I remember being amused once, years ago, at a Marxism festival in London, where an influential “champagne socialism” ideologue Alex Callinicos, a middle-aged professor, proclaimed in a dismissive, matter- of-fact lackluster way – “We hate the Tories – hate, hate, hate”, moving on mid-sentence. It didn’t seem like a sort of thing you would say matter-of-factly, without a pause for a chant. Yet, I nowadays say just in this same manner, that I hate all private contractors that the government hires to do its work, instead of hiring and training unionized civil servants. Sopra Steria, Capita, ATOS, G4S, Serco – hate, hate, hate.
Yet, I am curious. I need to know, for the sake of precisely what sort of a new grand failure is the “byzantian bureaucracy” I have come to know and love, being dismantled. Therefore, I identified three clients as guinea pigs for testing out the new “services” the government offers now in immigration. The post below is a placeholder for a running commentary that will be updated as we progress more with out test.
(1) EU Settlement scheme and ID CHECK App
We all heard hilarious things about “The Pilot” — such was the name of the first episode of Seinfeld, and indeed it seems to be the first episode of something equally as funny, unless one’s personal future is at stake in it. Today the EU settlement scheme goes live – and I already received messages and calls from pending clients who were going to file for a document certifying permanent residence, that they heard “on the radio” that the settlement scheme has started, so – ta-ta! – they don’t need me anymore. Government propaganda makes people immediately forget, for instance, that they were going to file for a DCPR on a period that ended more than a year ago, so that they can use it to naturalise before Brexit.
The government also apparently released results of its pilot phase, which encompassed some 28,000 people — all highly skilled employees of places like universities and hospitals. The reporting is so convoluted that USSR would be jealous. “There are no refusals”, it says — well, if you read on, turns out it has about 10% of applications undecided, presumably pending forever, “pending further supporting documents”. Of course people DON’T HAVE those documents and never will, and the govt has NO PLAN on how to deal with them, never has – but it won’t tell you. We see this today in HMPO casework, passport applications are either pending forever or withdrawn, regardless of how many times the applicant screams that documents they are requesting do not exist. result — no refusals, nothing to protest! Brilliant!
Further 1000 people — the sophisticated University and hospital people, that is — could not tell a Registration Certificate from a Document Certifying permanent residence, so presumably were also refused in trying to exchange the former for “settled status”. That’s the sophisticated ones! Colin Yeo had an excuse for them – “these documents look the same”. I’d think a professor can tell documents are different because different words are written on them, but alas. I bet you in the “gen pop” this number is close to 50%. Bottom line, it’s a disaster.
Yet, tomorrow 22 January my client, a formerly Tier 2 high-skilled mother who is a Chen carer of a 5-year old UK-born child with French citizenship, and I are getting together to try and obtain the new “settled status” for this child using the EU EXIT APP. (We plan to further use whatever result comes out, to prove the child is “settled” for the purpose of the Immigration Rules, and apply for leave as a parent on 5-year route for her under Appendix FM, since it doesn’t look like derivative rights will continue after Brexit).
Of the two of us, befuddlingly, I seem to have a qualifying device — my Blackberry KeyOne has Android 7.0 and NFC, but I never used it. It’s been dropped a few times and is held together by Scotch tape. So, no idea if it works. But I installed the app and we will tell you.
I am also baffled by the guidance on how to prove residence. Apart maybe from those who are working continuously at universities and such (and 90% of those already have PR or even naturalised), or otjerwise continuously working, NO ONE will have all this. Proof of residence for every month? You gotta be seriously kidding me. I can’t even collect 6 per year from spouses of British citizens, a way more paperwork-aware bunch.
Since our target subject is 5-years and 2 weeks old and just barely started school this year, we are particularly curious how is it that we are expected to provide this. Luckily, the child has attended nursery — private day care — since he was 4 months old! – and we have a letter from them. But well, do they also want to know where he was the first 4 months after being BORN in London? We are also so far confused as to whether we need the actual child. We surmised he does not need to scan his face, but apparently one also needs to take a photo, and it’s a different step. Watch this spot!
