Blog DOB: 25 Feb, 2013
Name: xiu wei
With the push for UK national identity cards being justified with sensational figures like an estimated £3.3Billion lost in identity theft, you would presuppose that government departments would take data protection very seriously. You would really expect them to be setting a standard.
When I complained to the UK Visa office I added my concern about the privacy of my data.
As a VISA sponsor you have to provide key information to UK Visas such as copies of your bank statements, utility bills and so on. UK Visas offers no information or assurance as to how any of this information might be protected, how it is used, how long it is kept for, whether it is used for any other purpose, where it is kept, who has access to it, what media it is kept on or how it might be disposed of. There is no public information on their website. In responding to my complaint UK Visas choose to ignore my concerns and made no comment at all.
Following my blog on UK Visas toward the end of August I decided to complain to my local MP who agreed to contact UK Visas on my behalf (hooray). I still find it all too astonishing that a UK company could invite someone to the UK for a business meeting, providing full sponsorship and accommodation, and have them refused admission. It's even more disconcerting to think that this person, a Thai national, was already in the EC, actually in Dublin, so had been cleared by the Irish Embassy in Bangkok for entry into an EC country.
She had only planned to visit Ireland. She had not applied for a UK or a Schengen visa before she left (a Schengen visa allows entry to all EC countries in the Schengen zone).
She had a return ticket to Bangkok. The invitation she had from the UK company was out of the blue (not uncommon in business). You would think, having full sponsorship from a UK company, already being in the EC and having an onward ticket home would be sufficient support for a UK Visa application. But it wasn't, instead she was refused admission and the embarrassed company, had, ultimately to fly a representative to Bangkok to hold the meeting later in the month (hooray from the rep, boo from finance).
UK Visas claim to "issue visas to 80% of those who apply, and stop only those who are a significant immigration risk to the UK". I failed to comprehend, in the circumstances, how she could have been regarded as a significant risk. I had to complain, I couldn't understand the decision. It was so clearly wrong. I wanted to understand it.
The response from UK Visas shouldn't really have surprised me. I dug it out again this week to reread after learning 150 illegal immigrants were to be released on bail. I guess these 150 are set to join the estimated half a million immigrants working illegally in the UK at a cost of some £3.3Billion in unpaid taxes.
When a company receives a complaint it's an incredible opportunity to learn about their services and how they can improve them, because most people don't complain, they walk. This wasn't the spirit in which my complaint was read, perhaps because, with Public Services, you can't really walk, as there isn't an alternative. There's a lack of competition which might make it matter.
The Entry Clearance Manager (ECM) "would like to note that he reviews all refusals, and was satisfied that the decision was made in accordance with the Immigration Rules. The decision of refusal is therefore upheld" (high 5, we're in the clear).
He then adds, notwithstanding that the applicant is now happily back at home (beep goes the Tuc Tuc) for several months and has no reason to visit the UK, she is "welcome to submit a new application at any time, which will be judged on its individual merits and in accordance with the Immigration Rules".
Is there really any point in complaining to a Public Body about its service?
I am still astonished that this actually happened, particularly when there are estimated to be over 400,000 illegal immigrants in the UK.
I have a contract with a UK entrepreneur. He has businesses in the UK and Hong Kong and recently looked to acquire an IT Service business in Bangkok.
His UK company invited a Thai national, "Kay", to visit his UK office to discuss a possible employment offer in Bangkok or Hong Kong. Despite an official company invitation a visitors visa was refused, to make matters worse, "Kay" was not even interviewed by the British Embassy in Dublin.
UK Visas claim to "issue visas to 80% of those who apply, and stop only those who are a significant immigration risk to the UK".
Kay was on a two week holiday in Ireland when we contacted her and asked her to make a short visit to us in the UK. She was already in the EC. The Irish Honorary Consul in Bangkok had ascertained her local circumstances and granted a visa to her. In a seeming vote of no confidence in the Irish immigration process the UK Embassy in Dublin would not let her visit London (clearly determining her to be a significant immigration risk).
Despite being invited to the UK by a UK company, despite having an onward ticket to Bangkok, despite having a letter of sponsorship from an accountant living in Surrey, despite already being in the EC, despite being granted a visitors visa to Ireland Kay, an employable young graduate, was refused UK entry clearance.
As a consequence the UK company had to fly a representative to Bangkok to hold the meeting which should have happened in the UK.
Words like bumbling and ludicrous come to mind. Have you ever had a similar experience?