Decisions in Marriage Applications are Reasonable but Chief Inspector Raises Concerns About Backlogs and a Lack of Consideration of the Best Interests of Children

The majority of decisions in marriage applications are reasonable said the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, but he was concerned about backlogs of cases and a lack of consideration of the best interests of children. These findings were published today (24th January) in an Independent Chief Inspector’s report looking at the way the UK Border Agency dealt with applications to enter, remain and settle in the UK on the basis of marriage or civil partnership.

The inspection examined the efficiency and effectiveness of the Agency’s handling of marriage and civil partnership applications, with a particular focus on the extent to which a consistent approach was adopted overseas and in the UK.

The Chief Inspector found some examples of good practice and effectiveness, including:

  • the majority of decisions on marriage applications were reasonable and in accordance with the Immigration Rules;
  • the Agency had carried out security checks against all applicants in our file sample in order to establish whether they had previous convictions or adverse immigration histories;
  • the Agency made good use of information obtained overseas to detect people who should not be allowed to enter or remain in the UK;
  • effective processes were in place for managing the personal data of applicants and sponsors and, there was adequate retention of evidence and notes to support decisions.

However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find:

  • a backlog of 14,000 requests from applicants for the UK Border Agency to re-consider decisions to refuse them further leave to remain and, a further 2,100 cases where applicants were still waiting for an initial decision on their application for further leave to remain – some dating back  to 2003;
  • an inconsistent approach between UK and overseas caseworkers when assessing whether an applicant could be maintained without access to public funds;
  • an equally inconsistent approach between UK and overseas caseworkers when considering human rights in applications which are refused, with overseas staff rarely considering human rights when making a decision;
  • specific consideration of the best interests of children was only given in one of the 21 refused applications for further leave to remain or settlement, and none of the 39 refused applications for entry clearance;
  • the percentage of allowed appeals in marriage cases was too high. 53% of appeals were allowed between April 2011 and February 2012;
  • the Agency had, at some points, reviewed less than half of all allowed appeals due to a lack of available resources. As a consequence individuals may have been granted entry clearance and leave on the basis of appeal determinations that could have been challenged successfully.

John Vine CBE QPM, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, said:

 “Every year a substantial number of foreign nationals seek to enter or remain as married or civil partners of people already in the UK or overseas. I found that in most cases decisions on marriage applications were reasonable. I was also pleased to find that all the applicants had been checked against the Police National Computer and the Home Office Warnings Index.

 However, once again I was concerned to find backlogs within the Agency. These consisted of 14,000 requests from applicants to re-consider decisions to refuse them further leave to remain, and a further 2,100 cases where people were awaiting an initial decision on their application for further leave to remain. Some dated back nearly a decade. This is completely unacceptable and I expect the Agency to deal with both types of case as a matter of urgency.

 Immigration decisions can have a significant impact on children. My inspection could find no evidence in the files that specific consideration was given to the best interests of children in 59 of the 60 cases where children were involved. In addition, I found that caseworkers in the UK routinely considered Human Rights, but this rarely happened when the application was made overseas.

 The percentage of allowed appeals in marriage cases is too high. Work was being done to review appeal outcomes, but there was scope to do more.”

You can download a PDF copy of the report here.

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