Episode three: A new... hope?
January 4, 2009 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Well, I've now been refused entry into the UK. What can I do now? How do I get there?

First I asked how to get there.

Then I asked about my passport delays.

Then, after all of this, my visa was refused because of the fact that Common Law partnerships, from Canada, do not count as a Civil Union in the UK. Fine, that was our mistake to make. So I assumed that I could still go sans visa, as a Canadian citizen, simply as a tourist. I even went having a return flight booked for within the allowable six months stay.

I arrived at my first stop in the UK and was refused entry because I had been recently denied a visa. There are other odds and ends, and I'm not sure if I could have said or done anything differently to get entry clearance, but either way I was turned around, put on a return flight and found myself back in Canada some 16 hours later, give or take.

So now what? I still want to go to the UK for the same reasons, but I don't know how to go about it. If I apply again for the correct visa (whatever that is?), will it be refused on the grounds that I just got refused a visa, and was then shortly thereafter refused entry into the UK (both of which are stamped into my passport)?

Can I still somehow get entry clearance of some kind without a visa?

As I am in Edmonton right now, are there immigration lawyers who specialize in this sort of deal?
posted by vernondalhart to Travel & Transportation around United Kingdom (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It seems to me there's something missing in your description of your problem. Being denied entry into a country is not just an "oopsie" sort of thing and would not be done just because of being denied a visa. Now, being searched and questioned extensively I would believe, but not being refused entry.

My only suggestion is to talk to your UK embassy. Consulting with a lawyer is not necessarily a bad idea, but remember that countries reserve the right to deny entry to pretty much anyone. Until you're stuck in the UK bureaucratic hellhole (which I suspect will take about one day), I'm not sure you'll get anything by talking to a lawyer.
posted by saeculorum at 11:22 AM on January 4, 2009

Response by poster: The immigration officer with whom I dealt (in Dublin) said that some people, in an attempt to circumvent usual UK immigration woes will try to fly through Ireland, at which point they can get into the UK without going through immigration.

In my case, it was the cheapest flight I found over a month ago, before I had been denied a visa.

I don't know; this was the explanation offered by the officer.
posted by vernondalhart at 11:26 AM on January 4, 2009

Honestly, I'm surprised that the immigration officer cared. You're not a EU citizen, so the UK can legally force you to go through immigrations when you arrive in the UK from Ireland. There's no reason for a Ireland to care about what you do in the UK, so far as I know.

I'm still going to say there's something else going on here. I recommend contacting the Ireland embassy as well. If the UK doesn't care about you visiting (and can get that from the UK embassy), I don't see why Ireland would deny you entry. For future reference, Ireland is not part of the UK and will get you some nasty looks from either Irish or UKish citizens if you suggest it is.
posted by saeculorum at 11:34 AM on January 4, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, I know it isn't part of the UK. That was the officers point. He stated that people (possibly in his mind including me) try to circumvent UK immigration by entering through Ireland, at which point I would not need to go through UK immigration upon flying to my final destination. That was the grounds upon which he denied me entry. He said that my issue was with UK immigration, not with theirs.
posted by vernondalhart at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2009

I'm a little baffled by this, myself. If you were turned around in Dublin, you haven't been refused access to the UK - Dublin is in Eire, which as saeculorum points out is not part of the UK.

This doesn't change my advice, though, which is to talk (preferably in person) to your nearest UK Embassy or Consulate.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 11:46 AM on January 4, 2009

The nearest British Consulate to Edmonton is Calgary's. Their phone number is (403) 705-1755. They open at 8 am on Monday.

You can also email them at info@btoalberta.com.
posted by Zozo at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2009

I also don't understand the situation. You say you "arrived at my first stop in the UK and was refused entry". Then you say that this happened in Dublin. If that is the case there is no way you have been refused entry to the UK.
posted by keijo at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2009

Is it possible that vernondalhart went through UK customs/immigration in Ireland? For example, when flying from Toronto to Chicago, I went though US customs in Toronto and then arrived at a domestic gate at O'Hare.

Just trying to make sense of this situation.
posted by sbutler at 12:09 PM on January 4, 2009

If that is the case there is no way you have been refused entry to the UK

But this is largely academic. UK landing cards feature the question: 'Have you previously been denied a visa?', to which the answer in this case is YES. If Vernon is to now attempt to fly directly into the UK, immigration will not necessarily refuse entry outright, but will treat his case with a big healthy dollop of suspicion. They will likely fear that, even though he has a return ticket, he will not use the return ticket and instead stay on in the UK for longer than he's allowed and do work under the table, especially if that's what he originally wanted to do (work, not work illegally of course). So the Dublin officer sees that he's passing through Dublin en route to the UK, knows that there's a good chance he'll get turned back at the UK border, and decides to save him the trouble of the onward leg. Strange, for sure, because there's no reason whatsoever for Eire to refuse him entry into Eire, but given that he's not intending to stay in Eire, they're effectively saying 'don't bother going any further because they'll turn you back'.

