The new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 1025 on 26 February 2015 revealed changes to the visitor rules, which were promised by the Home Secretary Theresa May last month. The new provisions of the Immigration Rules will apply to any visitor visa application made on or after 24 April 2015. It was promised that the changes would overhaul Britain’s visitor visa system to make the UK more attractive to businesses and reduce the visitor visa types from over a dozen available to four.
The visitor rules will now be in a separate Appendix V to the Immigration Rules with its own sub appendices. The types of visitor visas are brought to four broad categories: visit (standard), marriage/civil partnership visit, Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit and transit visit. The big change is that there is no specific differentiation between visitors coming as tourists, to visit family or to conduct business meetings; In this respect the changes will simplify the lives of many people who are frequent visitors to the UK for leisure and business. This is indeed a welcome change across the board.
However, on closer inspection one finds that the standard visit category includes a number of subcategories, and thus additional requirements for each of the sub-categories as well. In addition to the standard visitor visa (maximum length of stay that can be granted is up to 6 months), there are separate sub-categories for 1) visitors coming to the UK for private medical treatment (maximum length of stay – up to 11 months), 2) visitors coming to the UK as organ donors (maximum length of stay – up to 6 months), 3) academic visitors, together with their spouse or partner and children (maximum length of stay – up to 12 months), 4) visitors under the Approved Destination Status Agreement regarding tourist groups from China (maximum length of stay – up to 30 days) and 5) child visitors (duration of up to 6 months). Therefore, in fact, we have 6 categories of visitor in one with additional requirements to satisfy; not such an “overhaul” after all.
The requirements that the applicants will have to satisfy are put into two broad categories: suitability and eligibility. The suitability requirements are the same to all categories of visitors and seem to incorporate many provisions, which previously, although applicable, were contained in various other parts of the Immigration Rules. There are separate eligibility requirements for visitors (standard), for PPE visitors and for marriage/civil partnership. Transit visit visa are dealt with in a separate part of Appendix V. Separate Appendices follow: appendix 1 for definitions and interpretations; appendix 2 contains a list of countries, citizens of which need to obtain visitor visas in advance of travelling to the UK; appendix 3 specifies permitted activities for all visitors, except transit visitors; appendix 4 is dedicated to permitted paid engagements; and appendix 5 contains a list of permit free festivals. Appendix 3 lists all of the permitted activities, which visitors (except transit visitors) could undertake in the UK. As noted above, visitors will be able to visit family or friends in the UK as well as attend business meetings and undertake a range of other activities. This is the single biggest and most positive change in the category. Apart from this and but for restructuring of the visitor rules the actual requirements remain largely the same.