TNT Magazine campaigns for UK immigration reform

TNT Magazine, a London-based free magazine aimed at Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans living in the UK is running a campaign for reform of the UK Border Agency (UKBA). It has set up an online petition allowing its readers to register their dissatisfaction with the UKBA and to call on the agency to reform its processes to provide a better service.

The petition calls for more information to be given to applicants by the agency and for refunds of fees where the UKBA has failed, because of incompetence, to provide a timely service. The magazine has assembled a collection of horror stories from UK-based Australians and New Zealanders who have received poor service from the UKBA. The shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant, and the shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper have backed the campaign. TNT says it has been 'inundated' with complaints about the UKBA since asking its readers to write in telling of bad experiences with UK immigration.

List of demands

The TNT petition calls on the UKBA to improve its service in the following ways
  1. Applicants for UK visas should receive a confirmation letter when UKBA first receives their application
  2. Applicants should receive advice about the UKBA systems and the likely impact on any travel plans
  3. Applicants should have access throughout the application process to a UKBA helpline to check on the progress of their applications
  4. The processing time target for visa applications should be reduced to three months from the current six months
  5. Full refunds should be granted to those whose applications are not processed within the target time if this is because of UKBA incompetence
  6. There should be an increase in the number of premium service appointments and complete refunds of premium fees if the premium application is not completed within a month
  7. Applicants should be allowed to make applications for visa extensions sooner than 28 days before the expiry of the previous visa

'Inundated' with complaints

TNT also provides examples of applicants who had received poor service such as
  • Melanie Quin is a New Zealander who had been in the UK for five years on an ancestry visa. She was advised by the UKBA that she should apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. She was then refused leave. She was told that she had left her application too late and that she would be required to leave the country in two months. She was told to apply for a new five year ancestry visa from New Zealand. She has since been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK after TNT raised her case with the UKBA.
  • Courtney Sherwell is an Australian who worked for the NHS. The UKBA took £561 from her account for a visa extension in July 2012. In December 2012, she still had not received a visa and nearly lost her job as a result. She missed a trip to Australia. Her visa extension was eventually processed in March 2013.
  • Brendon Watkins was advised by the UKBA to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. He paid £991 but was then refused leave weeks later. His appeal was also refused and he is now required to return to New Zealand before he can apply to re-enter the country. His wife and children are all UK citizens.
  • Amanda Parker is an airline stewardess who was told that she could not apply for indefinite leave to remain until 28 days before her ancestry visa expired. She then was told that there were no premium slots available so she could not book a premium appointment. She was told that she would have to surrender her passport which would be held for six months during which time she would be unable to travel with the airline. Eventually she managed to get a premium appointment through a solicitor.

TNT says that it has already had over 1,000 signatories to its petition including Yvette Cooper and Chris Bryant. Mr Bryant said 'The UK Border Agency's failure to deal with visa applications promptly is a major own goal and it is time the government realised they are undermining our chances of turning the economy around. Since the 2010 general election, the UKBA has had to cut thousands of staff, which has only lead to things getting worse and worse.'

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