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I am in the merchant navy and I did my naval in Scotland at a UK college which is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. To advance my career, I need to pass one oral exam conducted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. I have appeared for this exam three times and, unfortunately, haven't been able to pass it. It’s a one-day exam for which I am seeking another visa to the UK. They have refused my visa application, stating that during my last visit I failed the exam twice and they want to know how I funded myself during my stay in UK.

I stayed there for 5 months 28 days as, once you fail the exam, it takes around 2-3 months to apply again. I did that and I have evidence to support my statement. This exam is of the utmost importance for my career.

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    @mdiener I don't see how this is a duplicate. The asker has failed an exam several times in a row, but they've only been denied a visa once. – David Richerby Jan 23 '18 at 1:02
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    You were nearly a year in the UK in the past 2-3 years. What did you actually do during that time, and I am particularly interested in any form of employment for pay, for room/board, etc. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 1:12
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    So how did you actually support yourself financially during those 6 months? And why do you need 18 days visa for 1 day of exam? – Džuris Jan 23 '18 at 12:39
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    @AlexanderKosubek I've hardly ever seen an image on Stack Exchange with any description other than "Enter image description here". I don't think that's a battle worth fighting. – David Richerby Jan 23 '18 at 16:08
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    @SahilXaeemAnsari Posting the image was perfect. Alexander was complaining about something that isn't important. – David Richerby Jan 23 '18 at 20:24
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The ECO is reasonably polite about it, but he thinks you were working illegally during your last visit to the UK, and that you're going to do that again if you get a new visa. It is hard to fault him.

Your story seems to be that when you failed the exam previously, you just happened to have enough money saved up that you could decide to stay in the UK and study for half a year without any income. How did you pay for food and shelter during that period? Apparently you didn't offer any explanation of where all that money came from, so the ECO is entitled to consider it the most likely explanation that you instead worked illegally to support yourself.

Furthermore, even if you did have that kind of money sitting around, it would have been plenty to pay for airfare back to India, where the cost of living is much lower and you could have lived like a prince while studying, with plenty left over for fun (or retirement savings, depending on your temperament).

What do you do now? You can reapply, if you have a really good and documentable explanation that will clear up the credibility hit your previous change of plans produced. At the very least, this explanation should detail why you found it reasonable to stay in the UK, where you lived, how you paid for yourself, most importantly where that money came from (and if the money was given to you by someone, why they would give you that money and where they got it from), as well as all the other minor things the ECO wonders about, such as why you plan a 17-day visit to take a 1-day exam. You'll probably also need to provide some evidence that it is common to do nothing but study for this exam for months and months (especially, since study would be all you did for half a year, if you did not work) and yet fail it multiple times but eventually pass.

It can be difficult for inexperienced applicants to lay out such an explanation in a way that looks convincing to an ECO. You should consider getting professional legal help with it -- meaning a lawyer who specializes in UK immigration cases. That's going to cost you a pretty penny, but if you have the means to live in the UK for half a year without working, it may be a way forward for you.

If your new application is also refused, you should probably accept that you're not getting back into the UK. Scrap your plans and find a career that doesn't depend on needing to do that.

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    I like the "...is reasonably polite about it" – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 22 '18 at 20:11
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    Or work with the university to take the test remotely. Well if he was studying, wouldn't he be allowed to engage employment 20 hours a week? However the fact that he was there "studying" for 12 of the last 24 months and still continued to fail the tests, suggests there wasn't much actual studying going on. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 0:58
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    @Harper Yes if the OP were in the UK on a student visa. Normally, someone entering the country to take a one day exam would use the much cheaper and simpler visitor visa. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 23 '18 at 1:04
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    @Harper: A short-term study visa does not allow any work. – Henning Makholm Jan 23 '18 at 1:23
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    Well that certainly explains the 18 days... after flunking a test due to jetlag I would certainly arrive 14 days early, rent a narrowboat, spend 8 hours a day preparing and 2-6 navigating. Reasonable. What is not reasonable is claiming you financed 1 year of living at home plus 1 year of living in the UK on only 1 year of home salary. If that salary pays so well, why become a mariner? Doesn't add up. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 '18 at 22:21
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You almost certainly need a lawyer with specialist knowledge.

