24 Oct 2016, 59 mins ago

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced plans to revamp the current visitor visa application process by scrapping the existing 15 visitor categories and replacing them with 4.

The proposals follow a Home Office consultation with more than 100 organisations, including business groups and tourism bodies. The idea behind the changes is to “streamline” the existing visitor visa process and make it user-friendly for applicants. This will involve new categories for tourists, those who wish to undertake paid engagements such as appearing in concerts, theatre or other performance arts, visitors in transit and for people wishing to visit the UK for a marriage or civil partnership.

The Home Office will be laying the new Immigration Rules for visitors before Parliament on 26 February and they are due to come into force in April this year.

As well as the new visitor categories, the Home Office state that there will be more flexibility regarding permitted activities for visitors. For example, currently a visitor who comes to the UK for the purpose of tourism will not be able to take part in any of the permitted activities of a business visitor, such as attending a business meeting. However the new category would merge the two, allowing a visitor to be a tourist and engage in permitted business visitor activities.

The amended Immigration Rules will also seek to clarify the different durations of stay, which are exceptions to the usual 6 months granted to visitors. The duration of a visit is often a confusing aspect for many visitors. Although they may be granted permission to enter the UK for up to 6 months, a visitor is required to state the length of their proposed trip on their application form. There have been notable occasions where visitors have entered the UK for longer than the period stated on their application form but less than the 6 months granted to them, yet have found themselves facing refusal when making subsequent applications because they did not stay in the UK for the duration originally stated.

Visitors who require a visa to visit the UK often face a tough time getting to grips with the visa process, which is known for a lack of definitive guidance regarding the necessary evidence to make a successful application. The idea of simplifying an already cumbersome visa process can only be a positive change.