This article was written in 2016 following the grant of my girlfriend (now my wife) a UK visitor’s visa to visit me in the UK for the Christmas holidays. Now, we are married and my wife is in the UK on a Spouse visa.
The First Question to Ask Yourself Before Applying for A UK Visitor Visa
There are several countries in the world, a lot of them are closer to your home country—so why do you want to visit the UK?
The first question to ask yourself is; what’s the legitimate or compelling reason why you want to visit the United Kingdom—such that an Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) should grant you a visa?
If you have no genuine compelling reason to visit the UK, then don’t bother. Wanting to go to the UK to eat at Burger King alone is not a good enough reason.
Of course, wanting to go there as a tourist for sightseeing and shopping is a valid reason—provided you have the means to do what you say you will do.
What Are the Chances That You Will Get the Visa?
Every application is treated on individual merits but subjected to the existing Immigration rules that apply to the category of visa a person is seeking. For a UK visitor visa, I believe these three things roughly determines whether you will be granted the visa or not:
- Your ability to provide adequate supporting evidence for the information you put on the application form.
- Your ability to show the ECO that you will return to Ghana (home country) after you have visited the UK just as you state on your application.
- Your ability to fill the application form out properly.
- (And if you are being invited by your girlfriend, boyfriend, sister, mother or whoever—your ability to prove with evidence that the relationship you claim exists between the two of you really exists in a genuine form).
What Documents Do You Need to Apply for A UK Visitor Visa If You Want to Go There On Your Own Without Any Sponsor
The UK Immigration rules provide a non-exhaustive list of documents an applicant must submit in support of an application. The basic documents are;
- Your valid passport
- 6 months’ bank statements and/or pay slips—this will give the ECO an idea about your financial circumstance back home.
- Accommodation documents—this can be a hotel booking or reservation.
- A detailed itinerary showing what you intend to do in the UK.
More Importantly: Evidence to show that you will return to Ghana or your home country at the end of your visit.
This is really important because ECOs have no problem with people visiting the UK and the UK government actually wants people to visit the UK because tourism is one of UK’s main source of state revenue.
But ECOs are worried that people will not leave the UK at the end of the stated visit period—and this is one of the frequent reasons why people are refused a UK visa.
The refusal mostly goes like this: “After having considered the above, I am not satisfied that you have shown that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit, that you are genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes..”
Documents Needed to Show Intention to Return to Home Country
Writing on your application form that you will spend just 2 weeks in the UK and then return to Ghana does not really mean anything. These are just words and they are cheap. An ECO wouldn’t give a toss about this if you even swear on your dead father’s grave that you will return.
What is needed is for you to convince the person looking at your application that there are compelling reasons for you to return to Ghana.
And this is evaluated by ECOs by looking at your:
- Family & Social Ties to Your Home Country
- Your Economic Ties to Your Home Country.
If you currently have no job or no job offer to be started soon and even somehow you 100,000 pounds sitting in your bank account, you are likely to be viewed as having no strong economic ties to your home country and therefore wouldn’t likely return at the end of your visit.
You need to show that there’s something calling you back home and therefore you wouldn’t be able to stay there even if some people do.
Some people provide property documents and business documents in support of their applications—and the purpose of such documents are to show that, they have things going on for them back home so they will definitely return when they visit.
This is where most visitor visas fail–lack of adequate evidence to convince the ECO that you will fly back home at the end of your trip. Remember that, booking a plane ticket is not enough—we can all book tickets and cancel it later when
Remember that, booking a plane ticket is not enough—we can all book tickets and cancel them later when get to the UK or not even bother to cancel but never return.
If you are a student, being in school is a good starting point to show that you will return to school but a lot of people abandon school when they get to UK and never return. So being in school is not a bulletproof return vest.
Let’s say you’ve just enrolled at University of Ghana and Akosua is also at the same University but in her final year with good grades (a first-class student in the making), who do you think would be considered as unlikely to abandon education when given a short visa to visit the UK?
How Much Money Do I Need in My Bank Account Before I Am Given A Visitor Visa
A lot of Ghanaians think you need to have a big bank balance to be granted a visa so what they wrongly do is to deposit unexplained monies into their bank accounts and proceed to print statements. Remember, the requirement is to provide 6 months bank statement so every deposit will be seen—and if all of a sudden someone has gone to deposit about 20,000 GHS in their bank account, that’s a clear red flag.
Where did that money come from?
People may have a genuine reason for the deposit. For instance, my girlfriend has a growing side business-ElanyCollections.Com apart from her main job and when she sells her bead accessories, she is paid in cash which she sometimes deposits the payments in her bank account.
So during her application, I asked her to write a note or statement, explaining to the ECO where those deposits are coming from. She even provided the deposit slips.
If you sold your car and you were paid cash which you deposited in your account—state this and if possible, provide evidence of the car that was sold to convince the officer.
The answer to the question is this: you need enough money to cover your trip, stay in the UK for the period stated and surplus money for any sort of emergency that would rise. Eg; If you suddenly have to buy a ticket back home because of any emergency.
Evidence is Paramount—Words Are Cheap
Even if you believe you are a super honest person, the ECO does not know you and does not really care. Your words do not mean anything. They are just words and all they want is evidence—provide evidence to back anything you say.
If you are married with kids in Ghana, which can be considered as strong social and family ties, provide your marriage certificate and birth certificates of your kids. Just saying you have 3 kids called Abena, Ama and Joe does not add anything to your application.
You are supposed to do the convincing: even if it’s obvious as A,B,C—still state it and provide evidence. Do not expect the ECO to read into things or be able to know your situation.
