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General Grounds for Refusal

Last updated 11 December 2009


This is internal guidance for use by entry clearance staff on the handling of refusals for visa applications made outside the United Kingdom (UK). It is a live document under constant review and is for information only.

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Further information

RFL3.1 What are the General Grounds for Refusal (GGFR)?

Paragraph 320 of the Rules sets out a number of general grounds for refusal.

Mandatory grounds for refusal are set out in paragraphs 320 (1) - (7)
Discretionary grounds for refusal are set out in paragraphs 320 (8) – 20

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RFL3.2 When are GGFR used?

In addition to the rules governing the category applied for, the ECO should also consider whether the application falls under any of the general grounds for refusal.  

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RFL3.3 What if there are exceptional, compelling circumstances?

As with any application, an ECO needs to consider if there are any human rights grounds (in particular the right to family life under Article 8), or any exceptional, compelling circumstances which would justify the issue of an entry clearance.  If there are exceptional, compelling circumstances the application must be referred to the Referred Cases Unit (RCU) for a decision to be made outside of the rules.

Where no such exceptional, compelling circumstances exist, the grounds set out in 320 (1) - (7) are mandatory grounds for refusal.  The grounds set out in paragraphs 320 (8) - (20) are discretionary.

ECMs are required to review all refusals under 320 (7A), (7B), (7C) and (11) and to ensure that their ECM review is recorded on Proviso and on the Documentation Verification Report (DVR) / Documentation Examination Report (DER).

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RFL3.4 Table summarising GGFR relevant to visa applications

This table summarises the paragraphs of the 320 rules relevant to visa applications.

   Grounds where entry clearance must be refused  Refer before decision?
(1)  Entry is being sought for a purpose not covered by the Rules No
Applicant is subject of a Deportation Order
Failure to produce a valid passport
SoS directs that exclusion is conducive to the public good
False representations have been made or false documents have been submitted (whether or not material to the application, whether or not to the applicant's knowledge and irrespective of the applicant's age or the category of visa sought), or material facts have not been disclosed.  ECOs should also consider whether para 320 (11) is applicable.
Yes - ECM
The applicant has previously breached the UK's immigration laws by overstaying; breaching a condition attached to his leave; being an illegal entrant; using deception in a visa application, leave to enter or remain (whether successful or not).
  • the applicant overstayed for 28 days or less and left the UK voluntarily, not at the expense (directly or indirectly) of the Secretary of State;
  • used deception in an application for entry clearance more than 10 years ago;
  • left the UK voluntarily, not at the expense (directly or indirectly) of the Secretary of State, more than 12 months ago;
  • left the UK voluntarily, at the expense (directly or indirectly) of the Secretary of State, more than 5 years ago;
  • was removed or deported from the UK more than 10 years ago;
  • was unaware that the documents submitted or representations made were false;
  • was previously issued a visa in the knowledge of the immigration breach; or
  • was in the UK illegally on or after 17 March 2008 and left the UK before 1 October 2008;
  • They were refused LTR as a student solely on the basis that they made an out of time application;
  • The applicant has been accepted by UK Border Agency as a victim of trafficking.
Yes - ECM
NB - wef 1 July 2008, under paragraph 320(7C) the provisions of 320(7B) will not apply to:
  • Those applying for settlement categories to join family members in the UK or to exercise rights of access to a child;
  • Those accompanying family members who will be submitted for settlement on arrival;
  • Those applying under family reunion;
  • Those whose breach of immigration law took place when they were under 18yrs.
If an application has been refused in these categories between 1 April and 13 May 2008 and the reasons for refusal were solely under paragraph 320(7B), the decision should be revoked and then issued.
Yes - ECM

Grounds where entry clearance should normally be refused

Where person is outside UK and fails to supply documents or medical report.
Failing to meet the requirements as a returning resident.
Failing to produce a valid passport or travel document.
An applicant should normally be refused for ‘contriving in a significant way to undermine the intentions of the immigration rules.'  This is where an applicant has previously:
  • been an illegal entrant;
  • overstayed;
  • breached a condition attached to his leave; or
  • used deception in a previous entry clearance, leave to enter or remain application.
but only where there are aggravating circumstances.
Yes - ECM
Failure to satisfy the ECO that he will be admitted to another country after a stay in the UK.
Refusal by a sponsor to give notice in writing that they will maintain and accommodate a applicant
Whether or not to the holder's knowledge, making false representations or failing to disclose any material fact for the purpose of obtaining an immigration employment document.
No written consent given by parents / legal guardian to a visa application made by a child under 18. 
Conviction in any country including the UK of an offence which, if committed in the UK, is punishable with imprisonment for at least 12 months or (if committed outside the United Kingdom), would be punishable by imprisonment for at least 12 months if the offence had occurred in the UK.
Yes – for all high profile cases and when the ECM decides that it is necessary, to ECO Support, Visa Services Directorate
 Exclusion conducive to the public good; if, for example, in the light of the character, conduct or associations of the person seeking leave to enter it is undesirable to give him leave to enter.
 Yes – for all high profile cases and when the ECM decides that it is necessary, to ECCCAT, Visa Services Directorate

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RFL3.5 What are the refusal wordings?

Wording for refusals: examples, by category, or wording for statements.

When a case is refused under paragraph 320, it is vital that the ECO also considers the application under the category of application applied for, and not just under the 320 rules.  (This however does not apply to refusals under 320 (1), (2) or (6)). If an ECO only refuses under paragraph 320 and an appeal is allowed, entry clearance will have to be issued as the ECO cannot then consider the substantive application.

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RFL3.6 Are there appeal rights for GGFR?


Paragraphs 320 (1) – (6): there is a limited right of appeal

Paragraphs 320 (7A) – 320 (7B): appeal rights depend on the category of application

Paragraphs 320 (8) – (20): appeal rights depend on the category of application

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