Friday, July 10, 2009

We got it, we got it!

Breaking News!

My husband is now the proud owner of a UK Visa! It is valid for 180 days, so Inshallah we can go more than once between now and 8th Jan 2010!!


Sometimes I felt like I did not have the strength or energy to carry on my fight for our right to travel as a family together, but justice and common sense have eventually prevailed, and now we are so excited about our dreams coming true, and being able to eat fish and chips in Grandad's garden. Insh'allah!

Thanks to everyone who supported us during the campaign. x xx

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

16 hours to go

We managed to get a return train booked for him that includes an overnight stay at a hotel. He's on his way now, so he'll only be 30 mins away from Consulate in the morning!

Inshallah, everything will go as planned, and he'll be hopping and skipping back as the proud owner of a UK visa!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Last Hurdle

We eventually got an email back, yesterday direct from the Border Agency itself, saying that they had written a letter on 30th June requesting the passport so they can issue the visa(!)

And Worldbridge sent an email a few hours later saying that The Border Agency had sent out a letter on 2nd July requesting the passport.

Are there 2 letters? Or did Worldbridge get it wrong AGAIN?

Anyway, the outcome is positive news, that my DH can personally trundle along to Duesseldorf (380 miles away) and pick up his visa on 8th or 9th next week, 1 week before our flights.

I have tried to put measures in place so that he will not be refused entry by the Security Guards into the Consulate to pick up his visa, which I am assured by the Entry Clearance Officer will NOT be the case, if he shows the email upon arrival.

So this is the last hurdle, getting to Duesseldorf, getting seen and obtaining the visa.

And packing the suitcases! What a relief it will be to finally get the visa, Inshallah, God Willing.

Then we can really start to look forward to the Fish and Chips, the trip to the coast, visiting relatives, shopping, seeing the kids playing in Grandad's garden, bouncing on Nanna's knee, having big squashy hugs with my parents and brothers and sisters and all the Aunties and Uncles! It will be the first time that most of my family will have met my husband and also the first time they will have met our new baby too.

At this point I want to thank everyone who has been there to support me during what has been for me sometimes very difficult, frustrating, depressing times. I would not have been able to get this far without the support and love of my family and friends and my buddies in Twitterland, (You know who you are! Hugs x x x) and of course my faith in God that everything happens for a reason, and that God knows best.

Seeking legal advice

I found a legal firm in the UK who gave me some legal advice. (Cole and Yousef of Rotherham)

It would seem that sending in a new Visa application, this time insisting that Worldbridge include ALL the supporting evidence instead of leaving out 2 thirds of it would usually be quicker and easier than going down the Appeal route.

However, new visa applications usually take 15 working days (so Worldbridge say!) so why did ours take 78 days?

Well at this point there was only 2 weeks left before our flights, so this was not an option for us.

The solicitor gave me some advice on how to get in touch with the UK Border Agency. He said that there is no point calling the premium rate number as this only gets you through to the Worldbridge Agency Call Centre, who cannot / do no / will not assist in any useful way. (Which unfortunately I had already found out, the expensive way, 40 Euros lighter in my pocket)

The only way you can try to contact them is by direct email (which I tried and the mail just bounces back as undeliverable) OR to try contacting them through the Home Office website.

On this page there is an enquiries button at the top which leads you to a web based form. I used that.

I also informed them that I had sought legal advice, and stressed the urgency seeing as the flights are booked for in less than 2 weeks time.

Trying to get in touch with UK Border Agency

My main focus next was trying to get in touch with the UK Border Agency. They have put in place a number of effective barriers between themselves and the public. 1 is that they have employed a call centre firm called Worldbridge which they use as gatekeepers who block all attempts at communication with the Border Agency staff in their white towers. The next is that any emails you send to email addresses published on their website get bounced back as "mail not deliverable".

If you want to get in contact, you have to fill out a website form with all your details and wait for an answer back from Worldbridge. The answer back in my case, 3 times, was the same answer. "Appeals are nothing to do with Worldbridge, you need to chase the Immigration Tribunal in UK"

If you want to make a phone call and speak to a live person, you have to call a Premium Rate Hot Line. This is a 2 Euro per Minute premium number. If you want to save money you can call a different number and pay 14 Dollars with your credit card before the call and regardless of the length of the call you will not pay more than 14 dollars. Wow, a real bargain.

