This month has brought me a marvel of surprising revelations about Home Office IT systems, the limitations of which are now the excuse I am given, it seems, every time I complain or try to start an investigation about why can’t a particular UKVI unit or team just do its job without causing high drama.  For instance, have you applied for citizenship and been sent a biometric invitation in a name you havent used for, dunno, 10 years, despite having a passport and everything in a new name since,and having entered the UK on that very new passport? with a visa in that new name? Want to know why?  Oh dear. Read on.

That the address titled “DCC INBOX” [Deputy Chief caseworker for NWEURO, the primary decision making unit for EEA Applications] now auto-responds that it is “for outgoing messages only” — and mind you, not to everyone, but only people who had specifically been blacklisted, presumably now me — does not surprise me.  After all, no one in NWEURO can read or write English properly, notwithstanding that they all have (or use) almost implausibly bland traditional English names. So an oddity of unnecessarily, I must add, titling something “INBOX”, and then indignantly insisting it’s an “OUTBOX” only when people try to send messages to it (actually, reply to messages sent to them, as was in my case), would not give anyone there a pause.

Whatever I did ever receive from that address ever, was incompetent and pretty useless BTW, so not losing any sleep here folks! Keep up the bad work!  You folks know I AM able to figure out how to send smth from a different e-mail address if need be, right? )

This one by the way is most reminiscent of Winnie-the-Pooh. When I wrote back something like “Really?” they answered something like – “Really!”, like that Rabbit who was standing by the front door and assuring Pooh that no one was home (until Pooh asked, “so who said that, then?”.) Artificial intelligence in bloom. I wonder if they will take my OISC license away if I start emailing back questions such as “Are you self-aware?” — after all, if indeed this is an auto-reply in conversation with me, then they won’t mind, right?

But why then am I suddenly airing all this frustration out? You will find out. Read on.

Meet The Team

As my readers/clients surmised by now,  there is a  so called “Permanent Migration team”  with HQ in Home Office building in Liverpool, known as The Capitol (I can only hope that whoever named it, had not then yet read The Hunger Games).  It’s a small building that that houses a reporting centre and  a Premium Service centre on the ground floor,  then units responsible for investigation and interviewing (such as marriage interviewing most notoriously), MRAU (marriage investigations), special Surinder Singh taskforce and all nonsensical other ad hoc investigation groups on the first floor.  What’s on the 2nd and 3rd floor I do not know, never been, but venture to guess probably the Long Residence ILR team is on one of them because it’s in this building.

I am mostly concerned with 4th and 5th floors, which house Nationality Casework and EEA Casework, latter known as NWEURO (although I am not aware of there being any other EURO, except occasional overflow work done in Sheffield by what I thought so far were ad-hoc teams or reassigned staff).  These two teams are closely related, although I never figured out operational reasons for that (is it philosophical, because neither grants any leave to remain and they both deal with people who presumably have pre-existing right to live in the UK?). Could be pure coincidence – but they as neighbours have shared spaces, a flow of staff between them, and they also share some admin support functions.

Namely, in March 2015, in anticipation of new provision that came into force in April 2015 that required collection of biometric data from applicants  for nationality and non-EU family members of EEA nationals, a unit was created there — a team, I guess — it is called Biometric and exceptions team. This team is shared between the EEA and Nationality teams,  eg this is the same group of people handling pre-processing (case registration and issuance of biometric enrolment invitations) and exceptions (lost photos, failed payments, misspelled names on bio invitations, technical biometric failures, etc), for these two groups of applications.

Things done by this team have nothing to do with actually considering cases, eg decision making — it carries out pre-processing functions, making sure necessary steps are taken, and when they are, it sends the file into the queue to be actually allocated a decision-making caseworker.  In very simple terms, a person takes the application out, they data-enter it into a computer so that the  CASE ID is created, and then they issue an invitation to enroll biometrics (in EEA cases there are additional steps).

We are now concerned however firstly with Nationality applications. Now, I must say, I do not and never did have any problems with Nationality decision making in the HO. I think it is the most qualified, the sanest decision-making team, and there is a reason for that – their work is devoid of high drama, usually.  They deal mostly with applications by people who will have been here for years and have settled status, or an entitlement to nationality — and, importantly, Nationality applications are not numerous. There are, as I understand, around 90-100 people in the Nationality team, deciding  cases in single thousands per year total. Nationality casework is usually ahead of schedule, at least in the decision making part of the process, and there are no terrifying backlogs.