Speak to the embassy people.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2009

They turned you away as a tourist because they suspected (correctly, it sounds like) that you weren't a tourist. In order to satisfy them that you are not coming over to live with your partner long term, you need proof of ties to your home country - i.e. rental or mortgage agreements, letters from employer stating your expected return, proof of sufficient funds to support yourself, etc.

(Also, you don't qualify for Unmarried Partner visa or Civil Union visa (for same-sex couples) as your partner will not be living permanently in the UK.)

Being refused a visa and entry does not *necessarily* mean you will be refused future visas. In my case, I was refused an entry visa (based on misinformation) and refused entry at the port (based on more misinformation), but once I applied for the proper visa in the proper way, I had no problem. However all future applications will be intently scrutinised.

You can try applying for a 6 month visitors visa through the embassy (this is often what people in LDRs do when they have made enough short term trips that Immigration may become suspicious, or they fear being turned away.) You basically provide all the proof mentioned above, and are then given a 6 month tourist visa.
posted by wayward vagabond at 12:18 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

>>>Oh, I know it isn't part of the UK. That was the officers point. He stated that people (possibly in his mind including me) try to circumvent UK immigration by entering through Ireland, at which point I would not need to go through UK immigration upon flying to my final destination. That was the grounds upon which he denied me entry. He said that my issue was with UK immigration, not with theirs.

This is true. The UK and Replublic of Ireland (plus a few others) make up a Common Travel Area (see para 15 here). Entry into one makes entry into the other substantially easier, and there are reciprocal responsibilities with regard to entry controls.
posted by genesta at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2009

Find a lawyer with experience dealing with UK Immigration. It's worth spending a few hundred bucks to make sure this gets done right.
posted by winston at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2009

Response by poster: Whoops. I see part of the problem. Yes, I was refused entry in Dublin. I mistakenly called that part of the UK. Anyhow. It was my first stop on that side of the Atlantic ocean.

Anyhow, where do I find such a lawyer? I've left a phone message with the OISC, which seems to be where I should be looking, but there is very little information on their website, and it seems to suggest that all of their immigration lawyers are in the UK already, not in Canada.
posted by vernondalhart at 2:24 PM on January 4, 2009

You didn't do something like tell the customs officer that you were settling in the UK on the strength of your common law relationship, despite not having a settlement visa, did you? Just reading between the lines of your initial post.
Not beating up on ya, but if you did do this, it will impact on your options when you go to reapply for a new visa of any sort, including a tourist visa. Did you apply for a visa in the first place? How did you get the idea that common law partnerships were recognised by the UK without also realising you'd need a settlement visa? In my experience, the key to getting a good result from consulates is organisation. Having your paperwork and your rationales/mindset/explanations together for anything they ask you is the key to success.
I'd be interested to hear what the consulate says. I'd hold off on that attorney until you get consular feedback. The UK immigration laws changed in October & I think that anx attorney's best guess based on prior experience just won't hold true at the mo.
Btw-apply online for the visa that you think applies to you &schedule an appointment in with the consulate in advance, also online. In my experience, they don't see walk ins.
posted by Grrlscout at 5:30 PM on January 4, 2009

Response by poster: My girlfriend had been granted a student visa for a graduate program in the UK, and the visa that I applied for was to be the dependent of one who holds a student visa. We thought this was the correct approach, since that was essentially the idea. The only reason I was refused was the whole common law != civil union problem. From what we were able to glean from the immigration website and from contacting Worldbridge (their frustrating third-party affiliate) we were under the impression that we had gone through the correct steps---and we had, other than that one detail.

I'm dodgy about applying for another visa without a little bit of advice first; I don't want to spend another $200 only to have it rejected on the grounds that I had just been refused a visa, or somesuch.

As for consular advice, for the most part they seem to try and avoid providing advice regarding visa applications, since they have their third party affiliate which charges through the nose to be put on hold while trying to get advice.
posted by vernondalhart at 6:28 PM on January 4, 2009

As for consular advice, for the most part they seem to try and avoid providing advice regarding visa applications, since they have their third party affiliate which charges through the nose to be put on hold while trying to get advice.

For what it's worth, this is pretty standard - I imagine it's because countries have such stupid labyrinthine visa/immigration systems that if their embassies were to give advice to those that needed it, the embassies would need to be ten times the size and outsource to a call centre in India the size of a small city. An advantage of a lawyer is you don't need to deal with that crap - they'll dot the i's and cross the t's, and explain what's what.

