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East Ham sees fifth highest number of signatures on petition about family visit visas, ahead of Parliament debate

PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 July 2018

Caroline Nokes, the minister of state for immigration, during the debate in Parliament. Picture: Parliamentlive tv

Caroline Nokes, the minister of state for immigration, during the debate in Parliament. Picture: Parliamentlive tv

Archant

MPs debated changes to visa rules in Parliament on Monday, after three petitions calling for amendments amassed more than 90,000 signatures.

The petitions demanded automatic approval for visit visas for families of British citizens, a ‘super visa’ category for parents of British citizens, and the ability to appeal rejections to family visit visas.

East Ham provided the fifth highest number of signatures on the first petition, with 862. There were 71,168 signatures on this petition alone. The first petition, asking for automatic approval for family visit visas, argued that family members of UK citizens shouldn’t have to meet the same crtieria as non-relatives for a visit visa.

Helen Jones, the MP for Warrington North, said: “I am convinced there are serious problems with family visitor visas.

“People are caught on a merry-go-round of not knowing why they’ve been turned down, not knowing what information they have to provide, and often being turned down again for a different reason.

“The people we’ve spoken to understand that this is a difficult thing to decide, but they find the whole process they’re expected to go through is excruciating.

“We should not leave them feeling let down by the system when all they want to do is see their family.”

The official government response to the petitions argued that automatically approving visas for a select group of people – in this case, family members of UK citizens – would mean that immigration rules couldn’t be applied consistently, leading to equality issues. Immigration rules are the requirements people must meet to get a visa - including promises they’ll leave once the visa expires.

The minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes, said: “I’m not going to pretend we at the Home Office always get things right. I am painfully conscious of the human impact of missed graduation ceremonies, marriages, and occasions where families want to come together and celebrate.

“Automatically approving visas undermines the benefits that a visa system has in terms of border security. Visas are an effective tool in tackling illegal immigration, tackling organised crime and protecting national security.

“I am committed to ensuring the UK visa service is high performing, customer focused and continually improving. We continue to believe that our visa service stands up well against key competitor countries.”

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