There is now however a tremendous backlog and overwhelming volume of applications in EEA casework, and even though overwhelming proportion of them are EEA nationals’ applications, so biometric team is not involved in them (most EEA/non-EEA families had already resolved their affairs before Article 50 trigger or even last summer, where they could, because the non-EEA family member usually would have been very mindful of immigration compliance), however there are, inevitably, way more non-EEA family member cases as well. And while the HO is aware of the need to increase number of decision makers in EEA or somehow create a different process for those cases, I understand these generous improvements did not much affect bio and exceptions team, so the influx of all this extra work so far has simply driven everyone there crazy.

 

Meet the main cast

There is a guy in charge of this bio and exceptions team – let’s call him Mr W., so as to preserve his privacy.

There is also a lady now in charge of Nationality Casework, called Linda Bateman — I do not have to preserve her privacy, because she has outed herself numerous times as a HO employee, and even collected public awards for civic service and given interviews to local newspapers in Liverpool about how, working for the Home Office, she is proud of helping people. I must say, I question that particular assertion, because, even though I have no problem with nationality casework, at the time of the interview Ms Bateman  actually was in charge of EEA Casework, which -at the time – was handling mostly non-EU family members cases and was atrocious (it since got better, before getting worse again recently after all the hiring of new people post-Brexit).

What do these people have in common now? They do not like me (surprise!) — well, specifically Mr W doesn’t like me, and, after he complained to Ms Bateman, she is writing (she promised) a complaint to OISC about how rude I am. Apparently, last time when I wrote to her an email in which I asked, approximately, “what not so smart person could have possibly done this not so smart thing?” (THIS THING  itself was not signed, so I genuinely did not know who that was, nor did I care, I just wanted it fixed)  — I carelessly CC’d the email to Mr W’s team inbox, where some team members read the email as well, and, upon learning that I have called an unknown and unnamed member of their team a not so smart person, became upset and demoralised.

So while the email initially was received normally and Ms Bateman admitted later to me that she personally did not find it offensive, she later wrote that she had been thinking about my email overnight and now “she can see how some people might” (and I think I know roughly what team those “some people” are in, since this coincided with Mr W emailing me ominously for my personal number in order to “talk”).

What has caused this intergalactic row?

Meet the Wilsons 

I have a client, let’s call her Mrs Wilson (not her real name). Mrs Wilson is from Russia, so suppose her maiden name was Ms Ivanova, although he had married Mr Wilson many years ago and has had ILR since 2012.

Now, when she was getting that ILR, we shall admit, there was a bit of a kerfuffle with names and a few other things. Firstly, Mrs Wilson had not realised that she would not be able to change a name in the Russian passport without travelling to Russia to replace domestic ID, so her Russian passport at the time still said Maria Ivanova.  Second, she did not think twice of the fact that her ILR BRP as a result of that also said Ivanova. Nor did she make any effort to get a new BRP in the intervening 5 years, presumably because in the intervening period at least 20 immigration officers at the border did not think much of a discrepancy either, despite the fact that in 2013 she traveled to Russia and got a passport that says Wilson. Basically since 2013, she has been Wilson for all purposes, and all her documents say Wilson, including her passport, Only BRP says Ivanova.

Now, in 2012 there was another kerfuffle, which had to do with Mrs Wilson’s oldest daughter, let’s call her Elizaveta Wilson, formerly Ivanova. For whatever reason that is lost to history, when she applied for ILR here in 2012, Mrs Wilson though it would be a jolly idea to also include her daughter, who was at the time here on a tourist visa and whose name was then also Ivanova. There was also a birth certificate issue then, so that application failed on multiple grounds, but chiefly for the girl’s immigration status. It was only after that that the woman realised that she should have traveled with the daughter back to Russia and applied for ILE, which she did. It was while in Russia, that she embarked on a document -changing spree, changing even the daughter’s birth certificate to now read child Wilson, mother Wilson, as well as both their passports to read Wilson. The daughter then obtained ILE in the name Elizaveta Wilson.

