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Business visa refusal: what’s next?

When it comes to business visa applications it pays to get it right the first time. In this article, our business immigration solicitors look at the reasons why business visa applications are refused by the Home Office and what you can do if your business visa application is rejected.  

Business visa refusals

When it comes to business visa applications common reasons for refusal are not the same as for individual immigration applications. The latter are routinely refused because of past immigration history or criminal offending. Instead, not getting the paperwork right is the primary reason for business visa refusal. Taking advice from business immigration solicitors before making an application reduces the risk of business visa refusal.

Business visas include:

  • Visit visas when you are applying to come to the UK for business-related reasons that amount to permissible business activities under the immigration rules
  • Skilled worker visas for skilled migrant workers
  • Senior or specialist worker visas where you are relocating your place of employment from an overseas-based employer to their UK branch
  • Start-up visas for overseas entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in the UK
  • Innovator visas for more experienced entrepreneurs
  • Global talent visas for those with exceptional talent or promise   
  • UK expansion worker visas under the global business mobility route for those looking to set up a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas company in the UK 
  • UK scale-up visas for talented individuals

Common reasons for business visa refusals

Whatever the type of business visa you have applied for, whilst there are different eligibility criteria for each business visa category, there is a common thread of reasons why business visa applications are refused by the Home Office. 

The top 10 reasons are:

  1. Incorrect documents supplied to support your business visa application - Business immigration solicitors say that even if your business visa application is well written your application is likely to be refused if you do not apply with the correct supporting paperwork. Getting the documentation right is as important as the wording of your application because, from the point of view of Home Office officials, the right paperwork is more important than your entrepreneurial ideas or your need to come to the UK to take up a sponsored job offer or to set up your business venture
  2. Incomplete documentation supplied in support of your business visa application - You may be tempted to think that the quality of your business plan or your references speak for themselves and that strict compliance with specific Home Office guidance on documents is unnecessary. That can be a costly mistake to make if it results in your business visa application being refused
  3. Documentation not presented correctly - The issue with the paperwork presentation can be something simple but if your application is being dealt with by a busy Home Office official it is crucial to present your documents coherently. It can mean the difference between the grant and the refusal of a business visa application
  4. Following previous business visa application paperwork - If you are making a repeat application for a business visa (for example, if you have previously entered the UK on a visit visa for business purposes or you are applying for an innovator visa after having entered the UK on a start-up visa) it can be easy to assume that the application will be straightforward and not pay attention to detail. If quoted dates are wrong or if you have not checked to see if immigration rules or Home Office guidance has changed since your original application then your business visa application may be refused
  5. Not submitting a bespoke application or supporting paperwork - It can be tempting to download an example business visa application and a standard worded business plan off the internet and assume that this level of preparation will be sufficient. Often, this is not the case. For example, with the global talent visa, the Home Office has specifically said that business plans should be prepared by the entrepreneur. That does not mean that a global talent visa applicant should not get professional assistance with their business plan, but it does mean that their plan should show an innovative business idea with scalability
  6. Taking advice on your business visa application from an overseas solicitor - Your overseas solicitor may be an expert in the immigration laws in their country but it makes sense to check that they are UK qualified or that they are instructing an expert UK-based business immigration solicitor to advise them on the exact requirements for your business visa application and the supporting paperwork needed
  7. Assuming that the Home Office official will understand your meaning - When it comes to business visa paperwork it pays to read over your application and all your supporting documents. If you put in your business plan for your start-up visa that by year 3 you project a turnover of £1,000 and a gross profit margin of 5,000%, a Home Office official will not assume that you meant a projected turnover of £1milliion and a gross profit margin of 50%
  8. Not addressing issues - If you know that there is an issue (or even a potential issue) then you need to take business immigration legal advice on how to address the issue in your visa application. For example, if you have had a previous business visa application refused or that there is a ‘date issue’ or a discrepancy in your paperwork. Rather than risk rejection of your business visa application, it is best to take expert advice before you submit your application to the Home Office
  9. Applying for the wrong business visa - It is surprising how often this occurs. For example, an entrepreneur may apply for an innovator visa when they really should be applying for a start-up visa
  10. Taking advice from the Home Office - Many business visa applicants are bemused when their business visa application is refused as they spoke to someone helpful at the Home Office before submitting their application. Unfortunately relying on a phone call with an unnamed Home Office official, or even studying the relevant Home Office guidance, is no substitute for business immigration law advice

When it comes to the skilled worker visa common reasons for refusal are:

  • The Home Office does not accept that the employment is genuine
  • The job does not meet the minimum salary threshold
  • The applicant has not proved that they have the necessary maintenance funds

Whether the reason for the visa refusal lies with the visa applicant or with the prospective employer, it is extremely frustrating for both employer and the employee.

