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Re: [Debconf-team] visa-invitation letter: we need help

On Tue, 2007-03-06 at 21:04 +0100, Holger Levsen wrote:
> Hi,
> to send out the invitation letter for people needing visas to come to 
> Edinburgh, we need help to review it, so that we dont send out invitations 
> that could bring us in trouble.
> If you can and want to help, please reply to this mail. Also if you know more 
> details what kind of help is actually needed. But basically its reviewing an 
> already written letter and checking back with a person who knows about the 
> legal details.

Holger isn't quite clear here: we don't need general proof-reading
(although obviously that won't do any harm).  We need someone to check
information with UKvisas and/or with a UK immigration lawyer.  People
outside the UK could also help by speaking to the UK embassy in their

There are two different letters.

One is a straightforward invitation letter, inviting the person to
attend the conference.  This is needed for example by people who have to
ask their employer for time off work, and could be useful to certain
people in relation to immigration issues.  

The second letter is a 'sponsorship' letter, to be included as part of
the information in a UK visa application.  This letter gives details of
the conference, details of the individual person it relates to, and
details of what funding/support we are supplying to the person in
question.  We have followed the instructions and recommendations which
UKvisas give relating to this subject, but since none of us have much
experience in dealing with UKvisas it is possible there is something
that could be improved.

On the one hand, the sponsorship letter is not in fact that important a
part of the visa application: the UK immigration authorities are not
really concerned to know why someone wants to come to the UK, but to
have proof that they want to go away again afterwards.  Including
information about a job/family/etc. that requires the person to go home
after DebConf is more important than the contents of any letter from us.
On the other hand, visa paperwork is a serious matter: if we make a
mistake, people will be denied visas, and not just for DebConf: a UK
visa refusal in the past generally makes it much more difficult to get a
UK visa in the future.

(A visa refusal can also mean that someone who could normally transit
through the UK without special permission suddenly needs a transit visa
to do so.  A friend of mine was held at Heathrow airport and deported
because she had not realised this, even though she would originally have
left the UK on her next flight earlier than the time they deported her.)


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