Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An off topic rant...

Well, I'm taking time out from my usual job applications to bitch, whine, moan and generally rant about the immigration service in the UK and how much I've enjoyed dealing with them today...

So, the story starts because my wife is a foreign national and has a visa that permits her to stay in the UK for two years.

Now, since my wife's passport has expired and is with her consulate being renewed, I contacted the immigration service at the point in time where it would be possible to apply for a new visa allowing her to permanently settle in the UK - this was the 23rd March - and asked what the situation was when applying for a new visa without a current passport. No problem, said they, you can send in the application with a covering letter but - they said - it would be easier if you could wait until nearer the time (which happens to be tomorrow, April 19th) in case the passport becomes available to pick up.

Ok, I thought - no problems; I'll wait until the very last day then, if the passport becomes available we can send it off and, if it doesn't, I just send the covering letter that I've got prepared...

Well, the passport still wasn't ready by this morning so I got ready to send off the application. However, while putting together the package to send I realised that I'd made an error on one of the pages of the application form so I hopped online, googled up the form - it's a SET(M) form if you're interested - and pulled up the PDF file.

The application form looked completely different.

Assuming I'd clicked the wrong file I navigated back and checked - nope, this was the SET(M) file and there was some text about it having changed on April 2nd 2007...a small alarm bell started to ring in my head...

I flicked through the information - from April 2nd, the form and application process had changed and, not only had the fees more than doubled (£335 to £750), but there was a requirement for all applicants to have passed something called the Life in the UK test.

To say I was displeased is an understatement - I could have posted the form with a covering letter on the 23rd March but only held off because the immigration service told me it would be easier if I waited. Of course, they neglected to mention that if I waited I'd also incur an extra £415 in application fees, plus a £34 test (and the £10 book you need to revise the information from!).

It got worse.

I rang the immigration department and explained the problem. To paraphrase, they told me 'tough'. Apparently this change had been in the news so I should have known about it. Not only that but - because my wife hadn't passed the Life in the UK test (since we didn't even know it existed until this morning and you can't take it within seven days of booking it) she can't apply for the settlement visa but must, instead, apply for an extension of stay until she can take the Life in the UK test...

The extension visa costs £395 and will last a month or two until she has to take the test, at which point we will have to pay an additional £750 to apply for a settlement visa. So, due to the advice of the immigration service, the cost of the visa has risen from £335 to £1189 (a not entirely insubstantial increase of 355%).

And, just when I thought the day could get no better, I read about the Life in the UK test...

Apparently, the sort of information that you need to know in order to be deemed fit to live in the UK is as follows (and I've taken this from the website!):
  • What and when are the Patron Saints' Days of the four countries of the UK?
  • What type of constitution does the UK have?
  • What are the powers of the devolved administrations?
  • What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?
  • How is education different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
  • Who can offer information on occupational or personal pensions?
  • What documents must a child have before they can work?
Now, if you know all the answers to those off the top of your head then I'm almost impressed. But I'm betting that the average man or woman who has spent most of their adult life in the UK will struggle to answer almost all of those questions. Apparently, you're not fitting into UK life and culture if you don't know this stuff...

Never mind that my wife works in Higher Education, has a Bachelor's in Linguistics and knows considerably more about how to use the English language than I do - it is obviously far more important that she knows about the powers of the devolved administrations and what documents children need before they can work...

17 comments:

Christine - Wellness Coach said...

I'm very bright - and no, I don't knopw the answers to all those questions. How DID we get here?

Christine - Wellness Coach said...

I'm very bright, was born and raised in the South East (of England) and cannot answer all those questions. Perhaps the government will make us all buy the book and take the test. And make us pay over a grand if we want to stay in the country. How DID we get here?

Anonymous said...

