Immigration applications and appeals are decided with reference to the UK’s Immigration Rules. Ministers (and caseworkers in the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration directorate) have some discretion to make exceptions to the Rules, but are only likely to consider doing so in very exceptional cases.

Until the UK leaves the EU, European Economic Area nationals’ rights to live and work in the UK derive from EU free movement law.

For an overview of the UK’s asylum, immigration and nationality system, and more comprehensive guidance on dealing with casework, see Commons Library briefing, Constituency casework: asylum, immigration and nationality.

Things to consider

What is the problem, and what can an MP’s office in particular do to help? 

Getting the relevant paperwork from the constituent, such as the decision/refusal letter and appeal determination, and/or speaking to their legal representative (if they have one) can help to clarify the issue(s) and what has already happened.

To what extent should you get involved?

Know your limits – there are legal restrictions on giving immigration legal advice. Encouraging constituents to access appropriate professional advice is more helpful than trying to be a substitute for it.

Diagnosing the problem and how you can help

Provide general information, or guidance about a speculative visa application?

Most general questions can be answered from publicly available information, notably from GOV.UK ‘visas and immigration’ section and more detailed policy guidance.

Chase progress on an application/appeal

Consider whether the application/ appeal is outside UKVI’s service standards or visa processing times – if so, you may wish to raise with UKVI/ Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

Make a special request, e.g. to expedite an application

Special requests, like to expedite an application, are unlikely to be granted unless there are exceptional compassionate circumstances.

Give guidance specific to their circumstances/advise what further options they have? 

Case-specific queries are often best resolved by using UKVI’s dedicated MPs’ correspondence channels (available from the hotlines list on the Parliament intranet) or by signposting the constituent to appropriate sources of professional legal advice. [The hotlines list is an internal resource for use by Members and their staff.]

Ask a Minister to overturn a refusal/appeal/removal decision?

Consider if there is scope to make supporting representations – e.g. is there any new or compelling information you could provide? Consider signposting to sources of specialist advice. It is important for constituents to understand that involving an MP is not an alternative to exercising a right of appeal or administrative review, or seeking professional legal advice (regardless of the difficulties they might have in finding or paying for services from other sources).

Highlight poor administrative handling of a case?

Consider (as appropriate) raising with UKVI, escalating to Minister’s Private Office, referring to Parliamentary Ombudsman (if constituent requests and has already exhausted UKVI’s complaints procedure).

Constituents who have been refused: Appeal rights

The UKVI decision letter should set out what appeal rights the applicant has. Generally speaking, since April 2015, only asylum or human rights cases or decisions made under EU law have rights of appeal. 

Appeals are made to the Tribunals Service (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). Further rights of appeal against Tribunal decisions depend on the facts of the case. Legal professionals are best placed to advise constituents about whether they have grounds to make further appeals.

For some immigration categories without a right of appeal it is possible to ask UKVI to conduct an ‘administrative review’ of the decision.

Some in-country application categories cannot appeal to the Tribunal or request an administrative review, but can make a reconsideration request to UKVI.

Some categories (e.g. visitor visa) cannot do any of the above – the applicant must make a new application.

Constituents considering applying for a judicial review of a decision should be advised to seek professional legal advice.

EU constituents living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU

Many constituents are asking how leaving the EU will affect the immigration status and entitlements of British citizens currently living in other EU Member States, and EU citizens living in the UK.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who want to continue living in the UK after Brexit will need to apply to UKVI for a new type of immigration status, under the ‘EU Settlement Scheme’. The scheme has been processing applications since early 2019. Information about how to apply is available from GOV.UK.

Country-specific information for UK nationals living in the EU about what they need to do is also published on GOV.UK. ​

Constituents applying for visas for other countries

It is usually best to signpost constituents to the relevant Embassy/High Commission. Their websites usually contain general information about the visa requirements. These queries are outside of UK MPs’ areas of responsibility/influence. By extension, the Library does not have specialist expertise in other countries’ immigration requirements.