The vicious cycle of a Pakistani applying for a UK visa: Apply, reject, more money, re-apply, reject, more money

Published: March 11, 2016

Is there a solution to the on-going discrimination? Who could dare take this matter up with the authorities? Our ruling class is indifferent because somehow they remain unscathed.

London is like my second home. My love for the city knows no bounds. My friends like to call me the brand ambassador of London. Even my wife feels envious at times. While London in summer is more like a ritual for me and my family, I am not too sure if the tradition can be sustained anymore given the visa tragedy.

Recent news has been dominated with UK visa horror stories of endless delays and unreasonable rejections. The United Kingdom seems to be pursuing an unannounced policy of rejecting visa applications from Pakistan. A recent study conducted by an online news agency revealed that the British High Commission in Pakistan has declined thousands of Pakistan’s visa applications in the past year without any valid reason.

What’s going on?

While obtaining a British visa has always been hard, the present rate of visa rejection is unprecedented. Visa applications to the UK are notoriously challenging. Besides exorbitant visa fee application, the amount of time and energy that each application requires is substantial. From employment letters, salary slips to rigorous forms, the process is exceptionally daunting. In case of rejection, all the hard work and resources simply go to waste. But here’s when the real exploitation begins; The British High Commission operates a zero refund policy and the right of appeal for visitor visas has been removed.

In such scenario, what options do ordinary citizens have?

Pay again and re-apply?

More resources, unchanged outcome?

What about genuine applicants who wish to visit their relatives in the UK or simply shop on the Oxford Street?

Could the visa authorities get more unjust?

Rejecting visa applications in droves without solid grounds is blatant exploitation. An overwhelming majority of applications are rejected on a standard assumption; weak social and economic roots in the country of origin.

A friend’s family who simply wished to attend their son’s University College London graduation ceremony was refused clearance exactly for this reason. My aunt’s application was denied on the same grounds despite a different case altogether. My application in 2009 was turned down for similar concerns despite a prior visit in 2006. May I ask the visa authorities how can an applicant possibly prove his affiliation to his own country? A decent job is not enough. Having a heavy bank statement may be insufficient. Travel history does not really matter. There’s another confusing twist to the story. When you re-apply, the authorities might come up with a completely different reason for rejection which wasn’t previously highlighted. Common sense dictates you will clear all the objections and re-apply but only for another ridiculous revelation by the High Commission. This sets a vicious cycle; apply, reject, more money, re-apply, reject, more money. Beware!

The scourge of visa refusals has been made possible by severe lack of accountability and transparency in the visa process. When viewed from a historical perspective, the visa policy begins to look like an extension of colonialism. The colonial mission in the subcontinent was primarily motivated by economic gain. Years of extractive rule stripped the continent of its valuable resources. In the 1950s and 60s, colonies were looked upon as repositories to meet the acute post-war labour shortages in Britain, in much the same way that they were forced to supply cotton and other raw materials during the industrial revolution. The state’s attempts to control immigration reflect a strong sense of self-interest and Euro-centrism, which were key features of colonial thinking. Accountability was completely missing from the colonial story. The contemporary trend of rejections appears to follow the same plot only with a different cover.

Is there a solution to the on-going discrimination? Who could dare take this matter up with the authorities? Our ruling class is indifferent because somehow they remain unscathed.

I have been wanting to visit London this summer but given the current situation and despite strong travel history, I am extremely reluctant to apply. I might still take the risk but none of us will be surprised if the outcome is negative. May I request Thomas Drew, the new British High Commissioner, to kindly look into the matter? The enthusiasm and optimism about Pakistan reflected in his recent speech gave me hope that things might change. While emphasising the centrality of relationship between UK and Pakistan, he remarked,

 “So my job is a great one because Pakistan matters. But it is also a great one because I believe the UK can make a difference.”

The on-going visa mess might be a good starting point to prove that. The injustice and exploitation on display must end!

Has your application for the UK visa been denied?