Hi Oliver,
I reckon I still have a long way to go with this myspace and blog business :-) I must admit the myspace was created for me by my partner and I was briefly amused about it for ow, all of 2minutes and have not been there ever since. Hence the silence, only just checked today and saw your invite, so here am I enjoying the rants on your blog. Yes, I suppose someone in the civil service within their infinite wisdom came up with that brilliant idea and some other nitwits agreed. So here we all are stuck in the middle of it all, maybe we should set-up exams for our politicians before election to confirm their worthiness of our votes ei! Do tell us what is the update on your wife's situation now?? Do you need some able bodies to carry out placards and protestation at the high commission?? Count me in...
Trinity

hal said...

I always enjoy your rantings, I hope everything works out well for your missus. You would make a great short story writer,keep it up, take care.

SwissToni said...

I'm loving that you now have adverts for the immigration service appearing on your blog.

Wankers.

ST

Bushra said...

I went through the same thing too. A friend did her whole ILR thing in end of March but by the time I got to it (4th April) the whole test and new form - and exorbitant fees had come through. I tested these questions on family who were born and raised in the UK and they have no idea about the silly questions like holidays, or where the dialects are spoken, and all that. The UK has also increased its visa fees in other countries by more than double - in my country, it used to be £70 for visit visa - now its £200!

Gill said...

OH what bollocks! I don't know the answer to some of these either-maybe I should get back to Wales??

This seems like something from Kafka.

Gill said...

ps- I've blogged on this and put a link to you- hope that is ok.

Anonymous said...

Hi Oliver,

I've been through the Life in the UK process myself - although I was doing it for British citizenship rather than ILR. The whole process for ILR is painful and expensive enough without the test!

Anyway, it may interest you to know that you can still take the original version of the test (which requires you to read only half as much of the material). It's all fairly dry stuff and unfortunately it's just a case of memorisation.

It might be worth checking your options. There's lots of independent information about this at this website- http://www.redsquirrelbooks.com/index.php/site/detail/revised_life_in_the_uk_test_materials_released/

Also, when you're ready to take your test, you might want to test your knowledge here - http://www.lifeintheuk.net

Good luck

Ozzzy said...

I can't answer the questions either and I was born and raised here 52 years ago. What have those questions got to do with anything anyway? Good luck. Oz

Anonymous said...

Well, it's very simular in Holland.

My Wife is Polish and she also came to Holland. We had to register at
the police office (some special dpt),
which needed a paper from the insurance company before they could give us a card. The insurance company needed the card from the police office before they could arrange the papers...

Furthermore we got 'support' meaning a free dutch course. This course is sponsored by the government, depending on the amount of students. Now guess what - in the best interest of keeping the job as a teacher, they were trying to go as slowly as possible. Students who were eager were always turned down with "That's too advanced, we will learn about that later".

Anyway, that's where I learned how to handle bureaucrats. First two times be nice, try chatting. Third time be more rude and intimidating.

Reminds me of papers I needed from he embassy. Town hall told me they needed these papers ( I asked extremely specifically what they needed), drove 400 km, got them after a 2h wait in the Embassy. I delivered them back at town hall and they says they only needed one more stamp... So I 'exploded' made a big scene and in the end got it arranged without this "oh-so important" stamp.

rob said...

Many sympathies - if it is any consolation the test is all multiple choice and my Australian sister-in-law tried an authentic practice test from newuktest and got 58% without once looking at the book.

Anonymous said...

Hi Olver, I already posted sth before but I'd like to make an addition. The post you made really got to me and it’s really upsetting- I feel for your situation…
I’ll tell you a bit more about my story so you can see it’s the same everywhere (and it also shows why I have absolutely no patience with burocrats)… I'll try to keep it short (I'm not such a good writer).

Ok, so a few years ago we were preparing to get Married. My Wife wanted to take my surname. So we registered at Townhall and this was mentioned - all okay.. Until a week before the wedding I happened to stumble about some info... some townhalls needed a "agreement of the other Nation for changing family names". Polish Embassy already told that that was not necessary, but if the townhall would make problems we could come and get it (cost=100 euro). So obviously we had to go and get it. So we got Married and my wife got my name added before her maiden name... and all was well...

