UK immigration criticised for Tier 1 decision-making

John Vine, the UK's chief independent inspector of borders and immigration, has released a report which criticises the UK's Home Office for the quality and promptness of its decision making on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas. The report states that the Home Office did not keep adequate records, made decisions based on flawed evidence and allowed a backlog of nearly 10,000 cases to build up in 2012.

Mr Vine issued his report on 12th September 2013. It was titled An Inspection of applications to enter and remain in the UK under the Tier 1 Investor and Entrepreneur categories of the Points Based System December 2012 – May 2013.

Tier 1 (Investor) visas allow wealthy individuals to acquire UK resident visas which last for a maximum of three years and four months. To qualify, you require at least £1m out of which you will need to invest £750,000 in approved UK investment vehicles, with the remaining £250,000 being spent on assets or put on deposit in the UK. Investor visas can be renewed.

91% of Tier 1 (Investor) decisions were 'reasonable'

Mr Vine's report found that 91% of Home Office decisions on Tier 1 (Investor) applications were 'reasonable'. By this, he meant that they were decisions which were made according to the rules and were supported by evidence. They were therefore defensible and probably correct. There were around 600 applications made in 2012.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas allow non-EU nationals with access to at least £50,000 to invest in a business and a viable business plan to apply for a UK visa. These visas also last for three years and four months and can be renewed. In the case of Entrepreneur visas, Mr Vine's team found that no more than 62.5% of these applications were reasonable.

Mr Vine's reports says that the number of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications increased by 1,520% over the course of 2012 after the UK government closed down the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa in April 2012. The Post Study Work visa allowed international graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduation.

Insufficient staff working on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications

There were, therefore, insufficient staff working on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applications and it failed to meet its own performance targets for either the Investor visa or the Entrepreneur visa in almost every month of 2012. By March 2013, a backlog of 9,191 entrepreneur applications had accumulated. It has since been reduced but Mr Vine says that this should have happened sooner.

The team asked to inspect a sample of 90 entrepreneur applications. In over 40% of these files, the inspectors found that the Home Office had not kept enough evidence of the work undertaken on the file so the inspectors were unable to determine whether the decision had been reasonable or not. In 39 of these 41 cases, the applicant was granted a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa.

Mr Vine says that, in cases where the files were properly kept and could, therefore, be inspected, staff had made decisions based on inadequate evidence. For example, they had accepted an applicant's word that he had sufficient funds to qualify for the visa without sufficient evidence to support that claim.

Files left unsecured overnight

The inspectors also found that, at the Home Office's Sheffield office, application files were left unsecured and unattended in open crates overnight. Mr Vine said that this was a breach of the Home Office's Data Protection Act duty to protect potentially sensitive information. He said that this situation should be rectified.

Mr Vine recommends that the Home Office should
• Improves the quality of its decision making
• Ensure that files are kept securely

  • Ensure that staff are informed of the rationale behind appeal decisions so that they can make decisions that are in accordance with the current rules
  • Takes steps to foresee and prevent build-ups in applications of any sort
  • Ensure that it keeps files properly so that reasons for decisions are recorded.

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