** Please note this was written in late  2015/ early 2016 and may be subject to some updates. For instance, you can no longer apply within 28 days of expiration of leave, and EEA applications now need to be made on forms, and Tier 2 General minimum salary is 30K. I did not have the time to update this and you need to be mindful of the age of this text, although I think most of it is still useful as general advice (08/2017)**

The following is some DIY advice on handling UK immigration applications, that I developed over the years as a result of seeing a number of self-applications and their outcomes. Most of you may be able to successfully achieve the needed result, if you heed it.

1. YOU NEED ADEQUATE EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE OF ENGLISH TO REPRESENT YOURSELF.
Only attempt self-applications, as well as self-representation in front of tribunals, if you have
(1) Degree level education, in any discipline and from any country, and
(2) sufficient command of English to read The Immigration Rules — not applicant guidance – and understand 100% of what you are reading.
This may sound trivial, but it’s true — understanding GENERALLY what the text is about is not enough. This is all about the details. Read the Immigration Rules and Appendices, AS WELL AS Modernised Guidance for Home Office caseworkers, or any other guidance for HO employees on the subject involved. Gov.Uk website usually has the most recent versions of those (search Google for “modernised guidance”). However ****under no circumstances*** rely fully on what’s written on GOV.UK website itself, NOR on “Application guidance” published by Home Office. Application guidance is not law. You are free to rely on immigration rules directly if the guidance seems to misrepresent or over simplify them. You do not have to be a lawyer to handle your own immigration affairs. But you have to have experience with formal English and with handling paperwork, generally.  If your administrative skills or understanding of pseudo-legalese are insufficient for this, do not attempt self-applications. Further.
Only attempt self-applications in categories in which requirements are obviously defined and you fully understand them.
Do NOT, if at all possible, self-apply for asylum, discretionary leave, “Private life”, “7-year child route”, “10-year partner or parent route” unless partner relying on EX.1(a) AND the child is BRITISH, or as victim of domestic violence. These are all categories that rely on discretionary elements in their determination, and you need to be aware of the practice.
Seek help immediately if there is allegation of a sham marriage, which includes invitation to a “marriage interview” — in some communities these interviews have been internalised to a point of people thinking this is “normal” – it is not! it means you are under strong suspicion — or any other in-county interview invitation, especially around English language testing. Generally, people get invited to interviews because they are suspected of something. Do not take it lightly.
These are all difficult areas where you will benefit from at least extensive advice, if not representation.
Most importantly, do not, under any circumstances, ring the Home Office “information line” which 99 out of 100 times provides COMPLETELY incorrect information which is at its most harmless and
nonsensical, but often ruins lives because people believe it. I actually think people responsible for continued existence of this sham “helpline” should be fired and forever banned from civil service.

2. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.
ONLY attempt self-applications for an immigration benefit you are clearly entitled to, and act from position of this entitlement with absolute preparedness to go to the end.
Do NOT accept blame for anything, do NOT volunteer to accept responsibility for anything you have not yet been accused of, or ask for “forgiveness” or exception to a rule, other than discretion prescribed explicitly in a caseworker guidance or the Rules themselves, in which case indicate what exactly are you asking for,
and based on what provision (such as, most commonly, excess absences in PBS settlement or naturalisation applications).
If your situation involves some obvious misstep, such as your application is out of date (by less than 28 days), at most, deal with it briefly by expressing “regret”.
Act from a position of certainty in your entitlement, even if you are not actually certain of it.
Do not EVER file applications on a premise “Let’s apply and see what they say” — not only this will be an expensive experiment, it will seriously damage your immigration history, and not flash out the legal
truth of the matter, either. Most common self-application categories, such as PBS (Tier 1, 2, 4, 5) and Appendix FM are of STRICT construction. If it says 90 days, it means 90 full days, not 89, and if it says you have to have a certain amount of £££ on the account, it is this amount, not a penny less, etc.
If you are an EEA national, this will probably not damage your history, but still this is a silly and irresponsible approach. Only file genuinely approvable applications with full understanding of your
legal position. It may seem like this, but Home Office does not run a lottery. Majority of approvable well-presented applications are usually approved.