UPDATE – I reported on Facebook how it went, which was sort of like this –
(2) “New service” for FLR application submissions by Sopra Steria
One of my “old” clients, who decided to extend spouse leave to remain by herself with my advice, tested this “service” today inadvertently. I had coached her to use “old service”, eg to post everything to the Home Office, but she forgot and accidentally left it at “new service” when she was paying. So she was stuck with a new service and made an appointment.
I told her I heard that there was a way to upload documents online. She said she did that, on my urging — I urged her to try, because better be responsible yourself for your documents, than have some illiterate Sopra Steria person do it! She had a classic “6 payslips and 6 bank statements” case. Yet she says documents would only upload one by one and it took hours. But she managed to somehow do it.
It later turns out she made an appointment not even in a Sopra Steria facility, but at one of those “local access points” at a library. In Canterbury. The appointment was today 21 January. I promised to come but hadn’t. It was too far to drive.
There she was met with a solitary librarian, who had been hastily trained in the “new system” but admitted she was still “not sure how to use it”. Librarian did manage to take her biometrics, saw that she uploaded docs online, and did not express any interest in content of those docs nor seeing originals of them.
She only asked to see my client’s passport and for some reason the marriage certificate. The Librarian insisted it was required, even though under the Rules it is technically NOT required of those already extending existing FLR as a spouse of the same person. (Upon reflection, the client says she had it scanned anyhow, and the librarian took issue with it being scanned in two separate A4 files and requested it in order to re-do – I question the legitimacy of this request and hope it did not “knock out” originally scanned docs. Sopra Steria employees and librarians are NOT supposed to decide, nor pressure you as to, what documents to include or not include – but how are they to be responsible for incorrect or negligent manipulations with already uploaded docs, I do not know.
We are waiting to see what happens next.
(3) Overseas visa online document upload courtesy Teleperformance
I hate scanning and can go on for hours about how much I hate it. But I only really hate scanning when it’s done by semi-literate self-assured incompetent employees of some private firm that have no idea of UK Immigration Rules. The likes of VFS and Teleperformance who manage our visa application centres. When they used to accept docs on paper, I used to go with clients to VACs myself, mainly in Moscow — for which I usually had to get the clients to pay for the VIP lounge – since VAC employees love to stick their noses into things they are absolutely prohibited from interfering with, and comment on the documents being submitted, or how to arrange them. In worse case scenarios, they even attempt to refuse to take something. An average client is unable to resist directions from anyone remotely uniformed – bank teller, a person in a company tie…. I even had clients express displeasure with ME for confronting those cows.
I suppose TLS had a lot of feedback about those powertrip shenanigans by employees – and lately, about the scanning itself – things were fed into a feed-through scanner in a stack, with pages sticking together, without any quality control. It was awful.
Who knew that it would then find a perfect solution, like a broken clock that accidentally shows the correct time? Teleperformance system now allows me to remotely upload all client supporting documents, from back here in England, in PDFs and even preview them after conversion (to what looks like another PDF ). The system coughed at a 4MB file so I had to use smallpdf to reduce it, after which it went through. It allows you to add or delete files until you hit a final “submit” . Unlike in Sopra Steria, after “submit” it cannot later be changed or amended, as I understand. I am guessing it is the same “submit” VAC employees themselves used to hit.
That’s it! The client does not need to submit anything AT ALL except enrol bio! I can now fully represent people in countries where TLS use this feature (Russia being a notable one), because i can be fully in charge of what’s submitted! a thumbs up, cautiously. IT failures are also a possibility. I had a first client use this with her Moscow VAC appointment today, 21 January. I heard others in Moscow used it and it was all good, but I will let you know how it went. T his is a provisional thumbs up.
I only wish VFS, which serves the US and Canada, were on par.
UPDATE – Just a week later, it became clear that I praised TLS too early as all of this uploading capacity apparently BROKE its website, which was abruptly and without warning taken offline. The TLS site now completely lost all functionality and unable to log in even previously registered users. Those who had already uploaded files but did not yet attend the appointment were forced to entirely abandon and re-file applications. Rumour has it so far that those who uploaded files and then attended the appointment, up to the point of receiving “application transferred to UKVI” message, will be fine, except it is now impossible to prove in any way that those applications exist or have been submitted, but apparently some people did receive visas already. Apparently all file uploading would now have to be on gov.uk website, which is better — always better the government then its contractors! – but would need to be tested again. So far I am waiting results with apprehension.