Also ask if your employer can help. You need to address each of the points the visa office raised.

If it takes 2-3 months to apply again after failing, explain to them why you stayed for almost 6 months. This is important because when you apply for a visa and tell them you're staying just long enough for the exam and then stay much longer it makes you look untrustworthy.

You must certainly explain how you funded your stay in the UK. At the moment they likely think you were working illegally.

Finally, you may still get rejected for a while because they also think you are spending so much time in UK that you will try to become a resident.

I don't know anything about shipping but is there really no other way to qualify than to pass a UK exam?

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You don't make any mention of how you are addressing the concerns raised by response:

-You are asking for 18 days to complete a task that should take 1 day.

-You previously overstayed a visa, with no explanation for how you supported yourself.

-You present as an excuse for overstaying your visa that you failed your exam, and rather than applying for another visa, you decided to just stick around until the next exam date. You present no reason for the immigration official to think that will not happen again.

Do you plan on just hanging around the UK hoping to pass the exam? Now that you've failed it three times, what reason do you think you will pass it this time? Why are you asking for 18 days? How did you support yourself for six months? You options are to answer these questions to the immigration official's satisfaction, ask the college to allow alternative arrangements, or pursue another career path.

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    If I were traveling across multiple time zones to take a career-critical exam I would want a few days jet lag recovery time before the exam. 5 days would be more reasonable than 1 day. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 22 '18 at 21:34
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    He didn't overstay, he just stayed for the full 6-month visa period. – Blorgbeard Jan 22 '18 at 23:03
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    When you apply for a visa saying you'll be in a country for about 1 day, because you are only coming there for this one thing that is happening on that one day ... and instead you stay for 6 months because why not, that's sort of "overstaying" (even though officially it's not). That's the thing about these "stay for the whole duration of the visa" trips, it will work the first time, but you better have a good explanation next time as to why you said you are coming for x days, but stayed for y days. – kiradotee Jan 22 '18 at 23:56
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    @Blorgbeard He didn't overstay but he did stay much longer than he said he would. That's not illegal but it does cause problems. If the ECO can't believe the claimed departure date, how much of the rest of the application can they believe? – David Richerby Jan 23 '18 at 1:19
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    @KevinFegan Many UK visas are issued for six months, but they will give serious stink-eye to subsequent applications if you tell them you're staying for a short time and then use anything close to the entire six months (yes, this seems unfair and trips people up who think there's no problem extending their stay). I suspect the OP's prior application stated his intent to come, take the exam, and leave, and then he wound up staying nearly six months. That raises concerns about how he supported himself, like you say, but also about his intention to stay only 18 days this time. – Zach Lipton Jan 23 '18 at 9:11
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You are going to have to prove you're not going to abuse the system again. You may even have to hire an attorney to prove it sufficiently. Prove you have the income to support yourself.

Here's my bank statement with $200,000 and here is a bank statement showing the withdraws I made to pay for food, lodging, etc.

Provide a complete 18-day itinerary, or change it back to 3 days (1 day to get there, 1 day for the test, and leave the next day). If you really intent to stay 3 more months to re-take the test state that. Here's proof I have enough money for the additional 3 months.

If it turns out you did work, that was illegal and they may never let you back in.

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    Note that a significant part of "here's my bank statement with $200,000" is "hereshowever many bank statements and other evidence it takes to prove that that $200,000 is mine legitimately and legally". – Moo Jan 23 '18 at 8:12
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    With 200 grands might as well apply for an investor visa ;) – Hanky Panky Jan 23 '18 at 11:01
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    While 18 days seems excessive for a one-day test, three days is unnecessarily short. It would surely be seen as reasonable to spend a few days getting over jet lag before taking an important exam. – David Richerby Jan 23 '18 at 13:56

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