Administrative Review Process Criticised By Chief Inspector
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has issued a series of criticisms about the effectiveness and independence of the administrative review processes introduced following the removal of various rights of appeal under the Immigration Act 2014. In his report, David Bolt found, among other things, examples of low productivity by dedicated in-country reviews, a lack of experience in applications officer caseworkers in working within the points-based system, and a lack of quality in decision making and implementation of rules, guidance and practice. The inspection also found that valid applications had been incorrectly rejected and that the quality assurance process was not identifying and rectifying this.
Since all rights of appeal accept those based on Human Rights or refugee law grounds were removed for those entering the UK under the Points-Based System (PBS), administrative review has provided an avenue for applicants to have their decision reviewed, to check for any administrative errors.
The Chief Inspector’s comments are of great concern, given that administrative review is now one of the only means of having an Immigration decision made by the Home Office reviewed. The other method, (outside of an appeal made on refugee or Human Rights grounds) is judicial review, a process that is both costly and difficult to bring.
The mechanics of administrative review
Administrative review is available from within the UK to challenge an eligible decision on the basis that the decision is incorrect due to a case working error. Since 6 April 2015, the scope of administrative review under the Immigration Rules has been greatly expanded upon to include a number of entry clearance categories and certain decisions made at the border.
There is no charge for an administrative review.
You must apply for administrative review within 28 days of receiving a decision from the UK Border Agency. If you receive a refusal, an application form and notes on the administrative review process will be included in the letter. You should receive a decision within 28 days of requesting the review.
You cannot apply for administrative review if you are already in the UK.
The Chief Inspector’s findings
In his report, the Chief Inspector found that levels of accuracy differed between the review departments but that overall there was ‘significant room for improvement in respect of the effectiveness of administrative review in identifying and correcting case working errors, and in communicating decisions to applicants’.
He said that while the Home Office had created a separate, dedicated team to handle in-country reviews, most overseas and border reviews were carried out locally. Mr Bolt said it was difficult to ascertain whether overseas and at the border reviewers were truly separate and independent, although no evidence of bias could be found.
He found that no system existed to provide reviewers with feedback on where decisions had been successfully challenged in court, thereby depriving original decision makers, and the organisation, of a learning opportunity.
He also said that despite arguing that administrative costs would be reduced by £261m over ten years, the Home Office had yet to conduct an analysis of the cost savings.
The Chief Inspector’s Recommendations
The Chief Inspector made the following recommendations:
- provide a clear notification of the deadline date for administrative review on the online application form
- caseworkers should take care to check the date of the administrative review application before declaring it is out of time
- ensure that the administrative review invalidity notice states clearly why an administrative review application was determined to be invalid
- where the applicant failed to qualify for a fee waiver, ensure the invalidity notice informs them they may re-apply with the fee within seven days
- provide the same training to the reviewers of administrative review applications as given to those who made the original decision
- ensure that reviewers address all substantive issues raised by the applicant and that CID (or CRS) notes and decision notices accurately reflect this
- reviewers should correct all errors in a submitted review document, not just those identified by the applicant and address all the issues raised by the applicant
- robust quality assurance procedures should be put in place for all administrative reviewers, taking into account the grade and experience of the reviewer and use the results to improve service
The response from the Home Office
The Home Office responded to the Chief Inspector’s findings by stating:
“The Home Office fully accepts thirteen of the fourteen recommendations that the ICI has made and is working swiftly to act upon them. The Home Office partially accepts one of the recommendations.
As well as enhanced internal assurance of case review quality and the introduction of a second tier quality review from colleagues independent of the in-country and overseas Administrative Review teams, the ICI will review progress in 2016/17 against the recommendations they have made.
The Home Office will also give consideration to establishing an external quality assurance panel, which would consist of professional persons who are completely independent from the Home Office, and be given a remit to review a random, anonymised sample of Administrative Review decisions on a regular basis and feed back to UK Visas and Immigration and Border Force on the quality of the decisions made.”
The importance of accurate administrative reviews
People applying for visas under the Points-Based System have very few avenues open to them if their application is refused. Many applicants have partners and children waiting for them the UK and after months of only seeing them through Skype, to have their application refused due to a preventable administrative error is an unthinkable blow to their quality of life.
To ensure your administrative review is manged correctly, it is imperative to invest in quality legal advice when you make your out-or-country visa application. That way, you can be confident that your application is not only submitted correctly in the first place, but any subsequent administrative review will be handled competently and correctly.
OTS Solicitors specialises in Employment and Immigration law. Based in London, our expert team of Solicitors are committed to delivering the best results for our Employment and Immigration clients. If you wish to receive legal advice on any of the points raised in this article, please phone our office on 0203 959 9123 to make an appointment