Meanwhile, if you are applying in an EEA category, make sure you understand the distinction between inherent EU rights and privileges granted by Home Office to remain in the UK. Your EEA rights stem
directly from Treaties and cannot be granted, or refused, by Home Office (except as extended family members — but keep in mind, parents are grandparents are DIRECT family members under EU law, and their rights are also inherent). Your residence documentation is not a “visa” but a confirmation document of a pre-existing right. If you are in the UK married to an EU citizen who is exercising Treaty Rights, you are NOT here illegally, and any residence card you may hold or will be granted, does not determine dates of your permission to stay. You are applying for a confirmation of your rights. Even if your marriage fell
apart, you are considered married until the gavel falls and decree final and absolute is pronounced in your divorce, and even after that more likely than not you have retained right of residence (subject to criteria in EU law), whether or not you have applied for a new residence card in that capacity.
Speak with HO always from the position of confidence and awareness of your rights. Do not ask questions, but politely insist that they do their job.
This organisation is institutionally trained to pick victims, and, like a high school bully, persecutes those who exhibit victim traits.

3. USE YOUR OWN HEAD.
Give limited credence to anything you read on Internet forums. While forum participation is vital to understanding of some current news and trends, as well as timelines, always remember that overwhelming majority of applicants in straightforward circumstances whose applications are successful, do not post on forums.

Many of our most popular forums suffer also from predominance of particular types of applicants, people in certain categories, or from certain countries, or are fiercely dominated by particular lawyers or
law firms. It is not a secret, for instance, that applicants filed in, and by citizens of, for instance, India and Pakistan, are often treated very differently from those filed in Russia or by Russians, and those by Americans are treated even more differently yet.

Reasons for this are manifold, ranging from subconscious prejudice to institutionalized perception of risk, but the truth is, if you are from Russia or the United States, you will most likely be treated differently from an applicant from India. So if you read on forums that application for a PBS dependant visa is only accepted with a family wedding photo, but your common sense, or documents you read, does not suggest this in your case, use your common sense.

No two cases are the same, and people on forums are not always forthcoming with full details of their cases. In fact, they often misrepresent their cases in a way they themselves prefer to see them, or genuinely misunderstand the requirements and the true origin of problems they are experiencing.
There are different nationalities, different marriages, different professional and personal profiles, immigration histories, and all of this leads to different results in even otherwise identical applications.
People often think they have “exactly the same case” as someone else, but they never do. Even children of the same family often have completely different cases.
Use forums to get anecdotal recent experience of other applicants, but NOT advice — in fact, only after I started practicing as an immigration lawyer, I noticed that even moderators on some popular forums often give completely incorrect advice. In most of them moderators are people without legal training or practice but too much time on their hands. Use current rules, as original source,  and your own common sense,
which should always supercede advice on forums. Forum advice is often earnest, but based on incomplete understanding or anecdotal evidence.
Also, be cautious of posting your identifiable case details on any open forums.

4. FILE A VALID APPLICATION.

Do not lose the forest for the trees. Application starts with basics.

