For those who have been refused entry clearance or leave to enter the UK, you very likely have come across the term, balance of the probabilities in the refusal.

Balance of Probabilities

A legal standard, applied in many jurisdictions for deciding the outcome of civil disputes, which requires that a dispute be decided in favor of the party whose claims are more likely to be true.

Basically greater than 50% likelihood.

Having an quantitative background, I tend to like clean/well defined and to some degree calculable/quantifiable outcomes. My question is, does there exist a list of criteria which are weighted when determining the balance of probabilities in UK immigration entry clearance/leave to enter situations? Is this purely qualitative?

I ask because there are several cases here and elsewhere of applicants who appear overwhelmingly qualified to be approved on all other criteria but one, but ultimately end up being refused based on that one criteria.

Evaluation criteria taken into account can be found in the guidance.

Finally and most importantly, is it a case where any one negative criteria (e.g not having a job, funds parking) is automatically given a much heavier weighting than favorable criteria and by itself alone tilts the balance of probabilities to the negative?

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    Balance of Probabilities does not mean that you make a list of all things for and against, and decide based on what side is longer. If most things look ok but there is one single aspect that really only makes sense if the applicant tries to game the system (funds parking in your example), it suddenly appears more likely that the applicant is not playing honest and should hence be denied.
    – xLeitix
    Mar 26, 2017 at 13:47
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    @SheikPaul It's self-evident from the cases that you've observed: failing on one category is enough to get your visa denied. Mar 26, 2017 at 17:02
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    @SheikPaul you are trying to simplify a complex decision matrix, one which is fuzzy in nature and by definition cannot be simplified to the level you are trying.
    – user29788
    Mar 26, 2017 at 21:35
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    It's not entirely clear what you have in mind, but I think the responses are right that you have misunderstood how entry clearance works. Eg if you want to enter as a short-term student under A57C of the immigration rules you must prove each of (a) and the nine provisions under (b). The failure of any one means you do not qualify. Each individual point must be proved on the balance of probabilities. Mar 26, 2017 at 22:09

1 Answer 1


The question appears to be based on two false premises.

First, immigration decisions are not based on some kind of mathematical model involving sampling from various probability distributions and computing an estimate of the probability that the applicant is genuine. As you are aware, "Balance of probabilities" is a widely used phrase in civil law and simply means that something is felt more likely to be true than false, as distinct from the criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt". Immigration decisions are a matter of judgement, not calculation.

Second, most immigration decisions aren't made on a "points" basis, where the applicant scores points for various things and the decision is positive if the applicant scores enough points in total.

I ask because there are several cases here and elsewhere of applicants who appear overwhelmingly qualified to be approved on all other criteria but one, but ultimately end up being refused based on that one criteria.

Yes, and there are many people who appear overwhelmingly qualified to not be in jail on all criteria except one but, ultimately, end up being in jail because one criterion is enough. To obtain a visa, you must convince the authorities that you meet all the criteria. For example, Paragraph 320 of the UK Immigration Rules lists a number of grounds for refusal of entry clearance or leave to enter. Each one of those is, on its own, grounds for refusal. It doesn't matter how perfectly you pass the tests of parts 1, 2, 2A, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7A, 7B and 7C, if you fail on 7D, because 7D alone is ground for refusal.

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    @All I just cleaned up all the comments. If you want to discuss politics please create your own chatroom. In any case, please be civil in all discussion whether on the site or on chat.
    – JoErNanO
    Mar 27, 2017 at 8:19
  • Is there a consolidated list of discretionary grounds for refusal? What is the ECO actually looking for when judging a visitor application? For example: for a USA b2 visa all applicants are presumed to be immigrants until they can show otherwise. If other grounds for denial such as criminality are overcome, the applicant only has to prove he intends to return to his country.
    – user58558
    Jun 11, 2017 at 15:20

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