Lessons learnt from a tennis superstar: Due care on visa applications

The importance of being truthful on immigration forms has been thrust into the international spotlight this week, thanks to tennis star Novak Djokovic who has been deported from Australia.

Whilst the ins and out of the refusal are up for discussion, one thing is clear is that the information on his application about where he has been during the fourteen days prior to his arrival in Australia was not correct. As we all now know, social media posts show him in both Spain and Serbia during this period.

Djokovic explained that this form was completed by his team on his behalf, that it was an innocent mistake and not intentional. The consequences of a false declaration could mean anything from deportation to twelve months imprisonment under the Australian immigration system and could impact on his ability to gain visas for other countries in future.

Is the Australian immigration system harsh compared to the UK system or would such an error on a UK visa form attract similar consequences?

Part 9 of the Immigration Rules deals with grounds for refusal for most types of applications, including visit visas. Those applications which do not fall within the scope of this part have their own similar provisions. 9.7.1 states that an application may be refused where, in relation to the application, or in order to obtain documents from the Secretary of State, or a third party in support of the application:

(a) false representations are made, or false documents or false information submitted (whether or not relevant to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge); or

(b) relevant facts are not disclosed.

There is therefore an element of discretion with the use of the word ‘may.’ However, even if the false information was provided without the knowledge of the applicant, they could still pay the price. 

Failing to disclose previous visa refusals or immigration problems, for the UK or any other country, would come under the ambit of this section. Disclosing the issue will not necessarily lead to a refusal, however a failure to disclose such a problem is likely to lead to a refusal which will be difficult to overcome.

One of the traps that applicants can fall into is blindly selecting ‘no’ to the answers to the various questions towards the end of the application which ask about things such as involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism. The questions regarding previous immigration issues are in this section so, if you are not careful and are hurriedly clicking through these questions, you could easily overlook the questions regarding immigration history and select no, rather than yes. This would likely lead to refusal of the application in question and future applications as applicants who are deemed to have used deception in previous applications could be subject to a re-entry ban of ten years.

The caseworker guidance does direct caseworkers to consider whether an innocent mistake has, or could have been made, or whether there was an intention to deceive. In cases where there is a possibility that it was an innocent mistake, caseworkers are asked a list of questions to determine the likelihood of the mistake being innocent. Factors to consider include whether the applicant would benefit from the provision of the false information and whether the mistake was present on a previous application. In our experience, a failure to disclose a previous refusal or criminal conviction, even a minor offence such as a speeding fine, is unlikely to be considered an innocent mistake and will usually lead to refusal. Depending on the exact circumstances, an applicant may be able to successfully challenge such a finding, however such challenges can be costly and time consuming and if unsuccessful, may still result in a ten-year ban.

Another ground for refusal under this part is the failure to attend an interview or provide further information to the Home Office by a certain deadline. As harsh as this may seem, missing a deadline for additional information by a day can lead to a refusal and it is imperative to clearly note the date by which a response for information is required and ensure that this is not missed.

There are other things to be mindful of prior to international travel, whether that is coming to the UK or as a UK citizen travelling overseas. As well as ensuring that you have been open and honest with the authorities, you must ensure that:

  • you have obtained a visa if required;
  • your proposed activities fall within the scope of the visa/ permission to enter that you have;
  • you know how long you are permitted to be in the country you are travelling to; and
  • you check on any other restrictions on your permission to be in the country you are travelling to.

In today’s world, it is essential to be familiar with COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements of the country you are travelling to. One thing that we do all know is that these rules are ever-changing and it is important to check these prior to travelling and ensure that you take the right type of test at the right time so as not to jeopardise your trip.

As disappointing as it may be for tennis fans that the world number one has been forced to miss out on the Australian Open, this event has served to bring attention to something that many people may not otherwise have appreciated the seriousness of. A seemingly ‘innocent mistake’ on a visa form can have long-term consequences and it is important to always ensure accuracy when completing any visa application.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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