  • Do you have the right to file?
  • Is the timing correct? Have you completed the necessary period of residence?
  • Are you using a current form, or old one when new one was introduced not more than 21 days? ALWAYS download the latest form for anything that’s not an EEA or Naturalisation application, as they change all the time, and lately without notice. EEA applications can be filed on old forms or without forms at all, and Naturalisation applications can be filed on slightly outdated forms if your referees had already signed them, however do address, in your covering letter and “further information” section, all aspects of subsequent changes in forms (in 2015, those were — 10 year employment history, PR document for EEA applicants, and later commitment to return the BRP after the ceremony).
  • Do you need to pay IHS (for any leave, other than Indefinite leave, the answer is most likely yes, unless applying on a 10-year family route AND for fee remission)?
  • Are you enclosing 2 photos of yourself, and if applicable, 1 of your sponsor?
  • Do you have a valid passport or if not, what other evidence of identity you got? Do you need to send your sponsor’s original passport or ID? You need to send an original passport, unless HO already has it, or
    you are unable to obtain it for lack of UK immigration status, in which case you need some evidence of ID and nationality and it’s best to obtain advice. In sponsored applications, a photocopy of your
    partner’s British passport or BRP is OK by post, but the original, and ideally their in-person presence, are expected at a PSC. For 10-year partner route, you need to send original even by post and even if British (why? who knows). For EEA applications, you need to send an original Passport OR EU ID card or your sponsor, if you have not been ISSUED with a document as their family member previously (Barnet).
    You do not HAVE TO send your sponsor’s original BC passport in Surinder Singh applications, but that is subject to some debate.
  • Have you filled out the form entirely? (other than EEA). How are you paying the application fee? Are you making sure there are enough funds on your card or checking account? Will your bank not block multiple payments for family members?
  • Are you sending original documents where required? All documents of direct importance to the Rules need to be originals, including marriage and birth certificates, bank statements, payslips, degree certificates, employer letters, estate agent letters or owner letters regarding accommodation that is required. Land registry printouts can be just printouts.
    Reference letters other than employers or banks or accommodation, can be PDF printouts and/or copies. Translations can be self-translations or certified by any person with language knowledge in overseas
    applications (but check local experience at the post involved), but must be signed by a consulate official or credentialed translator for applications in the UK.
    You do NOT need an Apostille, nor to notarise the signature of the translator.
  • If your application involves currency conversion of funds needed for tuition, maintenance or investment, conversion will be done as of OANDA.com currency converter rate appearing on that site on APPLICATION DATE, so an amount in foreign currency that was enough for 87 days, may suddenly not be enough on the morning of the application.
  • What’s your application date?
    In the UK for all applications except Nationality, it’s the date of posting if sent by Royal Mail, but date of receipt if sent by courier. I personally take a cautious view of Royal Mail Special delivery service and do not use it when application date is important, because I’d consider it a courier (use “signed for” instead in date-sensitive situations and keep the receipt and tracking printout).
    For Nationality applications, it’s date of receipt — NOT by NCS, by the Home Office (and regardless of what a half-wit at NCS told you). For ALL entry clearance applications, it is NOT the date fee is paid,
    it is the date you turn up at the VAC to give your documents and take your fingerprints. In New York, the system is different in that you post your stuff to the consulate and/or Home Office, and enroll your biometrics  at a local USCIS centre, so application date in those cases is subject to debate and has to be taken with caution.
  • Is your evidence out of date? Any document such as bank statement or payslip or employer letter, most recent one not older than 28 days if for the purposes of showing ongoing funds or employment (technically, 31 days for PBS maintenance).   If applying at PSC or for Entry Clearance at an Embassy, provide photocopies of all primary documents you wish to get back (eg marriage and birth certificates, degree certificates), do not bother with copies of supplementary documents (such as employment contract). If you are not providing copies of payslips or bank statements because you do not want them back, INDICATE so. Do not bother with copies of reference letters specifically addressedto HO, it will keep them anyway. I once heard a long rant from an intake worker at a Croydon PSC who was complaining that some applicants bring a copy of the whole application form. Do NOT bring a copy of the application form, HO will keep the form anyway. Make a copy for your records of take pictures of pages with a hi-res phone
    but keep it at home. But if your documents include a solicitor’s letter of completion of property purchase, DEFINITELY make copy and get original back, you will need this time an again.
  •  Include OANDA printouts on the day of application of all relevant amounts in foreign currencies, just as a courtesy.
  • Use sensible way to apply. Do not apply at a PSC if your application has virtually no chance at being considered on the same day, you will not get £400 back. Do not apply for a whole family at the same time if you are in any way doubtful about the outcome of the lead application, you do notwant to lose all the fees or manage say 4 appeals instead of 1. “Settlement priority” overseas or “Tier 2 priority postal” often make no sense as they offer virtually no improvement over normal non-priority decisions.
    In Nationality, do NOT use NCS if your case involves ANY complication, because rumour has it that NCS workers, who are very poorly and rather primitively trained, mark down applications they themselves do not understand. Come to me to certify copies, or ask any solicitor to certify copies. Rumour also has it that NCS applications are fast-tracked, but I think it is actually any legally represented applications with
    straightforward immigration histories. Staightforward cases get fasttracked, not because they are NCS.  In any but very straightforward cases, NCS will only backfire.
    If you are minded to apply in person. In unusually complex PBS and especially PBS Settlement cases, it makes sense to go to PSC in Sheffield, and do so on a weekday at the time of full staff. PSC in Sheffield is located within the compound actually responsible for PBS, so directly upstairs it has people who hold the highest authority and expertise on these cases.
    Quite often a sort of case which in Croydon will raise a lot of eyebrows and end with “we can’t decide this, we have to send it to Sheffield”, will be decided on the same day if presented in Sheffield.
    PSC in Solihull is reasonable and considered to be able to appreciate some complexity, but keep in mind that it is located in far isolation from any other HO teams, in a small office at a property developers’
    premises. So I always ask myself what will happen if one caseworker specialising in something, will get ill or stick in traffic  on a particular day?
    On another hand, unit that deals with spouse visas is located in Liverpool, and so if you are minded for a same-day application under Appendix FM and your case is unusually complex, go there.
    Straight to average cases may now be handled in Croydon, which greatly improved in recent years, but I’d still caution against weekends, when staff is skeleton and Costa is shut. Croydon office also gives me a wrong vibe, due to its location downstairs at Lunar House (you can’t ride an elevator yourself, lest you shall attempt to get off on a wrong floor!) and next door to a notorious reporting centre.
  • In entry clearance applications  for spouse/partner/fiance visa, you need to file an Appendix 2 to a VAF4A form (the form itself is the same online application, but Appendix is offline and needs to be printed). Also fill out a form called SU07/12, it is not relevant now but consulates like to see it.
  • In CHILD OF SETTLED PARENTS CASES, where BOTH parents are British or settled, where child is applying for ILE, you fill out APPENDIX 1 to the same form, NOT 2!  No matter what anyone says to you. There is no financial requirement in this case. Do fill out SU07/12 which is relevant here.

