Americans and Canadians should read this article
If the vistor/applicant is from an economically disadvantaged country, or a country undergoing violent change, the chances are that the UK has designated that country as a visa-national country, and the applicant will require an entry clearance before arriving in the UK. This page is concerned with visa-nationals only.
Entry clearances for visitors in visa-national countries can be difficult to obtain because the applicant has the onus of clearing the credibility and intentionality hurdles, and overcoming the presumption that they will abuse their visa by overstaying or working. The situation can be further exacerbated if the applicant's connection to their sponsor has been limited only to the internet because the validity of the relationship (and thereby the premise of the application) can be called into doubt.
And finally, the applicant may fit a demographic profile where there has been a lengthy history of abuse (single women in Eastern Europe for example); and the applicant will have to overcome this hurdle as well (NOTE: whether or not this is fair is outside the scope of this FAQ, it is taken here as a simple fact).
For these reasons, we recommend that an application for entry clearance as a visitor be treated with caution and diligence. Our reasoning is that historically, the difficulties in obtaining visitor visas have led to fiance and spousal visas which were premature, and this has in turn led to marital breakdown and even domestic violence. We also note that visitor applications which are assembled properly and completely have a high success rate, and there is no reason to escalate to a settlement visa if a visitor application is the most appropriate choice.
At the risk of being pedantic, there are two roles: applicant and sponsor. The applicant owns the application and bears the brunt of a refusal. The applicant must clear the credibility and intentionality hurdles, and this is usually done at the interview stage (although there is a recent movement towards reaching a decision based entirely upon the evidence submitted with the application).
The sponsor provides the funding, the accommodation, and the premise for the visit. The sponsor does not participate in establishing the applicant's credibility and attempts to do so will invariably weaken the application. This is because the ECO may interpret such an attestation as a tacit admission that the applicant has a weak case, or worse, does not understand the application process.
Many sponsors ask if they can attend the interview. This is not in keeping with the sponsor's role and few consulates will allow it for this reason. It is acceptable to accompany the applicant and wait in a designated area, however.
While there is nothing in the rules indicating this as a requirement, the overwhelming majority of successfull applications come from applicants who have previously met their sponsor in person. This would be accomplished by travelling to the applicant's country or even meeting in a third country.
If the opportunity presents itself, we recommend a Schengen country because travel of this sort bolsters the applicant's peripatetic experience (which plays an important factor in establishing credibility).
Once the relationship offers a premise for visiting the UK, the sponsor can prepare an invitation which explains the background leading up to the invitation and why a visit to the UK is appropriate at this particular point in time. Of course copying from our sample letter verbatim is a reckless strategy; so as a guideline, the sponsor should try to include the following information:
The UKBA maintains a database of sponsors, and potential sponsors may be checked against this database for applicants they have sponsored in the past.
The applicant should bear in mind that it is his/her passport that will contain the refusal! Accordingly, the applicant is strongly advised to assure that the sponsor's documentation is complete and fully supported.
DO NOT approach the consulate unless you are fully confident that your sponsor has submitted all of the required documentation.
Beyond this, it is your responsibility to convince the ECO that your invitation is genuine, and that you will leave the UK when your visa has expired. Unfortunately, there are no "sure-fire" ways to do this.
Do you own property in your country? If so, provide an attachment to your application that shows this. Do you own stock or shares in a local company?
Are you employed on a full-time basis? If so, provide an attachment to your application that shows this.
Do you have strong family ties in your country that would indicate your need to return? If so, provide attachments to your application that show this. NOTE: if you have children or parents living in your flat, include a photograph of their bedroom or such. It is evidence (however circumstantial) of your ties to your native country.
Do you have on-going medical or dental work in your country that would require your returning? If so, include a statement from your physician or dentist that explains your situation.
Are you a member of your church? Cultural associations? If so, provide evidence of this.
Do you have appointments or important engagements outside of the UK taking place after the time of your planned visit? If so, point them out in your application.
Prepare yourself for the interview with the ECO. Think about any related questions you may be asked.
NOTE: This section has been prepared using informal second person English to make it more understandable. Other sites have adapted this page and our sample interview questions into Russian, Thai, Turkish, and Arabic. If you do not understand our English and are unable to locate a translation, please go to feedback and leave a message.
To follow up on this information, check our Internet Resources page...
Reviewed 9 May 2012