There are many general reasons, as well as specific reasons relating to your particular type of business visa application, that can result in a business visa application being refused. Alternatively, the refusal may be down to a combination of factors. The important thing is that if you receive notification of a business visa refusal you take urgent legal advice to look at your options.

What is the UK business visa refusal process?

The UK business visa refusal process starts with your receiving notification from the Home Office that your business visa application has been unsuccessful. The notification should state if you have a right of appeal and what your options are.

The exact UK business visa refusal process depends on the nature of your business visa application and the reason for refusal. The important point to emphasise is that whatever the nature of your business visa application there are time limits within which you must act to challenge the refusal.

How to challenge a business visa refusal

How you can challenge a business visa refusal will depend on:

  • The nature of your business visa application
  • The grounds for refusal
  • Whether your application was made from within or outside the UK. Where you made your application is important because if your application was made from within the UK you only have 14 days to challenge the decision. If you applied from overseas, you normally have 28 days from the date of receipt of the visa refusal notification to challenge it

When informing you that your business visa application has been refused the Home Office should state in their refusal letter if you have a right of appeal. Some business visa decisions have a right of appeal to an independent tribunal, the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). Other business visa refusal decisions can only be challenged through the administrative review process. The details of the administrative review process are contained in the Immigration rules Appendix AR: administrative review.

You may question why you do not have an automatic right to appeal against a visa refusal. However, in 2015 the immigration rules on appeals were changed to restrict the rights of appeal. The rule changes mean that business visa applications made under the points-based immigration categories (such as the skilled worker visa or senior or specialist worker visa) do not have a right of appeal. Instead, you can apply for an administrative review.

The administrative review processes

An administrative review involves a reconsideration of your application by a new Home Office official. They can either:

  • Grant the business visa application
  • Confirm the refusal decision – leaving you with the option of a judicial review application to challenge the refusal decision

Judicial review applications

As judicial review proceedings involve a court application, normally to the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber), it is best to take specialist legal advice before you start a judicial review application. That is because a judicial review application is not an appeal as the court only considers if the refusal decision was lawful or not.

There is normally a 3-month time limit from the date of the business visa refusal notification to start judicial review proceedings so early legal advice is important.

How to successfully reapply for your business visa

One option for some business visa applicants is to reapply for the business visa, provided you do not have a pending administrative review or judicial review.

It is sensible to take legal advice on whether your best option is to reapply for a new business visa or to apply for an administrative review or to appeal. In some scenarios, a fresh business visa application is the best way forward as it can be a quicker and cheaper option for you.

If you decide to reapply for a business visa it is vital to fully understand why your original business visa application was refused and to not make the same mistakes again. If you do not then the likelihood is that your second business visa application will just be refused again.

For most business visa applications, you do not have to wait for a cooling-off period to end before you can reapply for the visa. However, it is worthwhile looking at all your options, including asking for the original decision to be reconsidered if you feel that the refusal of the application was unmerited. For example, if the Home Office official says one particular document was not supplied with the application but you can evidence that it was.  

How to reduce the risk of your business visa being refused

If you want to reduce the chances of your business visa application being refused then preparation or appropriate delegation is the key to avoiding your visa being refused.

If you are preparing your business visa application yourself then you will need to study the guidance relevant to your business visa route and pay close attention to the documents the guidance states you should submit with the visa application.

When it comes to asking others for help or delegating the task of your business visa application make sure that you are asking a specialist business immigration solicitor to prepare the application for you, rather than a business advisor or a non-specialist solicitor. Even if your business visa application has been professionally drawn up (along with any supporting paperwork, such as your business plan) it still pays to read the application and documents. That is because you may need to ask questions if you are not sure if all the relevant information has been supplied or if any historical issues have been addressed in the application, such as the previous refusal of an immigration application.    The advice on how to reduce the chances of your business visa application being refused may sound basic. It is. That is because some of the most common reasons for the refusal of business visa applications are ill-prepared visa application forms or missing and incorrect documents. As the refusal of a business visa application leads to loss of immigration application fees and the delay in taking up sponsored employment or a wait before you can set up your business in the UK, it pays to get the right legal support to prepare your business visa application correctly the first time around.  

About our expert

Fozia Iqbal

Fozia Iqbal

Senior Business Immigration Solicitor
Fozia has been practising in the field of immigration law for over 20 years, specialising in Business Immigration since 2015. Fozia has advised an array of businesses, from start-ups to multinationals, owner-managed businesses through to SMEs, as well as individuals looking for immigration solutions. With a range of experience across the board, it is unusual for her to come across an immigration issue that she cannot tackle. 

Areas of Expertise

What next?

If you have had your business visa application refused and need advice on whether to reapply, appeal or apply for an administrative review then our business immigration law solicitors can help you look at your best options to secure your business visa. Call us on 0800 689 1700 or fill out the short form below.

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