Practitioners have seen a considerable increase in the number of applications for entry clearance that have been refused on the general grounds for refusal. The reasons are often opaque at best. Some simply refer to the contents of a Document Verification Report (DVR) and do not disclose this report. Many of these decisions cannot be appealed, or at least can only be appealed on race discrimination or human rights grounds, which does not get one very far in visit and business cases. Because one might as well shout at the moon as attempt communicate with most entry clearance posts, the only option in such cases is an application for judicial review.
I have had two such judicial reviews settled out of court in the last two weeks. The facts were remarkably similar and I wonder whether there is a pattern. In both cases the Entry Clearance Officer alleged deception, said they were satisfied ‘to a high degree of proof’ that false documents had been used and banned the client from coming to the UK for ten years. The clients were baffled and wanted to take things further. We lodged applications for judicial review and in both cases Treasury Solicitors have agreed to settle the cases and the DVR has been disclosed. Surprise, surprise, there is no evidence whatsoever of deception or reliance on false documents. All that has happened in both cases is that no-one picked up the phone at the other end for telephone numbers given on one of the letters submitted with the applications. Several other documents were verified as genuine in both cases.
Treasury Solicitors have suggested that neither side pay the other’s costs. I think not! These were nonsense decisions, use of false documents was alleged and the clients were banned from the UK for ten years. The least the offending Entry Clearance Officers can do is pay the legal costs the clients have incurred getting these decisions overturned.
If you do find yourself in this situation, the decisions are clearly worth challenging. There is a procedure for these Document Verification Reports to be disclosed, so it is worth asking for a copy before starting expensive litigation. There is a strict three month time limit on bringing an application for judicial review, though, and it is important not to let it drift by while waiting for Godot the ECO to respond.