So, when she entered the UK again in 2013, she was carrying a passport that said Elizaveta Wilson, a birth certificate that said Elizaveta Wilson, an Indefinite leave to Enter issued in the name of Elizaveta Wilson, and was accompanied by a mother whose passport now said Maria Wilson.  Since then they all lived here in the UK and have not heard the name Ivanova again.

That is, until Mr W’s team had something to say about it.

The heart of the controversy

In March, the women applied for citizenship. They both applied in the name Wilson, and did not anticipate any problems — you can’t blame them, either. After all, they both have had Russian passports and all of their UK docs in the name Wilson for many years, and the daughter also had a birth certificate and an Indefinite Leave to Enter issued by UK govt also in that name.  It said Wilson on all applicatons, in all references. For the daughter, one would never guess she was ever Ivanova, considering she already entered the Uk on ILE as Wilson.

Sure Mrs Wilson had neglected to change her BRP over  -which I do not condone, but the Home Office’s policy is to bring EVERYTHING in line with the foreign passport, so, had this come to the authorities’ attention, the BRP would have been immediately changed to Wilson. I know the infamous “One name policy” by heart,  because I fought it. One name under the policy is the one name for all purposes, and in 99.9% of cases, the one name that’s in the person’s foreign passport. HO had made a HUGE deal of introducing this policy a couple of years back, and it causes a lot of problems. So this, I thought, was the case where there would be no problem.

Oh no, in comes Mr. W and his team.

Not only the woman who still had a BRP from 2012 that said she was Ivanova, received a biometric invitation in the name Ivanova, notwithstanding  — oh, no. That would not surprise me, even though it does grossly violate the “one name policy”. After all the current passport was a certified copy and the old passport was original — although it said CANCELED and corners were cut off, so I’d have thought, simple clerical oversight. And not only the “responsible adult” listed on the daughter’s bio invitation was a person named Maria Ivanova, who no longer exists nor has any ID in that name. Oh, no.

The daughter, instead of Elizaveta Wilson, like in her passport, ILE and birth certificate, was called Ivanova, and an ass-ugly Russian patronymic, which does NOT appear in the passport, was also invented. I would even concede the patronymic because it may have appeared on the ILE (until recently, moronic VACs in Russia used to do it. even though they subsequently went to using just passport names, which, in Latin transcription, do not include patronymics — which are NOT part of the name, although it took collective intellect of the UK civil servants and inexcusable idiots from the likes of Teleperformance about 20 years to understand that).  But OK. Why was the girl who had (1) birth certificate describing her as Wilson, (2) passport describing her as Wilson, (3) Indefinite leave to enter describing her as Wilson, and all other documents, references and school records describing her as Wilson, how did SHE end up Ivanova in the hands of Mr W’s team? How did they even know? She didn’t have any old passports enclosed, everything was in Wilson name.

This seemed instantly  like some sort of elaborate, needless, malicious administrative vandalism (those around me know that I use this phrase often to deride the work of the intake teams, but  I still think it the most apt). Someone on that so-called team, a low-paid, low-qualified,  under=trained low level administrative worker — and there are people on that team, the Mr W’s PM biometric and exceptions  team,  that I can personally name who cannot write in English coherently at all, despite having all overtly English names –one person like this looked at the application and said to themselves:

Screw these two people who paid over £2000 for this application, who are they to know what their names actually are? Who cares that they have put these names onto the application ten times, and so did their referees? Why would we assume that probably Mrs Wilson, an educated woman, really KNOWS what hers and her daughter’s  name actually is?  That maybe me, a person with two law degrees, having looked at the situation — and being obviously aware of the “one name policy” – however concluded that their names are Wilson — this means nothing to that low-level employees.

People on Mr. W’s team are trained thus: The applicant is always an idiot and does not know better, their representative, qualifications notwithstanding, is always an idiot — only you, employees are told, a person with no experience and no training besides maybe a couple of GCSEs, only you know the truth, Only you can decide what these people’s names actually are, have no fear about the amount of anxiety these people, who pay £2000 by the way,  will feel. how deeply disrespected they feel, how angry and powerless their lawyers would feel, how you with your antics are about to ruin the day or the week of three people, just because you are incapable of reading the name off a passport and typing it into a computer , the only operation in your job description.

