At first principles, bank statements show that the applicant has the financial capacity to visit the United Kingdom. However, there is much more and it is not just the current balance. Bank statements help the decision maker to understand the claimant's personal situation …
Stability and lifestyle, especially regular cash flow to the job account.
The relationship between the applicant's cash flow and their declared employment.
Sources of income which will be paid into the account while the applicant is traveling to the UK.
Consistency of the applicant's lifestyle with the interview and accommodation offered in the UK during their visit.
Sources of income of the applicant's family and all financial commitments between family members that demonstrate proximity to the family.
If the applicant uses a sponsor, a history of support, that is, regular deposits that can improve the credibility of the sponsor and their willingness to support the applicant.
Applicant's ongoing financial commitments such as rent or mortgage payments.
Ongoing spending on food, utilities, transportation, etc.
That all income has been legally generated and is effectively available to the claimant during their visit.
Ongoing support and maintenance for dependents of the claimant, especially those who are not traveling with the claimant.
Irregular cash flows and sudden changes in the account balance which may indicate that the applicant is using a fund-storing strategy.
Above all, the applicant's ties to the local economy and society, as well as links to the applicant's family.
Bank statements that have at least two of these characteristics will be more successful than those that do not. Although there is no hard and fast rule on the number of declarations required, it is clear that, with more declarations, the decision maker will be able to see the models. The rule of thumb is six returns over a six month period and the six month period must end with the most recent return before submitting the request.
Some people can establish most of the above with three to six months of account history, but new claimants and those with borderline cases should submit more.
Note: successful applicants will clearly see two or more of these considerations. No one can get them all.
What this all brings together is that it is in favor of the applicant to submit as many bank statements as possible so that the decision maker can detect clear cash flow patterns.
The ideal case
This applicant has a paid job and has ongoing expenses which indicate close links with the local economy. The plaintiff saved money for his visit. This is an ideal case and the applicant has a high chance of success.
These statements show an irregular cash flow that has moved existing balances upward. It is impossible to detect current commitments that show a strong link with the local economy. These candidates can expect problems despite have impressive balances on the most recent statements. The denial notice will say something like:
… I am not convinced that these funds are really at your disposal …
or more worrying:
… I am not convinced that you have presented your situation and therefore your intentions precisely by asking to enter the United Kingdom …
Repeat: it's not just the final balance. They also look up the history of incoming and outgoing flows from the account.
"… of course, I included a bank statement! But they ignored it and refused me …"
People who fear that their story will reveal a weakness sometimes resort to an "opacity strategy", where they submit a single statement or multiple statements in a broken series, or just too few statements. This strategy is both naive and disastrous because the decision maker cannot clearly understand the plaintiff's situation and will suspect the plaintiff of hiding something. The inevitable refusal notice will closely follow those of "Parking the Funds", but with an added element of suspicion added. Generally, it is best to provide a full picture than leaving the decision maker with the impression that you are trying to hide something. Good faith visitors to the UK will be transparent about their situation when it is needed.
This series shows that the applicant has a paid job and has continuous commitments, but the balance plunges into the negative each month. The applicant is having difficulty meeting his daily cash flow needs and wishes to visit the UK in these circumstances is out of control with his lifestyle; that is to say that the applicant's intentions are suspect. Applicant is not in stable circumstances and can expect significant obstacles even with a sponsor.
The denial notice will say something like:
… I am not satisfied that you respect the immigration rules on this occasion …
If a cosponsor offers to provide assistance, the notice of refusal may make a comment such as:
… I recognize that your sponsor is offering to pay for your visit, however, it is the circumstances of the requester that remain paramount when assessing your request …
… however, although I take this into account when evaluating your maintenance and accommodation project in the UK, this is only one aspect rules of visit and this sponsorship does not satisfy me of your intention to leave the United Kingdom at the end of your visit …
Irregular / unstable lifestyle
"They totally ignored the £ 4,000 in my bank account and refused me!"
These two documents show that the applicant's most recent balance is positive, but whatever the final balance, they are likely to face serious problems. Both exhibits show wild and unpredictable swings in the balance and little to indicate a stable link with the local economy.
