Business visa refusal: what’s next?

Last updated: 15 December 2021

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

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If your business visa application has been refused by the Home Office, it can cost you time and money. Whether you’re relying on a sole representative visa to get your business set up in the UK, or you’re trying to get your business off the ground with a start-up visa or innovator visa, time is precious. So, when it comes to business visa applications it pays to get it right, first time. In this article we look at reasons why business visas are refused and what you can do if your business visa application is turned down.  

Jump to:

  1. Common reasons why your visa may have been refused
  2. What is the UK business visa refusal process?
  3. How to challenge a business visa refusal
  4. How to successfully reapply for your business visa
  5. How to minimise the risk of your business visa being refused

Common reasons why your visa may have been refused

When it comes to business visa applications common reasons for refusal aren’t the same as for individual immigration visa applications where visas are routinely refused because of past immigration history or criminal offending. Instead, mundane matters and not getting the paperwork right are the primary reasons for business visa refusal. So, where possible taking sound advice from business immigration solicitors minimises the risk of business visa refusal.

Business visas include:

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

The top ten reasons are:

1. Incorrect documents supplied to support your business visa application.

Business immigration solicitors say that no matter how well written your business visa application the likelihood is that your application will be refused if you don’t submit the application with the correct supporting paperwork. Getting the documentation right is as important as the wording of your business visa application. 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 own 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, so you don’t need to rigidly follow the visa specific Home Office guidance and provide all the documentation on the list. That can be a costly mistake to make if it results in your business visa application being rejected or refused.

3. Documentation not presented correctly.

You may think that there is a theme developing and you are right. When business immigration solicitors are asked for help after a business visa application has been refused their first assumption is that there was probably some issue with the documents in support. The issue with the paperwork presentation can be something simple but if your application is being dealt with by a busy Home Office official presenting the documents in a coherent and correct manner can mean the difference between the grant and refusal of a business visa.

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 dates are wrong or the Home Office rules on the documentation required in support of your business visa application have changed then your business visa application will 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 and assume that as you have paid to download precedents your business visa application will be successful. 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 help with their business plan, but it does mean that their business 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 their country’s business immigration law, but it makes sense to check that they are UK qualified or will instruct 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 what you meant to say.

When it comes to business visa paperwork it pays to read over not only your application but all your supporting documents. If you put in your paperwork or business plan for your start-up visa that by year three you project a turnover of £1,000 and a gross profit margin of 5,000 percent, a Home Office official will not assume that you meant a projected turnover of £1milliion or a gross profit margin of 50 percent.

8. Not addressing issues.

If you know that there is an issue (or even a potential issue) then you need to think carefully (or take legal advice) on how to address the issue in your business visa application. For example, if you know that 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 legal advice before you submit your application to the Home Office.

9. Applying for the wrong business visa.

You would not think that this is a common reason for business visa refusals, but it is surprising how often this occurs. For example, an entrepreneur can apply for an innovator visa when they really should be applying for a start-up visa. Alternatively, an employee of an overseas business can sometimes apply for a sole representative of an overseas business visa when the application they need to make is for a Tier 2 intra company transfer visa.

10. Taking advice from the Home Office.

Many business visa applicants are bemused when their business visa application is refused because they spoke to someone helpful at the Home Office prior to submitting their application. Unfortunately relying on a phone call with a named or unnamed Home Office official or even studying the relevant Home Office guide, is no substitute for business immigration law advice.

When it comes to the skilled worker visa common reasons for the refusal of the certificate of sponsorship or the work visa are that:

  • The Home Office don’t accept that the employment is genuine.
  • There is an inappropriate salary for the job, so the salary does not meet the relevant minimum salary threshold or going rate for the job.
  • You have not proved, to the Home Office satisfaction, that you have the necessary maintenance funds.

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

There are many general reasons, as well as specific reasons relating to your particular type of business visa application, that can result in your business visa application being refused. Alternatively, the refusal may be down to a combination of factors. The important thing is that if you have received notification of a business visa refusal that 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 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 business visa 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 Home Office grounds of refusal.
  • Whether your application was made from within or outside the UK. Where you made your application from is important because if your application was made from within the UK you only have fourteen days to challenge the decision, whereas if you applied from overseas you normally have twenty-eight days from the date of receipt of the visa refusal notification.

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 don’t have the right of appeal against a visa refusal but, in 2015, the immigration rules on appeals were changed to restrict rights of appeal. The rule change meant that business visa applications made under the points-based immigration categories (such as the skilled worker visa or intra company transfer visa) don’t have a right of appeal. Instead, an application can be made for an administrative review.

An administrative review involves a different Home Office official to the caseworker who refused your business visa application reconsidering your application. The Home Office official can either:

  • Grant the business visa application.
  • Confirm the refusal decision – leaving you with the option to consider a judicial review application to challenge the Home Office refusal.

As judicial review proceedings involve a court application, normally to the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). It is best to take legal advice before you decide to start judicial review proceedings. That is because a judicial review application isn’t an appeal, as the court will only consider if the decision to refuse your business visa application was lawful or not.

There is normally a three-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 their business visa, provided that there isn’t a pending appeal or an administrative review application.

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

However, if you do 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 don’t, then the likelihood is that your second business visa application will just be refused again.

For most business visa applications, you don’t have to wait for a cooling off period 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, then your best option may be to ask for a reconsideration.  

How to minimise the risk of your business visa being refused

If you want to minimise the chances of your business visa application being refused then preparation or appropriate delegation is the key to successfully minimising the chance of your visa being refused.

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

When it comes to asking others 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 friend 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 aren’t sure if all the relevant information has been supplied or any historical issues addressed in the application, such as the previous refusal of an immigration application.   

The advice on how to minimise the chances of your business visa application being refused may sound pretty basic. They are. 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 delay in taking up sponsored employment or a wait before you can set up your business in the UK, it really pays to get the right legal support you need to prepare your business visa application quickly and correctly.  

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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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