5. KNOW YOUR GENERAL REQUIREMENTS.
There are certain requirements which are not readily mentioned everywhere, but you need to know they exist.

  • IHS — a health surcharge of £200 per year, refundable in case of refusal, needs to be paid in all non-ILR and non-EEA cases (£150 per year for Tier 4). Overseas and for Tier 2, payment is a part of online application system, but in the UK in many categories you have to pay it online yourself before
    application.
  • Tier 2 — job needs to be at a degree level (Level 6), and at least £25K salary. It is not about YOU having the degree, it is about the JOB requiring one (whether or not you have it, you  may, for instance, have comparable experience). You need to use SOC codes and make note of “entrant” and “experienced” salary levels there, if the one that applies to you is above £25K, that is the salary level that you need to have. THE HIGHER of the two — so if salary level on SOC tables is above 25K, you need to have that level. NEW ENTRANT rates are mainly for graduates with UK degrees switching from Tier 4, where minimum salary is now apparently £23 000, but the rest of you most likely have to be paid “experienced” rates.
  • Criminal records (or lack thereof) certificate — now required of overseas Tier 1 Entrepreneur applicants and their  spouses or partners, but will be shortly expanded to other categories.
  • TB Clearance from a specially appointed IOM provider on Home Office headed forms, may be required for any applicant for more than 6 months clearance, or a fiancee visa, from any country on a list in Appendix T, if you reside there at the time of making the application (but not if you are only flying in to apply, but resided for the past 6 months in a non-Appendix T country).
  • Bank statements — your bank, if in an Asian country, needs to not be excluded in Appendix P. Anywhere in the world, EVERY statement needs to contain bank name and logo, full account number (no ****), account holder’s name. If not on original headed paper, EACH PAGE stamped with at least a teller stamp
    in a branch. Many banks do not do it, in UK specifically HSBC doesn’t do it, you may need to wait for postal duplicates.
  • English — ONLY IELTS and Trinity college so-called “SELT” tests accepted in the UK now, and they have to be taken after 5th April 2015. Overseas, ONLY IELTS, also only after April 2015, and you have to take a special version for it for UK Immigration (“SELT”). ANY IELST test version can be taken for UK immigration purposes, so even if you are applying as a spouse and only need A1, but speak English very well, do NOT take “Life skills”, take Academic IELTS for UK Immigration, you will get better future use of it. If you were settled following an application made after 28/10/2013, you still do not need to show English again for naturalisation, but DO again need original LIUK certificate. However if you relied on degree taught in English from a non-presumption country (such as India) previously, you no longer can
    use PBS calculator to show that it was taught in English, you now need an expensive NARIC certificate (or a cost-comparable English test). NARIC now provides a new, quite dubious IMHO, “Visas and Immigration” service which I think is yet another disastrous money-making venture in outsourcing government function. It costs money and takes time, so consider if just sitting IELTS is not cheaper and easier.
  • Accommodation requirement — ALL applications under Appendix FM except on 10-year routes and EX.1, explicitly, and technically also ALL applications involving children under 18, including as PBS dependants, require evidence of accommodation that is not statutorily overcrowded.  It does NOT have to be a tenancy agreement, you can get an estate agent occupancy report to show de facto occupation of a privately rented room. EEA applications do NOT require proof of accommodation, contrary to popular belief even I once held, but it is relevant when they are made based on self-sufficiency.
  • Adequate maintenance requirement — wherever the rules refer to “adequately maintain”, it is not a figure of speech, it is a requirement to show current, at the time of application, income that leaves more than a certain amount (defined as “level of social support”) AFTER taxes, accommodation and council tax. This requirement STILL EXISTS in case sponsor is exempt from financial requirement under Appendix FM (for instance if they receive DLA or carer’s allowance).
  • English, LIUK and maintenance requirements DO NOT apply to EEA residence document applications.
  • For Naturalisation applications, you need to have been physically present in the UK on a day FOLLOWING a day 5 years ago from the day HO will receive your application for 6(1), or 3 years for 6(2)
    applications. So if you are sending your application April 1st Special delivery, HO will receive it April 2nd, you need to have been in the UK physically on April 3rd, 5 (or 3) years ago.
  • If you are not sure whether to file a 10-year parent route or a Zambrano application, some musings are here. https://www.facebook.com/immigrationpolicyuk/posts/1075264829182479
    This is a non-exhaustive list. But generally, you have to always look around for some requirements that “everyone knows about” but they may ot be immediately apparent from a portion of the Rules that applies
    to a particular application type.