Using these models, it is reasonable to expect a refusal notice that says something like:
… It is your responsibility to demonstrate that if entry permission is granted to you, you will comply with the terms of your visa and intend to leave. I consider that you have not demonstrated any economic links with (the name of the country is indicated here) …
… I am not convinced that you will meet and adequately accommodate yourself and any dependents with the resources available to you without using public funds or taking up a job …
Some specific cases are below …
A frequent source of refusal is "proportionality". This is a strategy where the claimant intends to use up his life savings during a visit. "Proportionality" also covers the case where an applicant intends to spend more than two or three months of income on a visit, sometimes up to six months. This strategy is condemned from the start because ECOs believe that authentic visitors do not exhaust their financial reserves during a visit and, moreover, ECOs believe that authentic visitors do not spend a multiple of their monthly cash intake. There is no hard and fast rule covering proportionality and UKVI does not provide guidance on what is acceptable, so as a general rule if you plan to spend more than a month or two of your cash intake you can expect problems and the solution is does not apply. Wait until your personal situation is more prosperous.
Dependent spouses and children under 18
UKVI recognizes that spouses and dependent children will not be able to submit bank statements. In these cases, the principal applicant's bank statements will be used to assess the situation of the family as a whole. The UK approves thousands of family applications each year.
Children over the age of 18 who cannot show a reason to maintain a dependent's lifestyle will find it increasingly difficult. This is especially true if they are not traveling as a family unit. The same can generally be said for students, although students can usually provide other evidence demonstrating local connections.
How much do I need to apply?
The rules do not specify an amount, they are intentionally vague in order to leave the decision maker free to assess individual circumstances. A rule of thumb, however, uses the claimant's stated purpose and planned activities as an approximate guideline, and the claimant should be able to compensate for this amount without undue hardship.
If you want to isolate and provide a specific figure, chances are you haven't understood this entire article and want to read it again. It is not just about the final balance.
Can I use a co-sponsor?
Yes of course. But many requests fail because the decision maker cannot understand why the sponsor takes on this burden. This is especially true for Internet relationships where the couple has never met in person. This is also true for family members where the relationship is too far or too far to be plausible.
The sponsor must provide a series of their own bank statements to demonstrate their own capacity and credibility.
"… my father / brother / uncle / aunt was my co-sponsor and can comfortably afford my maintenance and my accommodation, but I was again refuse …".
Sponsored applications are weak at the start and do not exempt the applicant from demonstrating links with the local economy and the social landscape. Although the money may be there, it is much more difficult for the applicant to prove that he will not extend or abuse his visa in any other way. As a general rule, sponsorship should only be used as a last resort and only if the applicant can provide convincing evidence.
Can I use prepaid credit cards?
It can work with Schengen apps, but not for UK apps. Credit cards add a layer of darkness to the funding source and tend to obscure all of the lifestyle and transparency listed above.
I don't have enough bank statements
An applicant must demonstrate that it will maintain itself adequately without resorting to public funds. Authentic visitors are usually able to accomplish this. If you are unable to do so convincingly, consider postponing your visit to a more prosperous period.
Can I buy a set of bank statements?
There are services in some countries (Nigeria, India, Pakistan, to name a few) that will do it for you. If you know them, the decision maker also knows them. Remember that consular staff have established relationships with reputable banks over a long period (we are talking decades here) and are able to make discreet inquiries into the validity of a given set of statements.
I live with my parents and I don't have a bank account
See above. You can expect problems showing that you are a true seeker. Consider waiting for your parents to submit a family application.
I am self employed and i have no bank account
You can expect problems. True visitors to the UK have a profile that is not entirely based on money. In addition, it will be almost impossible for you to establish that your money was obtained legally. Consider opening and using an appropriate bank account for 12 to 18 months before submitting your request.
What else can be provided to show strong links?
There is no other form of evidence considered to be an absolute substitution. Deeds of ownership are rarely useful because ownership normally persists when the owner lives elsewhere. Personal attestations from family and friends are not helpful, as much of the performance history indicates otherwise. But there are some exceptions, for example, you can get a certificate of your country's equivalent from the UK Foreign Office which highlights your situation. Another example, holding a public office may work depending on other circumstances. Otherwise, please see the "Other questions about bank statements", below.
I am desperate…
… to visit the UK, I really need to go there and I promise not to stay too long. The problem is that I don't have real bank accounts or anything else that shows a connection with my country. You see, my situation is different. It's like blah blah blah, and then yada yada yada … Please help me!
There is no silver bullet, they like to approve applicants who fall clearly and unambiguously into a low risk profile. For more information, see below.
I cannot provide a convincing case
Don't apply. A refusal can complicate future requests even when you are in more prosperous circumstances and you could easily qualify.
If none of the above cases work for you, your situation may be too complex for an Internet request answered by random strangers. Consider arranging a consultation with a member of the UK Law Society or a licensed practitioner. There is a large list on the ILPA site.
Based on advice: "All documents must be originals, not photocopies."
Related article: UK visa refusal: Funding / parking source
See also: How much money should I present as proof of support when applying for a standard visitor visa to the UK?