Do Not LIE About Anything No Matter How Convenient It May Seem
I have read about people who having been banned for 10 years for lying on their visa applications. It may seem like just a lie—but it is not.
Be sincere in your application. Answer every question honestly because if you are caught (they mostly do), you wouldn’t like the outcome.
Mostly, people lie to get their first visas and then when they apply the next time, they forget the lies–so they get busted, fetching them a straight refusal, possible with a ban.
Now What Do You Need If You Have A Sponsor—Someone is Inviting You
Though most of the above apply when someone such as your boyfriend is inviting you to visit him in the UK, a different layer of documents must also be provided by the person inviting and/or sponsoring you.
When I invited my girlfriend to come and spend a few weeks, I provided the following (as the inviting person and sponsor):
- An invitation letter—stating how long I want her to come for and whether I will be sponsoring her trip financially or not. And also, the accommodation available for her.
- Since I was her sponsor, I provided 6 months of bank statements and pay slips. I am self-employed, so I provided other documents to show my work and earnings.
- I also provided evidence of accommodation—this can be a tenancy agreement, mortgage documents or property ownership title.
- Since she is my girlfriend—we had to provide documents to show that indeed we are in a relationship as claimed. Just saying she is my girlfriend does not mean anything to the ECO as I have already mentioned.
- So we provided evidence of communication to show that our relationship exists as claimed and we regularly communicate. Here, you can provide reasonable months of Whatsapp Chats, Skype Call logs, Email logs, Facebook Call logs or Chats, Normal Call Logs, Letters or evidence of whatever means the two of you have been communication.
- Again, I provided evidence that I have been traveling to Ghana to see my girlfriend—immigration stamps from my passport and visas to Ghana.
- We even provided photos of us together in Ghana; our travels and activities in Ghana. As you can see, all we were doing at this stage was to give the ECO an insight into our relationship. Saying we were in a relationship alone was not enough.
- I even wrote an explanatory statement—telling the ECO a bit about our relationship. Here, I wrote about when we met, how long we have been dating, how many times we have met and all that. Remember to provide evidence of whatever you state.
The Big Don’ts
- The first is, don’t lie.
- Secondly, don’t buy a plane ticket if you don’t have your visa.
- Thirdly, don’t think you are smarter than the ECO.
- Don’t leave anything out of the normal unexplained.
What If You Are Refused the Visa…
Being refused a visa is dreadful but it’s not the end of the world. It happens all the time and my first UK visa was refused.
The good news is, the ECO by law is obliged to give you reasons why you have been refused. Which is like writing an examination and failing—and the examiner proceeding to give you the marking scheme.
When refused, you can decide to correct your mistake as stated by the ECO and re-apply.
Appeals are not available for general visitor visas anymore—except if the appeal borders on human rights or race discriminatory grounds, which is highly unlikely in a lot of people’s refusal circumstance.
However, you can still challenge refusals of Visitor’s Visa if the ECO was unreasonable in coming to his decision.
At Fortwell Solicitors where I currently work, I spend a lot of my time making representations to the Home Office (UK Visas) on behalf of clients, challenging their decisions and mostly arguing that certain refusals are unreasonable, unconscionable and that the Home Office has failed to follow the Immigration Rules appropriately.
In the last few months, we have obtained 100% success in all refusal representations we’ve made the Home Office—requesting for a reconsideration of their decisions for clients from Ghana, Uganda and several other places.
While it’s true that you have no right of appeal or administrative review when you are mostly refused a UK visitor visa, Entry Clearance Officers who assess visa applications get it wrong sometimes and end up refusing people who meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules and therefore shouldn’t be refused.
In such situations, we take up the cases and challenge the refusals by making further representations to the Home Office as part of a specified route to seeking legal redress, clarifying what the ECO probably didn’t understand or pointing him to things he should have considered—and then getting the refusals to be overturned by a senior officer, an Entry Clearance Manager, for our displeased clients.
If You Are Granted the Visa
Don’t take the piss after you’ve been granted a visa: if you are given a 6 months visitor visa (most first timers get this) and you stated on your application form that you will spend 2 weeks—don’t now go to UK and spend 4 months.
Technically, you are allowed to spend a maximum of 6 months and you have 6 months visa in your hand but as I said, don’t think the ECO is a fool and you are smart. You were given the visa because you said you wanted to go for 3 weeks and perhaps provided funds and documents that support your 3 weeks stay, so why are you now spending 4 months?
If you do this and you apply for a visa the next time, you will have a lot of explaining to do to convince the ECO of your intention. This is because your 3 weeks intention changed to 4 months the other time, so what shows that your intention to return won’t change to never returning?
Of course in rear cases, there may be genuine reasons why people will stay longer than they intended. For instance, if you miss your flight, you will have to book another for the next day or week. Or, if your girlfriend whom you are visiting falls sick while you are in the UK, you may be compelled to stay a little longer to aid a sick girlfriend before leaving.
Remember, the evidence rule–you will need to provide evidence to show why you stayed longer the next time if it becomes a concern. To stay in the clear, if you said you will stay for one month, just do your one month and go back home–PERIOD.
Visa agents are like pastors such as Bishop Obinim. Even if you believe there’s heaven out there, they cannot actually take you to heaven–it’s what you do that determines where you will end up (Is that not what the Bible says?).
Visa agents have no influence or connections to get you a UK visa. They can guide you on what supporting documents to take just as I have done here and that’s all. They cannot guarantee you a visa and they can’t influence any visa decision.
To me, it’s pretty useless to use an agent in any visa application if you can read and write.