They are trained to dehumanise the applicants — an unnecessary exercise in EEA and nationality department, if I may say so — all their superiors care about is that the employees feel good. Why? because of the high turnover, and the next ones will be even dumber and less trainable.

When I received the biometric letters in the Wilson case, they made me very upset and angry. I cried, then I got angry and held off for almost a week before writing that email to Ms. Bateman — I was waiting to get less angry so that my email will be more civilised. I guess that only partly worked — since Ms Bateman herself acknowledged that she did not take offense, but then reconsidered after Mr. W complained. Then it became a shit-storm of what exactly do these low-level employees think when someone dares express dissatisfaction with what they do.

WHO CARES HOW THEY FEEL? THEY SHOULD STOP SCREWING UP VERY VERY SIMPLE TASKS AND CAUSING SO MUCH ANXIETY TO PEOPLE WHO BY THE WAY PAY THOUSANDS OF POUNDS FOR THIS NIGHTMARE, WAY BEFORE ANY DECISION MAKER EVEN GOT CLOSE TO THEIR CASE! This is HO’s normal MO — they never communicate errors, complaints, information about decisions overturned on appeals, action taken as a result of PAP — back to the actual employees who screw up, lest their morale should be lowered. So people continue to sit there and basically insult the applicants, the reps — in some sort of admin-sadistic way. When all these bio invites arrived renaming the Wilsons with these, by now completely fictitious, names. it came without any commentary or explanation — well except to warn that they may lose money unless comply in 15 days.

The Big Reveal

A week later, Mr W called me and provided what he continues to think is a completely sound, coherent explanation of why this happened. The explanation was delivered to me in a didactic way, as if he was speaking to a silly child who refuses to understand the obvious. It was as follows.

The Home Office has (as we all know) a CID — case information database. It is a database of all people who have ever applied for anything to the Home Office. IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. The latter is an important correction- it does not include entry clearance applications,. So a person who had only ever held VISAS — that being yellow or green stickers received as a result of an application made abroad, no matter if it was considered at post or in Sheffield somewhere — that person is NOT on CID. I am not sure what happens now when ppl only get 30-day entry visas for some categories, and then have to pick up biometric residence cards in-country — but I think BRP database is a third database and that does not automatically get the person into CID either.  If you look at your Home Office correspondence and notice a reference consisting of a first letter of your surname and then 6-7 numbers, that is your unique CID identifier. CID allows a lot of things, such as connecting a person with entries for dependants etc. But again, only those who were included on, or applied, something in-country.

So if you had only ever been issued with a visitor visa, student visa, or any other type of entry clearance issued  as a sticker upon an application abroad through visa4uk — EVEN AN INDEFINITE LEAVE TO ENTER which many children have – YOU ARE NOT ON CID. Now, if you then enter and apply for something in-country, you will be entered into CID. But if, following that, you LEAVE the country and apply for your next leave from abroad, this again will NOT in any way update your CID record, or reflect on it in any way.

So when Elizaveta Ivanova (future Wilson) entered the UK with a visitor visa in 2012, and then joined her mother here in an ILR application — clearly misguided and therefore failed move – she was entered on a CID system, under her then-passport-name Ivanova, complete with patronymic and everything — it was all copied from the then-visitor visa. Mother’s application succeeded, but the daughter’s failed. The two then flew to Russia, where they both had passports changed into Wilson, birth certificate changed into Wilson, and then applied for the child’s ILE as Wilson, which was granted. CID knew nothing about it. Since the ILE application was only on Visa4uk system, it did not update the 2012 CID record with the child’s new name.  Elizaveta Wilson entered the UK and lived here as Wilson for years, without CID reflecting this in any way. CID continued to believe in the existence of Elizaveta Ivanova whom it lost track of after the failed ILR application in 2012.

Now, let’s pause and think about HOW BIZARRE that is, that in this day and age, and for all the flying cars and what not, we cannot create a system which links a migrant’s in-country and overseas applications. or at least profiles — anything to basically alert one system to the existence of the other, or make sure names are updated across databases!  I used to be a DBA in Silicon Valley years ago, if it’s that bad maybe I can dust it off, folks?

