Despite having visited the UK in the past, Mehmooda Begum, a Pakistani, was refused a visa to visit her son and daughter-in-law. She was not found to be in breach of immigration law during her past visits but supplied an accommodation report in her subsequent application which came to be investigated by the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO, Abu Dhabi). The accommodation in question was the home of the sponsor. There was no quarrel about it being spacious enough to accommodate Mehmooda Begum. However, the purported authors of the report disowned it and the application was therefore refused. The First-tier judge decided that the requirements of the immigration rules for visitors were met but that the ECO was right to refuse the application under the general grounds for refusal, i.e. because the applicant had made a false representation or provided a false document.
Mehmooda Begum relied on the case of A v SSHD  EWCA Civ 773 to argue that for the purposes of paragraph 320(7A) of the immigration rules, falsity means deliberate dishonesty rather than mere incorrectness. But as CMG Ockelton said, the next stage in the analysis is whether the incorrect statement intended to deceive the ECO irrespective of whether the matter was material to the application and whether the falsity was to the applicant’s knowledge.
The report regarding the accommodation claimed that its author had inspected the house whereas this was incorrect because the said person had visited the house as a property consultant but had not inspected it. So the statement that the house had been inspected was deliberately included in the visa application in order to bolster its chances of success and the sponsor was always aware of this – as the First-tier judge put it “the sponsor knew that there was a claim within the letter that was false.”
The Upper Tribunal agreed with the First-tier judge. As held in A, Mehmooda Begum argued that “a document is only to be regarded as false if it is either fraudulently amended or itself a forgery” and for her the First-tier judge incorrectly concluded that the accommodation report was a false document (evidentially or otherwise). The document was not false but instead contained a statement which was untrue. The Upper Tribunal accepted the argument to that extent but nevertheless found the judge’s conclusion “unassailable” and in upholding her decision CMG Ockelton explained at para 8 that:
- The statement that the house had been examined was an untrue statement.
- The maker of the statement was clearly aware that the statement was false, that is to say the maker of the statement said he had inspected a property which he had not inspected.
- It was a statement that was clearly material. It was the only statement which validated the document for the purposes of supporting the claim that the accommodation would be adequate. If the statement had been made by a person who avowedly had not visited the property it would not have been regarded by the ECO as sufficient for the purposes.
- The sponsor had always maintained that he knew that the statement was false. It was argued that there was no clear evidence that at the time the sponsor submitted the document he was aware that it contained the statement that the house had been inspected. But the sponsor always said that the contents of the letter were in all other respects accurate and thus it was simply not plausible that the sponsor had read all the words of the letter other than the opening phrase indicating that the house had been inspected.
- The statement was a false statement. It was dishonest, both by its maker and in the form of its production by the sponsor.
Interpreting the rules in light of A (see here), the Upper Tribunal decided that a false representation had been made in connection with Mehmooda Begum’s application and it was refused under paragraph 320(7A). This was “mandatory and draconian” but despite the First-tier judge’s error of law her findings of fact remained “virtually inevitable” on the evidence.
This case amply demonstrates that it is a terrible idea to supply deceptive statements in immigration applications and dismissing the appeal, the Upper Tribunal explained that:
A document which is not itself “false” within the meaning of A v SSHD  EWCA Civ 773 may fall equally foul of para 320(7A) if it contains a statement that is, to a relevant person’s knowledge, untrue.