First World Bureaucrats, Third World Bureaucracy

Having waited patiently on the UK Border Agency for just shy of five months to process my visa application, I have finally received what I was waiting for. A thick envelope containing 180 pages of supporting documentation returned, and four passports. And a letter saying that the application was approved.

But the relief at getting it at last, just six days before we are due to fly to South Africa for a warm Christmas, is tinged with a rather large amount of annoyance. A process that is supposed to take four weeks, and should have been over four months ago, has produced a large amount of stress. Will it come in time for a planned holiday in September? Nope. Will it come in time for Christmas? Of course – that’s months away! Well, probably. Maybe. Er… not likely. Ok, we give up, definitely not. Let’s look into rescheduling our flights. But wait – here it is!

On top of the strain of waiting, there’s the niggle at the back of my mind – did I fill in the forms correctly? Will they accept my explanation of earnings, coming as they do from a rather complicated trio of sources? In the end, it all worked out ok, as the two they did accept were enough to get me across the line.

But the main point of this post is to complain about the UKBA level of service. How can something that takes forty minutes to process be stretched out over five months? There’s a ‘premium’ service you can pay a bit extra for (well, 30% extra) to get a one-day service. That’s if you’re lucky enough to get one of the few appointments on offer. If you go that route, your case is handled by a case worker in under an hour, and you have your visa the following day. I can understand the non-premium service taking longer, but to deprive people of their passports for months on end is a bit unreasonable.

But I don’t really have that much to complain about – at least I was able to continue working while I was waiting, and I got my visa in time for what I really wanted it for. Not like this guy. Or this one. And thousands of other people who’ve been waiting for months and months in limbo, not being able to work, or go home, or support themselves. It’s absolutely shameful that a first-world country treats people like this. If it was in the third world, I’d think that they’re waiting for us to offer them a bribe. I know that immigration is a political hot potato at the moment, but still: if you don’t want us here, send us away. Don’t keep people prisoners because of your inefficient bureaucracy.

Luckily, this seems to be slowly getting sorted. The change in the rules in April for students wanting to stay and work after completing their studies led to a large influx of applications, which in turn led to the backlog. It appears that they’re starting to catch up now, but it’s still nowhere near good enough.

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