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‘Visa bans’: Powers to refuse or revoke immigration permission for reasons of character, conduct or associations

Published Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Home Secretary and immigration officials are able to refuse permission to enter the UK, or revoke permission already granted, for reasons related to an individual’s character, conduct or associations. It is also possible for the Home Secretary to exclude a person even if they have not indicated an intention to travel to the UK.

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Powers to exclude

The Home Secretary and immigration officials are able to refuse permission to enter the UK, or revoke permission already granted, for reasons related to an individual’s character, conduct or associations. It is also possible for the Home Secretary to exclude a person even if they have not indicated an intention to travel to the UK.

There is no statutory right of appeal against exclusion by the Home Secretary, although individuals can challenge the decision through judicial review.

The ‘unacceptable behaviours’ policy

In August 2005 the Home Office published an indicative list of “unacceptable behaviours” which can also lead to exclusion by the Home Secretary. These include using any means or medium to express views which foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence or other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to commit such acts, or which foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.

How widely are the exclusion powers exercised?

In a speech delivered to the Royal United Services Institute in late November 2014, the then Home Secretary said that she had excluded “hundreds” of people from the UK. There is some information about the use of exclusion powers in the public domain, but the Government does not routinely comment on individual immigration or exclusion decisions.

Powers to deny entry based on criminal convictions

All arriving passengers are checked against police, security and immigration watch lists upon arrival in the UK. Previous criminal behavior is one of the grounds on which Border Force staff may refuse entry to European Economic Area (EEA) and non-EEA nationals.

Depending on the nature of the sentence, previous criminal convictions can result in non-EEA nationals being subject to a ‘re-entry ban’ for a specified length of time. In contrast, criminal convictions do not automatically justify expulsion of EEA nationals. EU law requires that expulsion/refusal of entry decisions are based on an assessment of the individual facts of the case.

Areas of recent Parliamentary interest

Questions have been asked about the effectiveness of mechanisms to identify in advance individuals who might pose a threat to the UK (whether for reasons related to extremism or general criminality), and whether EU law gives sufficient scope to prevent the ‘free movement of criminals’. To a significant extent, processes depend on information being provided by the individual or authorities in their country of residence. The Government has been a keen supporter of measures to enhance information sharing between EU and non-EU states about individuals’ criminal records.

The Government’s policy of not confirming details of exclusion decisions has also been the subject of some scrutiny.

Commons Briefing papers SN07035

Author: Melanie Gower

Topics: Immigration, Terrorism

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