Well I took my chances and tried to call the 2 Euro per minute hotline. Our telephone provider (O2) does not allow their customers to call Premium Rate numbers from the land line, only from mobile phones.

So I called them from my mobile phone. I was on there 20 minutes, and do you know what the outcome was? All the guy could do was fill in the form on my behalf. Which I could have done and already had done myself FOR FREE.

So as you can imagine 40 Euros worse off and no further forward, I was livid. I still am, when I think about what an obvious and deceitful scam this whole system is. It is now clear to me how this works:

You fill in the application form and get your documents together.
Before you can go any further you have to pay the Visa Application fee.
You make an appointment with the Worldbridge office to hand in the documents and have finger prints scanned in (for biometric data).
You go to the Worldbridge office.
They turn you away because your name is not on the list.
(Their appointment making system leaves a lot to be desired and is also presumably there to frustrate and annoy)
You make a new appointment.
You go there again.
You try to submit your documents and Worldbridge staff leave out most of what you wanted to include. Maybe they are instructed to do so, as part of the money making machine.
At this point, they have another money making scam. They say you have to give them CASH to put in with the documents which is supposedly so they can send the documents back to you with a special courier. 14 Euros. But they do not allow you to put in coins, it is notes only. Considering this amount cannot be made with Notes, as there are no 2 euro or 1 euro notes in existance, Ker-ching! More cash generated. You have to send 15 or 20 euros.
You wait 78 days to find out that it has been refused because of lack of evidence, caused by Worldbridge's attempt to 1. help keep foreigners out of UK and 2. Generating further cash by what happens next.
You send off the appeal. Appeals can take between 6 - 9 months to have the case heard.
You have little alternative other than to call their premium rate hotline at 2 Euros per minute, which achieves nothing more than filling out their free web based form. Ker-ching! More cash generated.
It becomes apparent that making a new Visa Application is going to be easier and cheaper and quicker, to just try a fresh visa application, another 73 euros (for a visit visa) Ker-ching! More cash generated.
Settlement visas are about 5 times that amount.


So then my campaign to get the Visa Refusal started. We had to send off the appeal, which we did without delay, and then 2 weeks of trying to chase them for an answer. Worldbridge would not help at all saying that it was out of their hands and that we needed to chase the Appeal Tribunal in UK, seeing as it was no longer a live Visa application. After calling the Appeal Tribunal, they told me they cannot do ANYTHING until the case is assigned an Appeal Number. Their manager told me the only way we could get it sped up is if we wrote a letter to the judge giving Clear, Compassionate and Compelling reasons why the case should be judged sooner than the usual 6-9 months that Appeals normally take.


We eventually found out on 16th June that his visa had been REFUSED, on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to prove that his intentions were not to try and stay in the UK and try to live there and claim benefits...!

Even though we are living and settled here as a family of 4, and had taken proof that we have a brand new apartment here in Germany with a garden for the kids, we are paying every month for the new kitchen, we have bought all our new bedroom furniture and kids furniture, we have RETURN flights booked. And he works at a well known international company for a living. Besides all that it is just for a 2 week holiday to the UK, AND we had an invitation letter from my parents confirming they are putting us up and paying for any costs associated with the trip. They even got a 7 seater car so we can all go round together as a family once we are there.

The company that handles the correspondence between the UK Border Agency and the public is called Worldbridge. They were the ones who said at the time of submitting the documents or "supporting evidence" as they call it, "Oh you've got more than enough there, they don't need all that! If they need any more information they will contact you!" And they left out a lot of our documents. This was back in March and it wasn't until June that we found out it had been refused. They never contacted us or my parents for more information. Just an outright refusal.

So as you can imagine we were shocked and outraged that they would refuse a visa for a 2 week visit, especially seeing as it is his right as the spouse of a UK National / British Citizen. Or should I say, it is MY RIGHT as a British Citizen to be able to travel to UK with my husband and it is my CHILDREN'S RIGHT to be able to travel WITHOUT being separated from their father.