The Ivanova/Wilson case is not common, but a similar situation of IT redundancy arises apparently quite often, and HO is not planning to do much about it — while screaming  about the One Name Policy, they are pretty comfortable with the fact that their own system contain entries on the same person under entirely different names. Mr W does not appear to see that this creates the very sort of double-identity problem they are all fighting to prevent. HO is creating more double identities through this, than any applicant ever would intentionally.

This is why, says Mr W, the whomever received Miss Wilson’s MN1 application, was entirely powerless to data-enter it into the CID as anything but Elizaveta Genadievna Ivanova, because that was the name already in CID — from the 2012 application. And — wait for it – entering her as Wilson, in accordance with her passport, birth certificate and ILE –  will create a double identity! So no, it’s not insisting that she should still be called by a name she hasn’t used for years — and even our own UK government, and even UKVI itself has not used for her in years — that creates the identity problem, oh no, it’s data-entering the application into the  CID under the correct name that other systems are already using (passionate lecture on One Name Policy followed).

Now, Mr W insists that data-entry caseworkers are simply not qualified to change names on CID. So the worker in question could not have done anything differently, even if he or she appreciated the stupidity of the situation they were creating, or the distress it would l cause the applicants. I agree wholeheartedly that those workers are incapable of any decision making and therefore could not do it themselves, but why could they not have flagged it up to a Mr W, a supervisor who could then make the change on CID, faced with A PASSPORT?

Clearly this was not a technical impossibility, since Mr W then proceeded to fish the passport out and change the name in the CID right there on the phone with me, all the while he was telling me that only decision making caseworkers can actually do that. he left the spelling of the first name incorrect though, and the patronymic which is not in her passport, still in place. He then said he could not change the mother’s surname because mother has a BRP in the name Ivanova — fair enough, but was it sincere? because I doubt there was any technical limitation to prevent him from doing it, it was just that he wouldn’t.

I recalled the case of my own daughter Clara, who had a different both name and surname in her Russian passport and ILE. When I applied to register her as British under the name Clara Childs, the record was easily created on CID for that  and there was no controversy. So it also happened in other cases I know. Why, I asked Mr W. His answer was triumphant. That was because my daughter never applied for anything in-country! Any visas and entry clearances she held, altogether maybe 5, and then ILE, were all issued based on Visa4UK system. She never made an in-country application, so she was not on CID at all!  So there was no problem creating her on CID under a completely different name as a different brand new person.

The  Wilson girl problem was, I am told, specifically the failed 2012 ILR application. The caseworker was able to figure out that she WAS on CID as Ivanova since then , and could do nothing about it at all, no matter how many years ago it was, and that she entered the UK and lived here under a different name since.

Mr. W’s attitude towards this whole thing, which is completely devoid of understanding of how bizarre this situation is, seems to be that he is acting in perfect pursuit of prevention of double identity — that in fact this chaos creates double identities and maintains those inadvertedly created, instead of actually eliminating them by updating redundant records. seems to escape him.

Mr W exists in that respect on a completely separate planet. He continues to believe that the explanation about how IT works he gave me, that explains why a team member was apparently technically incapable of data-entering the Wilson applications correctly, somehow also excuses it.

There is no introspection — no one there understands that an explanation of how something happens does not justify it.Mr W does not have any reservations about admitting that it will happen again countless times, no one in HO is looking into it, nor is anyone upset about what the Wilsons are being put through with this. About how they feel, having paid £200+ and then being told by some incompetent half-robot that they are too stupid to know what their names are.  About how this impossibly incompetent work in very basic functions reflects on our government, creates a culture of impunity in the Home Office and civil service.  No one is thinking about that.

No one is thinking about the procedures put in place to eliminate duplicate identity actually creating them, about how stupid this iT situation is and how someone oughta look into it. I suggested to Mr W that since the numbers of cases in this exactly position is likely to be small, an employee who encounters them should be capable of seeking assistance of a senior employee — who has power to change “system names” — in order to do that prior to bio being issued. This would be much less effort then dealing with a complaint from every person who will be affected (and when you are being sent a biometric in a completely wrong name, you will inevitably complain) and will show much more respect for applicants.

This would also achieve the actual  aims of the One Name policy — eg reducing everything down to the actual name in the current passport. That “one name” becomes whatever is on the system, instead of what actually is in the passport and ALL of person’s personal documents, is a too-frequent  example of taking a maybe-somewhat-sane policy and turning it completely inside out. This happens over and over again in the UKVI, where policy people come up with something maybe-workable, but then it is executed so incompetently on management, administrative level, that it becomes Kafkaesque.

