letter will explain your right to appeal. In most situations, there will not be a right of appeal as this is typically reserved for cases involving human rights law and humanitarian protection; however, there are other options available to you, including:
- Submission of a new application
- Request for an Administrative Review (AR) – whereby you challenge a decision made by the Home Office on the basis that an error was made. It might be, for example, that they incorrectly applied the rules regarding the duration of your custodial sentence. An immigration Solicitor will be able to advise if bringing a request for an AR is recommended given the circumstances of your case and advise on the chances of this being successful.
- Request for a Judicial Review (JR) – this is reserved for when a decision is deemed to be unlawful. An immigration Solicitor will be able to advise if bringing a request for a JR is advisable given the circumstances of your case.
In any event, it is recommended that you seek legal advice following a refusal or cancellation of your permission to determine the range of options available to you and to clarify which is most likely to lead to a positive outcome.
How can Reiss Edwards help?
We have a wealth of experience helping migrants planning to come to the UK and those already based here to overcome challenges from the Home Office regarding their suitability. If you need any help to understand your options if your permission has been refused or cancelled on one of the grounds above, please get in touch on 020 3744 2797 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, if you believe that you may fall foul of one of these grounds for refusal, an immigration Solicitor will explain if your application is likely to succeed, and, if necessary, they will prepare a covering letter explaining the circumstances. Our experienced immigration Solicitors will be happy to listen to your situation and goals for your future in the UK. We will then explain all of your available options and help you to narrow down the best route to suit your needs. We can also handle all aspects of your visa application, appeal, AR and JR, ensuring you have the very best chance of success.
GOV.UK: Immigration rules part 9: grounds for refusal