6. MAKE SENSE.

Home Office caseworkers and ECOs are people, just like you and me. This may sound obvious, but many applicants forget that. People are human. They oversleep, get stuck in traffic on their way to work, maybe their wife is having a baby or has left them, or maybe they have a headache or just generally are hungover or confused because they partied all night.
Your application will therefore do best if it MAKES SENSE. On a human level. If your situation is unusual, explain it — again, without extensive details, but so that an average person without higher education can
understand it, and immigration benefit requested and evidence supplied start making sense within a greater context of your life situation or immigration history.
Address briefly any innocuous details that may raise a question. Do not mention things you do not want to draw attention to. But most importantly, COMMUNICATE.
I am always stunned by how many people send applications without covering letters at all, just an application form and a disjointed set of supporting documents.
NEVER apply for anything without a covering letter, and your letter should be more than just “Please find the enclosed”. It should include a brief (2-3 phrases) recap of your immigration history, what you are applying for and why, and explain any provisions you rely on, as well as enclosed evidence.
Touch upon any country specifics, if applicable, if your evidence originates outside of the UK (remember, your in-country application will be considered by a person from Sheffield or Liverpool, and all foreign countries could be the same to them).
It should explain any obviously unusual circumstances. It should always be followed by a FULL LIST of enclosures, organised by application area (and your supporting documents should be organised
accordingly, in the same order). Such as, “previous earnings”, “financial requirement”, “maintenance”, “academic records”, “Absences from the UK”, “treaty rights” or whatever else your application entails.
Ideal covering letter fits on one page, with enclosures list on a following page, but it may be more brief or somewhat, or even much, longer, depending on circumstances. However very few applications warrant in their complexity more than 2 pages worth of a covering letter, unless the case has very complex history and legal issues or you are providing extensive calculations (of earnings, maintenance, investment funds or financial requirement, which you should always include, especially if currency conversions or multiple bank accounts are involved, in this case provide a table).
ALWAYS incorporate your covering letter into the application by reference to it, “please see covering letter for more details”, in “further information” section of any form, or in answers to complex questions on forms.
However, avoid patronising covering letters full of obvious recitations of well-known requirements, especially written in poor English. HUMAN, remember.

7. USE ECHR WHEN NEEDED.
If at all relevant, ALWAYS explicitly raise a human right claim in your application (and/or covering letter).
This is for the purposes of a future right of appeal, which now remains only in “human rights applications”.
Human rights (Article 8) are engaged, first and foremost, in applications involving family reunification with family members already resident in the UK in a settled, PR or BC status (es
spouse/partner visas). You do not have to specifically raise them in family-based applications, as
HO will treat applications under Appendix FM as “human rights applications”, but I think it is a good idea still to always mention that ECHR rights are involved, not only of the applicant but of UK-based family members and children, if relevant. (See Beoku-Betts). However look for a possible human rights claim in a non-family application as well.   In a form of a private life claim, Art 8 ECHR can be also engaged if you have lived in the UK for a very long time (10+ years) or are, or have, a child who lived here 7+ years.

In ANY case where children are involved, explicitly invite HO to consider Section 55 (that states that best interests of children are a primary consideration). Article 3 is involved only in rare cases, such as a terminal illness (eg applicant is dying of cancer which is in final stages and all his family are here, and palliative care doesn’t exist in the country or destination). Article 14 issue may exist in sensitive cases where you fear that you may become, or have bee a victim of racial discrimination (eg HO questioned your marriage because it was interracial and no other reasons at all).

However do not go to extremes.
Mention ECHR and section 55, but at the same time understand that extensive discussion on it does not belong in most straightforward applications.
It is not in best interests of every child on the planet to live and study in the UK no matter what, and you do not have an Article 8 claim if you have been here 3-5 years as a student/overstayer and work illegally (and do not have at least a BC child). Having to return to a country with harder economic circumstances is not an Article 3 claim, etc.
Do not: co-mingle an immigration application with a sudden implicit asylum claim, quote Magna Carta (trust me I have actually seen that), claim that you have a private life claim if you have been here for just a
few years, or Art 3 rights just because economic conditions in your home country are sh*t.

Regarding Art 6, I have publicly advocated quoting it in connection to due process rights in deception/TOEIC cases context, but its use in non-criminal proceedings is contested and complex.

