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Immigration: Independent Monitor

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What response they have made to the report of the Independent Monitor on Entry Clearance of November 2005, published in July 2006; whether they will retain appeal rights for persons refused under the new points system until the success rate on appeals falls below 10 per cent; whether changes have been made in the criteria towards greater objectivity; and, if so, what these changes are; whether they have issued guidance to entry clearance officers in accordance with paragraph 73 of the report; whether UKvisas has focused resources on posts where substantial queues develop; and whether documentation verification reports now include details on why a document is said to be a forgery.[HL7267]

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary wrote on 19 July to formally thank the monitor for her report which contains many constructive recommendations as to how UKvisas can improve its decision quality. UKvisas has already issued guidance to visa sections to implement the agreed recommendations. This was done in July 2006.

Section 4 of the Immigration and Nationality Act 2006 removes the right of appeal from entry clearance applications under the points-based system. Implementation of the Act will be phased in line with the introduction of the points-based-system tiers. An administrative review will give applicants the opportunity to challenge the reasons given for refusal where they believe an error of fact has been made.

Instructions were issued to entry clearance officers on objectively assessing student and visitor applications in March, August and November 2005. These detailed how applications should be considered objectively and that subjective assessments regarding accents were not appropriate. Further guidance regarding visit applications were issued following legal advice in July 2006. All the recommendations in the independent monitor's report at paragraph 73 were covered in these instructions.

Further instructions were issued in October 2005 advising visa sections, where there was more than one full-time entry clearance manager, to review the refusal notice before it was served. Training assessment has been overhauled to provide more transparent and focused feedback to delegates to address concerns with regard to overall and specific areas of performance including quality of decisions. In addition, a new programme of overseas refresher training has been launched for existing entry clearance staff—that includes the importance of objective assessments of applications.

Entry clearance managers at visa sections overseas closely monitor workloads and seasonal variations in demand. UKvisas provides additional staffing on a seasonal basis in order to cope with additional demand. UKvisas also maintains a team of “floaters” who can be deployed overseas at fairly short notice in order to deal with unexpected spikes in demand. Where necessary UKvisas has also increased permanent staff resources.

Documentation verification reports do now include details on why a document is stated to be not genuine.