People living abroad should be able to visit their families in the UK – but the Home Office is increasingly denying family visit visas, even in cases where people come to the UK to visit ill relatives, attend children’s graduations or be present at the birth of a grandchild.
This week I spoke in a debate on this issue, as I have noticed a rapid increase in my constituents’ relatives being denied family visit visas. In 2015 I was only approached by one person with such a case. This has increased steadily year on year – in the first half of this year we have already logged 10 cases.
I asked the Home Office to make three changes which would allow families to visit with greater ease:
Firstly, the Home Office should automatically approve visit visas for families of British citizens. I believe maintaining family connections is extremely important, regardless of whether relatives live in the UK or abroad. Family members of UK citizens should not have to meet the same criteria as other visa applicants. I argued that sponsorship by a British relative should be enough for a visit visa to be successful.
Secondly, I asked the Home Office to introduce a ‘super visa’ category for parents of British citizens. The Canadian system recognises the importance of parents being able to visit their children, and has a separate visa category for this situation. I would like to see this in the UK. As I argued yesterday, it may often be more practical for relatives to travel to the UK to visit their families, particularly if the British relatives have jobs and children which make travel more complicated.
Finally, I pressed the Home Office to allow people to appeal if a visa is refused. The appeals process was cut in 2013 to save money, but this means applicants end up applying again for a new application. I have provided letters of support for second applications which have ultimately been successful, highlighting the arbitrary way Home Office decisions are made.
Without these changes, the current system is grossly unfair. I will continue to press the Government on this.
Watch my full speech here.