8. BACK UP ALL YOUR CLAIMS.
This seems counter-intuitive, but Home Office does NOT know everything about you.
CID –case information database — may contain incomplete or incorrect information even as to very simple facts of your immigration history, which did not matter before, but will suddenly matter one day, if you are making an ILR or citizenship application.
It often incorrectly records the date of first entry into the country, which is relatively inconsequential until an ILR application is made, it even more often does not record grants of leave made overseas (entry clearances) at all. It quite often incorrectly reflects application dates, more often than not because the intake worker simply does not have the posting date.
Copies of your applications or supporting documents are almost never scanned and often not kept at all, and CID record of what you submitted in support of them, is almost definitely incomplete.
If your immigration history includes any appeals or judicial proceedings, their result may be recorded incorrectly — for instance, it will correctly reflect that appeal was allowed and leave granted, but it will me marked “on human rights grounds only”, even though your determination says that you succeed under the Immigration Rules (which will have huge implications for a future naturalisation application).
Home Office unlikely has information on your dates of departure from the UK, and if it does, they are not on CID (but on e-borders, an entirely different system that exists for purposes that have nothing to do with immigration). In many cases involving former asylum seekers with fresh claims and legacy cases, scarcely any, or none, information on those is on CID.
Entire fact of having made an application, especially a historic application, may be missing. I have seen a case when FTT proceedings were required for a fact finding that a fresh claim had in fact been made, some years ago.
If you are filing an application that relies on 10-year continuous lawful residence, for instance, you should have copies of all your previous leaves, as well as proof of dates when applications were made, that ultimately lead to those leaves being granted. Proof of application date may be a posting receipt.

Do NOT rely on a mental leap (“if it was out of time, it wouldn’t have been granted”), firstly it is not necessarily the case, secondly, people who are looking at your application in 2016 may have no idea what the rules were like 8 years ago, because they were in primary school then.
If at any time you left the country and returned with a new leave within 6 months, you need proof of date of departure and ideally date of application for that new leave.
It is in fact best if all absences can be documented. If there were notices of invalidity, take particular care with when you received them, when they will have been considered to be “served”, and proof that your subsequent application was actually made within 28 days.
If you cannot unearth some bit of your previous immigration history, you need to see if HO actually has this information, by making a SAR request.
This is a very simple application under a law that says every government organisation has to share with you all information it holds on you (SAR stands for Subject Access Request). You do not need to,but it may be helpful to download a SAR application, fill out only the most basic bits of it, such as name, nationality, DOB and HO reference number if you know it. This is a crucial number, consisting of the first letter of your surname and 6 or 7 digits.(Mind that children and dependent spouses may be filed under the same reference number.). You may provide passport number of your most recent passport known to HO if you have no problem with that, but do not go wild filling out the whole form.
HO has to provide you with information even if you are requesting it by letter, not a form. You will need COPIES of your ID and proof of address and £10 by cheque or postal order.
If you only require information from CID, consider making a request for IT information only, HO sometimes runs what they call “fast track IT pilots”, where this can be provided for free and virtually within days.

If you do not have the original passport on which you originally came to the UK or your original visa and first stamp, unearth a copy of it, if there is no stamp provide a booking reference for method of
transport. Claims based on certain number of years of residence should start with proving when it began.

If you found what you need in SAR disclosure, such as an application date or confirmation of prior leave, don’t be shy about making copies  of these pages and enclosing them as evidence with your application.
You file may be hundreds of pages, and HO caseworker may not find it themselves in the half an hour they have to deal with your application, especially at PSC.

9. BE READY FOR A POSSIBLE APPEAL IN ALL CASES.
Do not state anything on your application that you cannot corroborate eventually, or that can be later impeached on closer examination. Anything.
Always remember, although more than 90% of applicants who file correctly actually get what they want, and an average of less than 30 minutes is spent on their file, there are some undereducated and undertrained people working in the Home Office, who may have started work for the first time on the very day your application lands on their desk.
Almost none — almost — of them wake up in the morning thinking “how can I screw up someone’s life today?” — majority earnestly intend on doing their job.
Unfortunately, many of them misunderstand their job, cannot read, cannot count, do not understand legal issues involved, are afraid of their senior caseworker and do not want to go ask them something, etc.
For all your efforts, you can get a terrible, incomprehensibly stupid result.
You can get back a refusal letter that contains self-contradictory bits that are legally and logically incompatible, contain complete factual nonsense about you, allege that you applied in a very different category from that in which you actually applied, or have passages about “your father in Pakistan” even though you are actually from Kentucky and have no relatives in Pakistan whatsoever.
Some people reported getting back strangers’ passports. All of this DOES happen, albeit in maybe about 5% of cases.

