Flawed UK Immigration System: State of Decision Making by the Home Office

There is a clear problem with the UK Immigration System with bad decision-making being made by the Home Office, often leading to lengthy delays, unreasonable refusals and having a distressing impact on applicants, their families and businesses.

As Joe Egan, President of The Law Society, elaborated “Almost 50% of UK immigration and asylum appeals are upheld – clear evidence of serious flaws in the way visa and asylum applications are being dealt with.

We understand that the Home Office is faced with a large workload that is disproportionate to the time and resources that have been allocated to them. Moreover, as the Home Office spokesman explained, some appeals are frequently allowed because of new evidence being brought to light that was not available beforehand.

The errors and delays are issues that need to be addressed as the UK Visa and Immigration service is currently being faced with a flood of applications due to Brexit.

Sterling & Law Associates LLP has dealt with numerous immigration cases across the different practice areas, as such we have seen many circumstances that demonstrate the irresponsible decision-making of the Home Office in their refusals and litigation.

Home Office’s Mistakes

Here are some examples of the typical mistakes summarised on the basis of our previous casework:

  • Our client had already left the UK, due to a removal order from the Home Office, and was applying for a Spouse visa from abroad as she had an appointment scheduled in the middle of January at the visa application centre. However, the Home Office decided to make a visit to our client’s husband’s address, while his two children were home, at around 6 in the morning on 2 January with two vans and one car filled with immigration officers to search and remove our client from the UK. Records should have shown that our client was no longer in UK, however this was not the case. Moreover, our client’s subsequent application was then refused even though they admitted that all the requirements were met because the Home Office stated that they were uncertain of our client’s nationality, despite an original valid passport being provided.
  • Similarly, another application was refused on the basis that the passport was not enclosed however the Home Office had previously retained the passport therefore the passport was in their possession.
  • On another occasion, an applicant was applying for a Spouse Entry Clearance Visa to allow her to enter the UK to pick up her Biometric Residence Card. The Home Office had issued her the visa but failed to inform our client and as a result the Visa application centre had held her passport for three months. They only contacted our client to inform her that if our client does not pick up her passport, they would throw it away. Our client was overjoyed because she was issued with her visa however, we soon realised that the visa she was issued with was already expired. Spouse Entry Clearance Visas are only valid for 30 days and as 3 months had passed, we had to request the Home Office to re-issue the visa.
  • Likewise, the Home Office had issued our client with their Biometric Residence card however the Home Office had mistakenly sent it to the wrong address. The letter and the card were received at the client’s sponsor’s employer’s address.
  • Another common example that we have been faced with is inattention to the documentation that was sent with the application. For instance, the Home Office refused a family permit stating that there was lack of evidence that the applicant and the sponsor was related, despite a birth certificate being provided to prove their relationship. Alternatively, the Home Office refused a family permit due to lack of evidence of financial dependency, however regular receipts of money transfers were provided with the application. These cases are currently going through the appeal process to ensure our clients receive a successful result.

These situations reveal a number of flaws in the UK immigration system.  The applications are not being given sufficient consideration, often due to severe time constraints from lack of resources.

The Home Office needs to be given more help through greater number of staff and funds. This in turn would enable the Home Office to take greater care in considering applications, provide better record keeping and updates with regards to our clients and their applications. This ensures that mistakes in refusals, informing clients of the results and administrative errors are minimised.

Home Office & Refusals

A summary of these cases has been provided by the the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association to show how the Home Office causes careless and unreasonable decisions.

  • Firstly, there have been cases of clients facing deportation who asserted that they were British but unable to prove this to the Home Office. Despite the Home Office holding information with regards to these applicants on file, for instance information that proves that they are British, the Home Office forgot to consider this and instead subjected them to unlawful detention and deportation. Subsequently, using Subject Access Requests (SARs), such information was brought to light therefore their status was confirmed, and they received compensation.
  • Secondly, there have been cases where clients made an immigration application only to have the Home Office make a mistake on their identity such as mixing them up with another applicant with similar names, similar details and/or similar nationalities. The cases were often resolved with the use of a SAR to demonstrate that the details have been mixed up, although despite complaints being made, the Home Office often repeated the mistake in a further application.
  • Thirdly, the Home Office has often made wrong assumptions or declarations on the facts of an applicant’s case. For example, the Home Office had wrongly declared that an applicant was an illegal entrant less than 10 years before his application therefore refusing his application to naturalise as a British citizen. Another example is where the Home Office refused an application stating that the applicant had failed to notify them of a change of sponsor however an SAR proved that there were records of such a letter being received. The Home Office failed to look at the documents available to them, leading them to hold incorrect notions regarding the applicant.
  • Fourthly, there has been several evidences of the Home Office’s bad conduct such as tampering with documents to remove information that was contrary to their arguments or refusing an asylum claim even though investigations for the case was still ongoing at the time of the decision. Moreover, there have been cases where the SAR revealed that one immigration officer had decided to grant a positive decision only to have the opposing decision being made the following day. This shows the unpredictability and unreliable nature of the decision-making.
  • Finally, the Home Office often fails to act on a decision that may have been pending for several years. For instance, applications simply were not actioned at the Home Office, the Home Office failed to implement the decision or failed to inform the client regarding the decision. More often than not, the Home Office may have forgotten about a particular case.

If you want further illustration, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association has written a briefing document where pages 8-12 elaborates on various case studies of bad conduct on behalf of the Home Office.

Subject Access Requests

Many of the cases above were resolved following the use of subject access requests (SARs), which allow legal representatives to request, on behalf of their clients, the details and information held by the Home Office with regards to their client. It often reveals mistakes made by the Home Office, therefore it is important that the right to SARs is not removed. It is therefore of significance that the immigration control exemption be removed from the Data Protection Bill 2017.

In conclusion, the Home Office often makes errors. This frequently leads to a refusal in the first instance and the appeal being upheld. The fact that around 50% of appeals are upheld demonstrates that the Home Office needs to address their faults.  It is important to shed a light on the miscarriages of process and justice caused by the Home Office to force them to make changes to their flawed immigration system.

Immigration Assistance

For expert advice and assistance in relation to your particular immigration case, please contact our immigration lawyers on Tel. +44(0)20 7822 8535, Mobile / Viber: 074 6338 2838, by e-mail: contact@sterling-law.co.uk or via our online appointment booking form.