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Hamza Siddiq

Hamza Siddiq

The author teaches global politics and international development for the University of London International Programme. He tweets as @hamzasiddiqkhan (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • GKA

    3 symptoms I can point out which will make any giovernament nervous to issue visas. A short while ago Pakistan refused to accept back its own citizens from Europe. Pakistan currently has a large number of refugees knocking on Europe’s door. And Pakistani’s are percieved, rightly or wrongly, to makes least effort into assimilating and integrating into British society. Cannot blame UK for putting a freeze on visas. Why do you not talk to your own government on the refugees from Pakistan and your own diaspora ?Recommend

  • Naila

    First I was deined UK visa, then I got US passport, then UK ambassador came to my home to appologise and requested if he can give me a visa to take my holy presence to his gloomy, cloudy, country. I smiled, gave him even look and simply said.. “be gone now”Recommend

  • Pro Truth

    this policy works against immigration rules, if you dont allow valid visitors but end up allowing illegal migrants? if you close all legal and valid channels to visit or work in a country, people will resort to illegal means!Recommend

  • genesys

    To this list add incidents like the Rotherham and Oxted i it only sets more alarm bells ringing.Can you blame UK for this.We have created such negative images of ourselves.Recommend

  • Tommy Gunn

    I’m surprised that the author wrote an entire article about UK Visa rejection to Pakistanis without mentioning “terrorism” even once, which is obviously the primary reason behind Britain’s tightening of Visa policy towards Pakistanis (as it is probably of other countries as well). Also the “colonial attitude” argument does not make sense since other South asians including Indians, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Bangladeshis etc don’t have much issues in obtaining a UK visa. Its unfortunate that many good people in Pakistan are rejected visas due to the evil deeds of a few but every country has a right to reject visas as its topmost priority is the security of its citizens.Recommend

  • say no to UK

    I don’t know why ppl go after UK, putting all life time savings just for getting visa and no jobs in UK start allover from zero with expensive living and odd jobs. Euro is going down, economy is sinking like a ship. I got only one time rejected of US but finally made to US.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Pakistani assimilating in UK is against Two Nation Theory.Recommend

  • vinsin

    But why they want to go to UK which is against TNT?Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    London is like my second home….

    Please come to bradford and Luton and see yourself how british values and culture is being degraded and destroyed by pakistanis…we dont need any more mess here….please live in your beloved country…Superpower ummah..and let us live peacefully in our small poor country ……..Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    Why…are you having shame that you were a pakistani….Most country dont have dual citizen policy…I beleive most of pakistanis should be given a visa check seeing their previous passport..Recommend

  • Javed Afridi

    I fail to understand why can’t the UK High Commission in Pakistan decide on visa application rather than sending it to Dubai. Addition of an interview to the process won’t be a bad idea either.
    Lastly, travel history should matter. Application of a person, having travelled to USA/UK and/or rest of the Europe should not be rejected on the pretext that the visa officer is not convinced that he will indeed return to his country.”Recommend

  • SuperNeo™

    Visa Rejection is purely based on past experience from citizens of that country. if writer of this article would have spent time in getting updated with current affairs and and world affairs from last 10 years. this article would never written by writer.
    UK Visa option is open for Pakistanis is itself is big thing.
    Search google for worlds biggest deported citizens. next time you won’t even write such write up.Recommend

  • SuperNeo™

    No comments !!!! btw smoking dope is not good for health.Recommend

  • LS

    “UK Ambassador came to my home to appologise”…. delusions some people have… If the UK visa was granted you would be there in that gloomy, cloudy country…Recommend

  • LS

    What is about Pakistani’s and their Visa problem? There is an article in Dawn on the same topic and here and many more… There is a reason why your country’s Passport is at the bottom…Recommend

  • Milind A

    “When viewed from a historical perspective, the visa policy begins to look like an extension of colonialism.”
    Gr8.. So blame it on the Britishers… Ignore the fact that Pakistan and Pakistanis have a bad reputation everywhere… due to number of issues – nuclear proliferation, persecution of minorities (Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus, Christians) back home, support to terror groups… most of the terror outrages abroad have a Pakistani connection … Rather than requesting the British commissioner for a lax visa policy, you should be fighting your own establishment for a better, tolerant and progressive PakistanRecommend

  • UK Immigration Solicitors

    Unfortunately, we have seen a big spike in visa applications since around November / December time.

    I urge you to check and triple check all applications and ensure that everything is completed with honesty and transparency. Otherwise it seems that the home office will refuse your visa.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    Consider UG its best alternativeRecommend

  • Sid

    Great story. Worthy Shan Shahid’s movie.Recommend

  • Zebra

    My visa was denied when I applied first time. Then I got it after 2 years, visited as planned and returned after 10 days. Then I applied it next year.. .visited as planned and returned in 10 days.. Then I applied a 10-year visa and got it.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    How is this relevant here?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    This may hurt the Pakistanis , but why they want to go where they are not welcome.
    Here they are insisting to play in India while Indians have clearly demonstrated that we don’t want them in our country.
    And they want to go to UK, Why?Recommend

  • Logical Mind

    Fair or not, each country has the right to issue or reject visas (especially simple visit visas) but making this process effectively a money making machine is unethical. If visa is not granted, the visa fee should be refunded, either fully or most of it – especially if a visa is promptly rejected, i.e. without any significant administrative processing that could justify some monetary charges.