But do not panic. There is, in the end, pursuit of common sense in our immigration system. Home Office does not really strive to litigate endlessly, or in any case in which it was genuinely wrong. 9 out of 10 refusals that happen due to genuine caseworker mistakes, are rectified in admin review/reconsideration, or by a HOPO when they have had a chance to look into it, or, where applicable, by a Litigation Unit following a legally correct and well-founded PAP letter. It may sound strange but Home Office is reasonably good at acknowledging mistakes. It will not, knowingly, litigate a case which it expects to lose, unless some greater issues are in play — for instance, HO rarely lets go of cases with factual allegations, such as sham marriage or deception allegations, or significant legal issues decisions on which may open a door to a large stream of new applications or past decision reversals. In these cases, however, the refusal itself would not have been a result of a mistake, but a deliberate policy.

I must say, however, that when people come to me with refusals, in majority of cases, the refusals are generally justified, even if they are poorly written or procedurally deficient. Just because your refusal letter refers to a father in Pakistan you never had, it does not mean that it is invalid or even legally incorrect. You need to learn to look at substance, not form.
I do not often see refusals that are entirely baseless — and most often, refusals are a result of an avoidable error by the applicant, plain and simple.
Complete disregard for, or genuine unawareness of the requirements, failure to submit required evidence, poor research on what’s expected in PBS “genuinessness tests”, or simple failure to submit a covering letter and explanations on an otherwise straightforward, but mathematically complex application.

HOWEVER you have to always see each application, first and foremost, as an application you will , push comes to shove, be prepared to defend in court. Sure, maybe you will have hired someone by then to represent you — but the initial ground work is laid in the application itself, which must be DEFENSIBLE.
If that happens, the entirety of your case, and prior history, may be reexamined and called into question. Make sure you have answers for all questions, an corroboration for all reasonable claims made on your
application.

  • Keep a scanned copy of the application, or at least pages that can give rise to dispute. These are not biometric information or biographic pages, but anything related to your immigration or travel
    history, points calculations, income, employment, “further information” or your relationship with your spouse.
  • Compose a covering letter with reference to all your facts, disclosures, calculations, human rights claims, and entire inventory of supporting documents, and incorporate it by reference into the application (so the HO cannot say there was no cover letter, and subsequently claim that certain supporting documents just weren’t there).
  • Needless to say, keep copy of that cover letter. Keep copies of all supporting documents, if not practicable (such as 5 years of weekly payslips, or 75 virtually identical gas bills) at least make extensive photos of selections and combinations of those.
  • DEFINITELY keep copies of all reference letters and letters specifically to the Home Office (such as employer letters). Send application by trackable (“signed for”) method and keep the posting receipt. Track delivery, print out Royal Mail delivery report and also keep it.
  • If you are interviewed, request and keep interview transcript and interviewers notes (word file). (That being said, in case of a “marriage interview” you should take legal advice to determine whether attending is a good idea)

10. COMMUNICATE WITH HOME OFFICE post-application.
This is a sticky point, since it is notoriously irresponsive, but keep in mind, they DO get your correspondence.
Granted, with delay, and they do not always react, but they do read it and even reflect in CID. Depending on what unit of HO you are dealing with, different things may be tried.
Firstly, if you do move, always update your address with HO, through BOTH internet form AND by tracked letter. Keep in mind some caseworkers still may write up a decision to the original address on your covering letter. Change of address may therefore produce mixed results, for instance decision letter and supporting documents, sent by hand, may go to an old address, but anything computer-generated, such as BRP or citizenship ceremony invitation, to a new one, or sometimes even the other way around (no clue how that happens, but it does).
When you are updating them by tracked letter, use appropriate address, for instance Liverpool addresses for EEA and Nationality, and Sheffield PO box address for TMT/PBS.
Secondly, in an EEA applications, request your passport back (and definitely your sponsor’s passport) after biometrics, if applicable, are enrolled, or if not about 2 weeks after payment taken. Use internet form for that. It will NOT withdraw your application.
Thirdly, if you suddenly feel that you have additional information to adduce, do send it. While not entirely kosher, many courts have held in fact that HO had an obligation to consider all evidence available to it at the moment of decision, even if the information was at that time received in a mailroom but not yet passed to the caseworker.
So keep copies of everything you send, and proof of tracking. Cases on this issue revolved around PBS applications, where filings were time sensitive and all required documents were not yet at hand at the time of filings (since PBS applications are often processed quickly, the more shrewd hold off enrolling biometrics until they have everything at hand they want to send).
Again, send to a meaningful address in Liverpool if Sheffield, depending on application type.