But I've had bad experiences with an immigration law firm that advertises themselves as such. It seems that there is money to be made by filling in forms that people could be doing themselves, but many such people are under-educated or otherwise naive. So some firms make their money from this low-hanging fruit, and as soon as your case is something more complex than their path most-trodden, they're almost as hopeless at it as you would be.
It might pay instead to look for some referrals, and bear in mind that the huge law firm with lots of staff covering everything from family trusts to business litigation, might have some specialists that will do a better job than the small law firm specialising in immigration but which gives off that sleazy ambulance-chaser vibe.
Or the specialist firm might be genuinely that. Hence referrals :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 8:46 PM on January 4, 2009

This is all a little strange. What sort of relationship do you have with the person who is your 'common law partner'? Is he/she settled in the UK? Did you arrive in the UK with him/her?

This is my understanding.. and the understanding that allowed me to move from Australia to the UK with my unmarried GF. Disclaimer: the rules have significantly changed in the last few months, so YMMV

* You probably know this now: but a civil union refers to a same-sex couple who have been married. (such as in the UK or some places in the US)

* To be allowed in on a common law partnership you have to arrive in the UK with your partner, and they must be able to prove they can support you. In my case I had a work permit from a job I already had. I am not sure your GF's student visa is going to be able to cut it.

* You didnt mention anything about entry clearance. Did you have to apply for that as well?

* I think to be counted as a common law partner you have to be able to prove you have lived together for 18-24 months prior to moving to the UK (I cant remember which exactly).

So yeah.. I know how tricky it is find all this information. It took me months to sort it all out. And yeah.. The Commonwealth isn't what it used to be ;) But this can't be rushed. I didn't have to go to an immigration lawyer, but I made sure I didnt leave anything to chance and asked my employer's HR people if I had any questions. Most universitys have a similar service for their students, so it might be worthwhile being in contact with them as well. mefi mail if you have any more questions.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 12:57 AM on January 5, 2009

Response by poster: This entire time I've been reading "civil union" as "non-religious marriage". Bah. That would explain the inequivalence.

For support, we did have documentary proof, although that was not requested at Irish immigration. My girlfriend has enough education funds from an education trust fund thingy that we should have had no problem in that regard.

We had also a notarized document arranged in Canada stating that we had been living together for around 18 months, which should have been sufficient.

As for entry clearance, what is this? How do we apply for it?
posted by vernondalhart at 6:53 AM on January 5, 2009

As for entry clearance, what is this? How do we apply for it?

Ok, this, is the reason you were denied entry. When I arrived in Heathrow, my entry officer saw the entry clearance sticker in my and my partner's passports and let us in pretty much straight away.

Entry clearance, i believe, is like a background check for people outside the EEA (such as yourself - Canadian citizen right?). It mostly is for making sure you are a person of good character and don't have a hankering for blowing yourself up on the Tube. It also involves visiting a consulate and having a photo and fingerprints taken. This is also where you send off all your documents and evidence for assessment.

And, yeah, they aren't cheap. For my partner and I, the bill was close to $1000 AUD.

I don't mean to snark, but no knowing whether you have to apply for entry clearance or not shows that you might have taken this whole process a little too lightly. My understanding is that the entry officer who denied you has to give a report detailing his reasons for not letting you in. Read it and leave nothing to chance next time.

But I am sure you know that now, and if not - i am sure the final bill will! And in fairness, the information on the web is not crystal clear. I am sure you have seen it: but this website contains pretty much everything you need to know (after a little digging), as should the website for the British High Commission in Canada.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:07 AM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: The problem is that as near as I can tell, entry clearance at this point is synonymous with a visa.

Ok, from the websites above that's not quite true although the process is quite similar.

The other problem is that everything that I can read on their website tells me tht I do not need prior entry clearance. So what can I do, if all the information available tells me I should just go, which clearly did not work?
posted by vernondalhart at 7:34 AM on January 6, 2009

my apologies, I was coming at it from a work permit perspective.. the student visa clearance requirements may very well be different.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 12:40 PM on January 6, 2009

Best answer: visitors do not need entry clearance. you were denied entry as a visitor because they suspected you were not there solely for tourism purposes.

they suspected that because you applied for a visa and were denied.

if you wish to go as a visitor for 6 months and want to ensure you are not turned away at the port, you should apply for a visitor's visa.
posted by wayward vagabond at 12:54 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: The problem is that according to the list of countries involved, I do not need a visitor's visa to enter the UK.
posted by vernondalhart at 1:15 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: I guess I could apply for one anyhow, which might be my best option...
posted by vernondalhart at 1:48 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: I've FINALLY received an email reply from the British High Commission. Apparently the little advice they can offer is simply that it would be best for me to apply for a visa.
posted by vernondalhart at 7:30 AM on January 7, 2009

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