I’ve alluded before to the UK’s love-hate relationship with the issue of immigration, but it’s been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks. You see, the current Conservative government has promised to reduce immigration drastically from the high levels of the past few years. And the way that they’ve gone about doing it (inasmuch as it applies to me, anyway) is to make the process as difficult, troublesome, torturous and expensive as possible, and hope that we all go away. Not to mention having the odd report in the news such as this one.
As my initial 2-year visa is coming to an imminent end, it’s time to start working my way through that process. First up is an attempt to decipher the website to find out what really needs to be done. This is trickier than you think, because there are literally about 15 – 20 different ways of applying for leave to remain in the UK. My chosen route has four subroutes. And the subroute I use has different rules and conditions for applications before April 2010, between then and June 2012, and since then. And of course, each page of the website only deals with a paragraph or two, leading you on in at least three directions depending on what you want to read about next. So there’s no way of knowing that you’ve definitely got all the information you need.
But even that’s not surmountable. Knowing which forms you need to print & fill in (picking them carefully from the 87 listed on the website), you print them out in a stack and start working your way through them. In my case, the main form is 53 pages (I’m excluding the 11 pages of bumf at the end telling you how to fill it in). Then there’s a separate one for each of my ‘dependants’, each with 40 pages. A mere 173 pages of ticking, dating, signing, and naming.
Then, the gathering of evidence starts – bank statements, university certificates, proof that I can speak English, pay slips, marriage certificates, letters from accountants, passport photos. But hey, that’s not too bad either. Most of that is either available from last time, or something I was holding aside because I knew I’d need it.
Finally, I’m ready to make the application. There are two routes here – the cheap postal way (send it off, wait about 6 weeks, and get your reply), or the expensive one-day service (make an appointment, go in in person, and get an answer the next day). I was planning on using the latter – so back to the website I go, and try to book the appointment. Whoops – nothing in my closest centre in the next two weeks. Not a problem – how about the next month, anywhere in Britain (6 possible offices)? Nope. Just a check, for the fun of it – how far out can I go on this appointment booking thing – turns out this is 11 October. And you guessed it – nothing available anywhere.
That immediately suggests (to me, at least), that there’s a problem with their system. So I phone the number mentioned obliquely on the page you wouldn’t expect it to be on, and I’m on hold for 10 minutes before the repeated string of messages (interrupted regularly by wonderfully pleasant music) gets through the full loop, and I hear that they’re currently dealing with far too many appointments, and I’d better apply by post.
Oh well. Just another hoop to jump through, and an extra six weeks to wait.
Update: I found out the method for getting an appointment – as there are far too few of these going begging, the method you need to use to get one is this: Wait up to midnight – this is when the system kicks over to the next day, and allows a further day’s worth of appointments to become available (it works 6 weeks into the future). You have about a minute to refresh the list of available appointments, and book one, before they’re all taken.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find this out until I had less than 6 weeks to go before mine expired. I’ve also found out that apparently the 6 weeks timing I mentioned above is vigorously optimistic – four months is not unheard of (despite UKBA still promising 75% completion within 4 weeks on their website). Guess it’ll be a long wait.