    It is the job of a government to ensure that its citizens are treated fairly. But sadly our governments have a very poor record in this area.

    Countries on equal footing typically retaliate in such cases, by giving the same treatment to the citizens of the other country. Pakistan is not in such a position but it surely would have (or could come up with) other ways to make UK (or other such countries) behave or at least shame it, if it remains stubborn.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Come on, do you really blame the British? Pakistanis have not exactly endeared themselves with the UK people. There are no-go Muslim areas for the local people in the land that graciously gave these visas. A backlash was long overdue.Recommend

  • Jayman

    I don’t think foreign governments will give in to that sort of logic. Illegal immigrants will be dealt with under the law. Trouble is recognizing who is “valid” and who isn’t – especially given that your government does not always accept its own citizens back. No nation has a commitment to accept immigrants. It is a privilege they give to worthy people.Recommend

  • Jayman

    What does Afghan immigrants have to do with Pakistanis assimilating in British society? It is your nation that has a lawless area bordering Afghanistan.Recommend

  • SanaUllah Qaisar

    Why visit UK if they don’t want you to visit their country. Go and visit other countries there are more countries to visit see beauty of. If you have work if you can do it online do it online.Recommend

  • ibrahim k

    The thing is Pakistani Passport ranks as the 2nd worst in the world just above afghanistan as per the Henley and partners visa index.

    Not even any Asian country is wanting Pakistanis to visit them..even u want to visit touristic countries like Mauritius and Macau u need to apply for a visa.

    whereas look at Indian passport it has the Visa free acrss to almost most of the amazing touristic destinations where indians can go and relax for a few days…like Thailand,Malaysia,Bahrain,Jordan,Mauritius,Macau,Laos,Cambodia,Sri Lanka,Indonesia,Georgia,Tajikistan,Fiji,Ecuador,Bolivia,El salvador,Reunion Island (French territory) and so many more.Recommend

  • Maryam Khan

    Rajiv not everyone want to go to UK for fun or as an immigrant. I got selected for a science program where i had to show my talent.. the only way i can get exposure.. but didnt get my visa.. why couldnt i go to attend a two weeks program for which i had paid a huge sum..why? they should strict their security instead of putting bans.. if someone did something wrong, the problem is in their surveillance system too. isnt it?Recommend

  • Ali Khan

    Having studied in some country for few years doesn’t make it your “second home.” I have most of my paternal close relatives (i.e. Uncles, Aunts, Cousins) settled in the United Kingdom. I, myself, have lived in the United Kingdom for several years and even hold a Master degree from one of the British Ivy League universities, and yet, I still don’t consider it my “second home.” If one already knows that the answer is going to be “No” then why would one even bother. Blame your own obsession, desperation and paranoia with the United Kingdom rather than the United Kingdom Government for not entertaining your request for the visa. You always have the discretion to invest the money – which you are going to “waste” for the visa fee – into visiting your own country, which I bet you haven’t done so far. Pakistan is a vast, diverse and beautiful country which we should never take for granted. Thank you. :)Recommend

  • Lexmark Legal Associates

    Wanna work, study, live or visit UK? got rejected several times, can’t visit your family? Contact Lexmark legal Associates: A team of expert Immigration lawyers located in Central London helps individuals and companies for all sort of visa and immigration issues.

    For any suggestion and help contact now:
    Or leave your message on:

  • UK Embassy sucks

    yes UK visa is awful, i applied for my mother just Airside Transit(which we first time came to now from this made in UK inhuman visa type) for two hours plane Switch from LHR. we are waiting for almost 3 weeks and our tickets are now unusable.
    still waiting ….Recommend

  • Deana Boyd

    My husband recently hung himself and his aunty was refused a visa because in case she didn’t go back any ideas how I can get visa revoked she’s from Pakistan Recommend

  • Uk refuse

    Today I got UK business visa refusal , I am Pakistani but I am enjoying that I have refusal , as 30 people are been invited by one UK Manufacturing company . we all have same invitation letter from Uk base company and NOC from Dubai based company .29 got the visa as they were have Indian nationality and mine is Pakistani . Mine concert is that they refuse my visa bcoz of invitation letter which is as it same like others who gotten visa Thanks UK . But I think first issue is my name 2nd is my nationalityRecommend