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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Columnist: Acheampong, Emmanuel Opoku

The UK Visit Visa: Who is a Genuine Visitor? Part 1

To qualify for a UK visit visa, you must be able to satisfy the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) that you are a genuine visitor and will leave the UK at the end of your visit. The burden of proof is on you to show that you have genuine intention. The ECO does not have to prove that you intend to remain in the UK.

The ECO will assess your intention in the light of all information provided by you and any other evidence relevant to your case. This will include statements made by you on your Visa Application Form (VAF) and in supporting letters, documents submitted by you in support of your case, and any other evidence relevant to your case.

In assessing whether you are a genuine visitor, the ECO will consider a number of factors, some of which will be discussed in this and subsequent articles.

Travel History
The ECO may consider your previous immigration history including previous visits to the UK and other countries as evidence of genuine intention. Evidence of previous travels to the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Schengen countries or Switzerland and compliance with the respective immigration law may count in your favour.

If the ECO finds that you have previously failed to comply with another country’s immigration law, such as overstaying a previous visa, or been refused entry to that country, they may doubt your intention to visit the UK; though this may not always be the case.

Travel history is only a factor to be considered among others. Therefore, the fact that you have made previous travels to any of the stated countries may in itself not be sufficient evidence of genuine intention. You must satisfy the ECO that you meet all other requirements. If there has been a change in your circumstances since your previous travel the ECO may refuse to consider your travel history as evidence of genuine intention. For example, if you have been refused a visa to the UK or other country since your last travel; or if a change in your economic circumstances since your last travel leads the ECO to doubt your intentions, they may refuse to consider your previous visits as evidence of genuine intention.

Reasons for visit
The ECO may also consider your reasons for your visit as evidence of your intention. They may consider whether the information and the reasons for the visit provided by you are credible and correspond to your personal, family, social and economic background. A good reason for your visit, such as to see a sick relative, or attend a conference relevant to your educational or work situation may be helpful in showing your intention. However, a good reason for your visit is only a relevant consideration, and may in itself not be sufficient evidence that you have genuine intention.

The ECO will consider the cost of your trip, and any ongoing financial commitments, together with reasons for your visit in assessing your intention. Accordingly, they may doubt your intention if the reasons for the visit do not justify the proposed expenditure. This may be the case if the proposed cost of your trip will be more than half of your total savings.

Likewise, you may fail to satisfy the ECO of your intentions if your reason for the visit does not correspond to your claimed personal situation. Thus a marketing student who applies to visit the UK for a medical conference may have a hard time convincing the ECO of his intention for the visit.

Discrepancies in information provided
The ECO assesses your intention by reference to statements and evidence provided by you. Therefore, discrepancies in your statements and or documents may be interpreted by them as the absence of genuine intention. This may be the case if the number of days for your visit stated by you on the VAF is 7 days, but your hotel booking confirms a booking for 14 days; or if the name of your parent stated by you on the VAF is different from that stated on your marriage or birth certificate; or if you stated that your UK sponsor is your uncle, but his letter of invitation describes you as a friend.

It is therefore advisable to review all statements, supporting letters, and documents before submitting your application. If a third party assisted you in completing your VAF, you must review the information to ensure that they contain accurate information. You will ultimately be responsible for your application even if you did not complete the VAF yourself.

To be continued…

By Emmanuel Opoku Acheampong

Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance on UK immigration law. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of the use of this information.

The writer is an Immigration law advisor and a practicing law attorney in Ghana. He advises on U.S., UK, and Schengen immigration law. He works part-time as a consultant for Acheampong & Associates Ltd, an immigration law firm in Accra. He may be contacted on