Can’t the employees at least be trained to see the discrepancy and refer to SCW in order to immediately eliminate these instances before they cause someone a near-heart-attack? Oh no.

But Ms Bateman and Mr W are at least upset about something — me. They are upset about my email, or more precisely that it was copied to the department where rank and file employees read it and it affected their morale.

“Other problems” and general attitude/ competence issues

In our last conversation, Mr W also recalled to me upsetly that “we had a problem also” with my own daughter’s application. We had a problem? Yes, I remember that “problem”, that was when the idiots lost her photo, which apparently un-glued from the application, then lied to me about it, then a half-literate woman started to call me and leaving messages about an “emergency about my daughter”, and then lie — plain lie — that my own daughter had not enrolled biometrics. ON the balance of probabilities, how likely was it that having submitted hundreds of nationality applications, I’d neglect to provide a photo, or enrol biometrics, for my own child?

That awful, awful, hopelessly dim woman then decided to also write to me — in what was a parody of English, really, –   saying Clara’s application was invalid because it “did not contain two passport photos whih are a requirements” — which of course was never a requirement for an# nationality application.  They caused a month long delay and an enormous amount of stress, driving me repeatedly to tears – and it was all ONLY because of how UNPROFESSIONAL — no, worse, not qualified to do anything at all — people on that team are. It was last year, but I am still shaking when I remember that. Sure, I ran crying to Ms Bateman and she asked Mr W to sort it, and he called me back and reported that he found “signs of glue” on the application form from which the photo apparently dislodged, then I sent him another photo by email and a picture of biometric enrolment receipt, and it was all fixed and tied together. Sure.

There are THOUSANDS of nationality applications alone, and the team is working worse and worse every day. It is not a functional process at all where the system only works when senior employees eventually interfere in order to do something as mundane as re-attaching photos, which junior employees lost, causing near-heart attacks to applicants in the process.

What does Mr W remember? He remembers there was a problem with me — a problem was, in his view, with ME. Who, again, cares that I paid almost £1000 and then his employees lost and mixed up everything they could, and then I was called and left messages of “emergency about my daughter”  because some illiterate person lost some photo, could not read or write, did not know their own team’s procedures? What does it have to do with “emergency”?  That particular woman was certifiably crazy so I hope she personally does not work there anymore. But moving on.

I want to call this BS out. You cannot do a job THAT SIMPLE THAT BADLY — not when you charge people thousands of ££££ to subject themselves to this humiliation, and when you are capable of causing weeks of anxiety and panic attacks, and  screwing their files up so profoundly. Not on taxpayer’s money. We as a society deserve people capable of basic administrative tasks and at least the lowest level of analytical thinking, of basic respect to applicants and their ability to read their own passports and fill out the name correctly — without that respect, with the existing attitude of “applicant is an idiot, rep is an idiot”, neither Mr W nor a single person on that team are qualified to be there.

Is Mr W genuinely trying to help? Yes. Has he helped in each of these cases/ yes, sorta — although in Wilson case he still only half-fixed it, and no one received any apology.

In fact no one EVER receives any apology, because Ms Bateman, Mr W, they are all somehow sure they are doing a wonderful job. They remember HELPING — which they do – BUT they forget that the only reason we needed help, was because of the incompetence of THEIR OWN PEOPLE, not something we ourselves have, or have not done. They save us from themselves, without giving a thought of how to do their jobs, in the first place, in a manner that wouldn’t require saving people their botching of it.

THIS is the biggest problem with their corporate, institutional attitude — they do not feel they need to get better because they think they are jolly good, because they are WELL -INTENTIONED, Sure, well they could be evil, but no, they aren’t evil. They are however INCOMPETENT.  Again this is not at this stage about policy or decision making, this is about administrative side of things, in which they are incompetent. In organising it, setting it up, managing it, hiring and supervising employees. A road do hell is paved with good intentions, Mr. W. No one cares you are singing a jolly song or help fish an occasional unfortunate bit of paperwork  out of the inferno, if you are leading everyone into administrative hell.

