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Student who innocently relied on fake certificate of sponsorship refused visa for producing “false document”


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The ground of appeal in Hameed v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWCA Civ 1324 was:

It was wrong to find the appellant had made a false representation under paragraph 322(1A) of the Immigration Rules when he had not acted dishonestly.

Mr Hameed had applied for a student visa using a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) that was, unknown to him, not genuine. The Home Office accordingly refused his application on the basis of paragraph 322(1A). It reads:

where false representations have been made or false documents or information have been submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge), or material facts have not been disclosed, in relation to the application or in order to obtain documents from the Secretary of State or a third party required in support of the application.

Counsel for Mr Hameed took a close look at this wording and argued that he had not fallen foul of it. A certificate of sponsorship is a digitally generated number and so is not a “document”. Mr Hameed may have made a “representation” by submitting the certificate of sponsorship with his visa application, but it was not “false”, in the sense that he genuinely believed that it was valid. Any dishonesty was on the part of whoever passed him the fake certificate.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the premise. It said that this was, in fact, a “false document” case: the certificate of sponsorship had been printed out and submitted in hard copy. Even if it hadn’t been printed out, Sir Ernest Ryder held that “a document can be a virtual or online document… a sensible reading of ‘document’ in paragraph 322(1A) includes online documents like a CoS”.

Since this was a false document case, there was no need for the Home Office to establish dishonesty or deception: Adedoyin v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 773. In that case, the Court of Appeal held:

Of course it is possible for a person to make use of a false document… in total ignorance of its falsity and in perfect honesty. But the document itself is dishonest. It is highly likely therefore that where an applicant uses in all innocence a false document for the purposes of obtaining entry clearance, or leave to enter or to remain, it is because some other party, it might be a parent, or sponsor, or agent, has dishonestly promoted the use of the document. The response of a requirement of mandatory refusal is entirely understandable in such a situation.

As so often in such cases, the result is hard luck on Mr Hameed, whom the court accepted was as much a victim in all this as anyone.

See further Court of Appeal: a false document is one thing, deception another.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.