Fourthly, do not disregard OBVIOUS delays beyond normal flow of applications of your type and timeline (timelines can be deduced from the forums or trackitt).
If you sent a Naturalisation application, and a fee has not been taken for more than a month, while everyone else on forums who applied on the same day, already enrolled biometrics, something is wrong.
Or if the fee has been taken and then you have not received a biometric enrollment letter for more than a month, something IS wrong, no matter how many dimwitted “helplinie” advisors will tell you that
nothing is.
There is no consideration analysis and therefore no allocation to “tracking” of any applications for Nationality until after the biometric invitation is issued, so this means either there is a problem with payment, or it has fallen behind a cabinet. Data entry with entirely wrong address is also a thing. If you pay by cheque, for instance, application is sent to “nationality Exceptions” to wait for it to clear, and sometimes no one updates it once it did. Nationality Exceptions as well as post decision (Certificates/invitations) teams are reasonably responsive by email, but you need to give your email both intelligible (surname/case ID)and alarming subject (not the word “Urgent”, but a substantive shocker, such as “No BIOMETRICS 2 mo after payment”). COA renewals after 6 months can also be requested through appropriate address, and some issues around BIO enrollment and BRP delivery resolved.

For anything else, you have to write to nationality Team at the Capital in Liverpool by post.
For any communication with TMT which handles PBS applications in Sheffield, send stuff to PO box, they do read it – I know it, as a manager from data input team once called me personally, quite unhappy
about a content of one of my letters.
I once also found FAX very helpful for TMT. Obviously you need to design your fax in a way that attracts attention right away. It must take one page, have reasonably large font, and consist of easily readable snappy phrases that stand out. I haven’t sent them any for a while, but have the number somewhere. E-mail me
with your situation.
In complex cases when applications are varied, people have reported success showing up (with appointment) at PCS at the same locations where files were being held, and successfully demanding that files, including passports, be brought down to PSC for consideration of a new application. The particular case I am aware of involved Sheffield.
This is all very unorthodox, but again, there are people working there.
As far as application status, do not forget that CID will show what is going on with it, including internal notes and messages ( a special person in Lunar House takes a sharpie to many of them on SAR disclosures, but you can still make out enough. If you have an application pending forever and are at the end of your wit, SAR fast-track for IT records WILL help understand what’s going on, most
likely.
If you know anyone who works for UKVI with CID access, including past caseworkers with whom you communicated, they may — if they wish- help you by telling you at the very least, what department and where has the file, or whether a decision on an application has been made.
Do not ask your friends or buddies, as this will probably violate their own conflict of interest policies, but if you interacted with them professionally or they have had something to do with handling any
of your past cases, then do ask.
PAP can be also an effective form of communication in some cases, but only to be used in accordance with Practice Directions and in appropriate circumstances (seek advice).

Last but not least, DO NOT LOSE YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

UK immigration system is predicated, and its workers trained, upon some strange idea that UK is the only, best and most desirable country to live in, in the whole world.
UK is a brilliant country to live in, and I love it. We all do. But it is great for those of us who are British and settled.
Is it really that great for a temporary migrant with three university degrees, on whom the government and its uneducated minions look down and keep chucking out nonsense to, while robbing him or enormous amounts of money?
A family of 4 which entered UK on Tier 1 General in 2008, will have spent around £15000-£20000 on FEES ONLY all through naturalisation, an equivalent of about £250 a month fee over 6 years. That’s ENORMOUS amounts of money. Ever since that, fees have been only rising every year, and are now so ridiculous that many of those same people would have not made the journey in the first place.

For many of you, Canada and the United States may provide a lower-cost and higher-return immigration, where wages are higher and costs are lower, and job market is more open. For instance thy are certainly a better value for graduate students, and in the US, I have not ever heard of a graduate with a Masters or a PhD who was forced to leave the country because there were no options. A year of post-graduation employment authorisation is automatic (no separate application).
UK is wonderful is it WORKS for you. If it’s working out. But if the system in all its kaqkaesque injustice iterations has turned against you, and is still robbing you both of money and dignity — ask yourself, do you REALLY need it?
Same goes for illegal immigrants — those of you who have been here illegally 10, 15 years — is the country you once left behind really as bad, for it to be worth living like this? Are there not countless countries out there where you could also live, but also work and be respected?
In short, do not lose your dignity and do not let the fight define you. It is very easy to forget that under the weight of Home Office’s hateful rethoric, but this is just Stockholm syndrome. The world is a
bigger, much bigger place. Us immigrants, we are here because we have imagination. Use it.