Three years later, law allowed my wife to be “naturalized” and get the Dutch Nationality… However, having a double name was not allowed, it would have to be changed to only have her maidens name… so okay.. it’s annoying but we won’t get the passport otherwise, so we signed that paper and got the passport a few months later. So now my wife has two nationalities: Polish (with in her passport the maidens name) and Dutch (with surname1-surname2).

Then we got pregnant and had a healthy child (delivered in Aachen, Germany). All the papers were ready (birth papers from Hospital, papers how we would call the names with signed approval of my wife, our wedding certificate and both our passports (and loads of cash).

So I arrive at townhall in Germany and give all the papers (hoping I’ll get the International Birth Certificate)... The lady starts looking through and asks me "So… whom are you Married to”… I blinked in confusement… “Well, she says..
The marriage papers say you are married to “xxx surname1-surname2”… The passport however shows a person with the name “xxx surname2”… So whom are you married to?”… She would have to consult with the Embassy. So obviously I didn’t get the German International Birth Certificate which I had to show in Holland within 3 days after Birth…
Anyway after two weeks of running there every 3 days, there was a German holiday and the German townhall would be open only for 2 hours, and to my surprise, I see someone else sitting there… So I though, okay, let’s try a different approach. I take out all the papers again (carefully putting back the Dutch passport and instead taking the Polish passport) and put them on the desk, telling that “it’s already some time since my daughter was born, but finally I have time to come and I’d like to have an international birth certificate”… Guess what… 5 minutes later I walked out with the papers (note: international, so translated in about 10 languages including German, polish, English and Dutch )… and it only cost 15 euro!.

Now the funny thing… three weeks later, I get an enthusiastic German woman on the phone talking to me … After a moment I get what she’s talking about: “She contacted the Dutch Embassy and got permission to write out the Birth-certificate; I can come over immediately to get it”… So I very shortly tell her “I already have those”. “How? When”, she reacted. “Well, I explained her, I went a few weeks ago, gave the papers to your colleague and he gave me the birth certificate”. “Oh” she replied. “Thanks you for your effort, goodbye” I gave as a response and I hung up.

Okay, now my Wife thought it would really be a nice idea to let our daughter have two nationalities (it would make her life easier, who knows, she might want to study in Poland).. So called the Polish Embassy and they told us they only needed the Birth Certificate and a copy of our passports). So a few days later my Wife went by train to The Hague to the Embassy, in the good hopes of getting the papers arranged… Guess what? The papers weren’t okay… why? Because they needed a Polish Translation… Yes, we asked twice, and the secretary went twice to the ambassador (because she wasn’t sure herself) and really… The International Birth Certificate (including a polish translation) would need translation into Polish (obviously by a registered translation office)… Takes two months and costs >100 euro…
Needless to say, we just canned the entire idea.

Anonymous said...

I am from Germany, have lived here for 14 years now and married my British husband last October.
Fortunately as an EU member I am allowed to stay here for as long as I like, but I still considered applying for British citizenship, although I want to keep my German one. I have now found out that I have to apply to the German government FIRST, before I apply for British citizenship, so they can allow me to keep the German one alongside. They were going to charge me just over £200 for the privilege. Reading your blog now, makes me think - wow, that's cheap...although, I already had to pay to be allowed to change my name on my passport. The German government needs about 3 month to think about if they want to let me do that.
But coming back to your blog - utterly pathetic bureaucracy! Emigrate!

Deb said...

Im so sorry, but no one has addressed this and I can't really...

What the hell is a quango?

I mean, you made that up, right?

Oliver Davies said...

Deb - A Quango is a Quasi Non Governmental Organisation...

Obviously, the immigration service will soon be knocking on your door to collect your passport from you! :-)

Toni said...

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Free Life in the UK test questions