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Backstory

US Citizen (and passport holder) applies for an academic (business) visa and is declined on the grounds that they are not on sabbatical leave. However, they are a professor teaching online in the USA so are able to be abroad and do research. So the visa was declined, and as there is no right to appeal the US Citizen just leaves it. Academic visas don't have a right to appeal.

They applied for the visa so they could be in the USA from January to August in the same year, so needed it since they can only travel to the UK without a visa for a maximum of 6 months.

Question

They plan to visit the UK to see friends.

  • Can they enter the UK without a visa?

On the gov.uk visa check it says:

You may want to apply for a visa if you have a criminal record or you’ve previously been refused entry into the UK.

  • However being declined a visa is not the same as refusing entry right?

  • If not, what visa would they have to apply for? And will the below effect which visa it would be?

They have now married a UK citizen who has since moved to the USA, and holds a US green card (through marriage). The UK citizen is permanently residing in the USA, but receives income from the UK.

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Reading the letter of the law in that article, you should be fine, because entry and entry clearance are not the same thing. However, in practical terms this piece of hair-splitting may not help you much, as when you go to clear immigration they will pull your record and see that you've been denied a visa in the past, and assess your case for entry accounting for that.

Basically that means it's a crap-shoot. They might decide to let you in, or they might not. From what I've read about entering the UK, the odds are probably more in your favour than not. Most of the stories of people refused entry attempting to enter with a visa waiver are because they have a partner resident in the country they are trying to enter - immigration see this as a risk. Indeed, this gov.uk FAQ specifically lists 'entering as a fiancé' as a case where entry clearance is needed.

Try giving the Immigration Advice Service a call - they may be able to clarify this issue for you. They are the service that you call if you are refused entry at immigration, and will be familiar with the reality on the ground. They offer some free services in that case, but you may have to pay for this enquiry.

If you decide that you don't want to risk getting all the way to the UK and being refused entry, you can apply for a visa, so that Immigration's assessment of your case will occur before you go, rather than after you land! The correct visa to apply for is the General Visitor Visa.

Hope this helps!

Edit - I just noticed the part at the end about marrying the UK citizen. Complex indeed! However the correct visa to apply for would still be the General Visitor Visa, unless you want to actually marry your partner in the UK (or register a civil union).

  • I've updated the last bit of the question. They have already married but only recently. – Vagish May 8 '14 at 11:38
  • It's probably still the General Visitor, unless they plan to visit in-laws in the UK, in which case it could be the Visiting Relatives visa. – imoatama May 12 '14 at 3:48
  • @Vagish Any reason you didn't think this to be worthy of the bounty? I think I addressed every part of the question as well as followups, and was happy to clarify anything further. – imoatama May 16 '14 at 1:09
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    NOTE: The Immigration Advisory Service is a commercial enterprise trying to masquerade as a charity. Buyer beware! The 'real' IAS was dissolved several years ago. – Gayot Fow Feb 24 '15 at 7:05
  • Thanks, I should have made this clearer in the answer - it was clear to me from visiting their website that they were a commercial entity offering advice on a paid basis. – imoatama Aug 23 '18 at 8:44

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