The highlights of the work of Biometric and Exceptions team in Liverpool PM (EEA/nationality) unit AND Durham data entry team.

Some of these are NOT work of Mr W’s team, quite a lot of havoc is wreaked by Durham team that is supposed to initially triage cases, and — as I suspect — there is now also a new triage team or people, taxed with directing cases between fast-track and slow-track teams; as some of this mess involves cases where no exception occurred and biometrics were not required (such as EEA nationals’ applications). But they have one thing in common, they are all cases of incompetence in administrative pre-processing of cases, that have nothing to do with actual caseworking and/or decision making,

Here are some of the other pearls of this “team”. I wish to now campaign that some sort of IQ test be given to those who want to continue, or aspire, to work there. We deserve VERY BASIC administrative competence. Please note we do NOT talk here about decision making or anything of substantive or policy related nature. We are only talking about PRE-PROCESSING.

Cases go through several pre-processing stages before they are ever queued up for a caseworker to consider, and it is at these stages that MOST of the injustice, administrative vandalism or damage from incompetence occurs, often because things are mis-entered, lost, confused and reshuffled. Sure, there are some dumbos on a power trip in those teams, but quite a lot of these problems are not the result of individual idiocy, but of the way things are set up and managed by even more criminally incompetent supervising and managing staff (such as the “IT” problem with the Wilson names above).

(1) In my previous business name — “Olga Childs, Immigration advisor” I CONSISTENTLY received post from the PM biometrics team WITHOUT CITY AND POSTCODE. At all.

So it is more true that this post was constantly being sent to me — in fact, sometimes I received it, sometimes it was 2 weeks late, sometimes it got lost — and every time you could tell it had to go to a special lost mail department where they cut out a bit of the envelope under the address to see if the address has not dropped below the window, but no it hasn’t. Thank god everyone at Royal mail already knew who and where I was.

This delayed biometric enrolment sometimes for weeks, certificates of application have gotten lost, later residence cards have been sent to nonexistent addresses – bot HO would do nothing, despite me writing, sending copies of this post, complaining, etc. It improved when I moved to the current offices and started trading as World Without Borders LLP — well, actually, I once got a piece of post even there without town and postcode. I always knew why this was happening — some one idiot — yes, idiot! why should there be any other epithet for whomever did this?  clearly a person of average or above IQ would not do it?-  on Mr Ws team had once created this entry for me, which for unknown reason included “LLB” and “MBA” (my academic degrees that appeared on the letterhead), and included each of them on a separate line.

They then entered the rest of the address, taking a total of 8 lines, without realising that only 5 fit in any standard Home Office correspondence they were actually generating. COUNTLESS employees of Mr W’s had sent me post without a town and postcode. Do they not look at what they print out and put in the envelope? at all?  This lasted for almost a year, since every time a new employee would get a case from me, they’d hit the first letter of my name on the system and use the pre-entered address. This lasted EIGHT MONTHS despite all the letters and protestations.

Now, if a person’s ONLY job is to enter the name and address into the system, print out the form letter and put it in the envelope, why can we not employ someone in this challenging role who can NOTICE they are about to send post without city or postcode? Isn’t this the very minimum the government can do?

(2).  Imagine a fairly typical case where the husband is applying for a document certifying permanent residence as an EU citizen, and his new wife, a non-EU citizen he just married, who just arrived in the UK, is applying for a residence card for the first time. It is very common, as often  the EU citizen, even if they had qualified for PR, would absolutely not care about any Home Office documentation until a non-EU citizen enters their life, for whom compliance is a huge factor.  At that stage the family are normally advised that it is best to make an application for the sponsor’s PR in order to (if nothing else) eliminate the need for the non-EU to subsequently prove that sponsor is/was exercising Treaty rights at every turn. An EEA FM application specifically instructs that in such cases, it is best if applications were sent in the same envelope.

So the applications are filed, they are sent in the same envelope, supporting documents are clearly marked, his (treaty rights) and hers ( marriage certificate, relationship evidence, photos). This is all clearly marked as two applications. In fact the husband’s is an EEA PER application and hers an EEA FM, she could not have possibly been included on his application because she doe snot qualify for PR yet — she just arrived in the UK for the first time.

Now, the unfortunate element here was that on both payments forms, the husband used the same debit card, and, when two identical £65 payments were run, the first one — ostensibly in HIS name — went through, and the second one — hers — failed, probably because the bank thought it was a duplicate. THEN the problem started.

Failed payment cases still go from Durham to Liverpool, but they go to Exceptions (MR W’s team ) to be returned.I do not know in which of these two teams, to be honest, but some incurable idiot at that point decided, that these were not two separate applications, but one, in which a dependant was included. I suspect it was the Exceptions, because, if Durham had thought they were the same application, wont’ they have just run £130 instead of £65 twice? I guess I am looking for logic where none exists.

Anyhow, because that idiot decided that they were one application, not two, this resulted in the rejection of both — even though the husband’s application was perfectly capable of succeeding on its own, after all he acquired PR before the wife even arrived in the UK. They promptly held on to £25 too — and I must stress, while the charging is done by what I suspect is Capita in Durham, the actual decision on what to return and to whom, are done in Liverpool by Mr W.s team where all the files are then sent anyway.  Took me a while — and a lot of explaining to Mr W — to get the £25 back. He promptly lectured me that I created the problem myself by sending different applications in the same envelope (he clearly has never seen the application form EEA FM which directly instructs one to do this in that very situation). Sponsor’s PR and new spouse FM were ALWAYS sent in teh same envelope and always held to be considered together by the same caseworker. I have no idea why in this case it was so difficult for Mr W to grasp it. I have a list of cases available if anyone wants, with Case ID,s when that same thing was done without any problem.

That people processing applications need to have the minimum level of intellectual ability necessary to see that these are two different applications by a husband and wife for different types of benefit, but the second depends on the first one and not another way around, is again something beyond Mr W — he never seems to realise that it was HIS OWN employees that actually create the problems he then valiantly saves people from.

In the meantime I sent in a cheque for £65 in attempt to prevent the return of the application, but was unable to do it, although the Home Office promptly cashed the cheque (took me another 2 months to get £65 extra back, then they refunded it twice by mistake, and I had to send one more).

When the applications were filed again, I sent them with two cheques of £65  each, and HUGE — HUGE!- letters on everything that said PEOPLE THESE ARE TWO APPLICATIONS NOT ONE! This had some effect, but not quite as I have hoped. Disciples of Mr W decided that it was then necessary to separate applications completely, sending the husband’s PR to a new fast-track consideration and hers to a normal “long” consideration.  I would have had nothing against it, really — if only they separated them correctly, which of course did not happen. In fact they were sent in, as usual, with all supporting evidence divided between the applications and clearly labeled,  hers and his – but since the first thing these idiots do is always trash everything out and completely dishevel it,. to the point when they are completely unable to understand what all of this is and why is it there – in fact seeing the shape in which the cases reach the caseworkers, it’s a wonder how any decisions are taken at all – this was completely ignored.

Again, they are trained not only to despise representatives, but disorganise all organisation of files by subject or purpose, throw away all stationery (they owe me a lot of £££ for that!), and dishevel everything out of order, to confuse the future caseworker as much as possible. Then of cours eif for some reason the application has to go back without consideration, you could get 3, 7 kg of docs back that it would take days to put back together, with all folders and clips missing. People who do admin pre-processing of EEA applications specifically get off on pissing off representatives in this way — I am sure of it. Because from a potential caseworkers perspective, this administrative vandalism has no benefit, and of course it does not in any way improve efficiency. What could have worked for a file containing five documents, doe snot work for one with 500.

So, that was not the end. How surprised was I to receive  6 weeks later the husband’s DCPR, along with marriage certificate, proof of relationship, family and wedding photos and wife’s bookings! What sort of relevance did this all have to her application? Zilch, none. Some idiot just separated applications in such a way that all supporting docs went with his PR application, and none with hers. None. After that I had to find a sort of sane person in Mr Ws team to whom personally post all of that stuff including his ID, via special delivery,a dn who went personally and found the wife’s still pending application file and re-inserted all that stuff. Don’t try this at home folks! Is it possible to really process tens of thousands of applications this way?

3. My favourite. There was an EEA FM application where they allege there was a card payment failure, although in this case I doubt this was really the case, as I understand the £65 box was not ticked by the client. We cold tell that we sent an application and money was never taken, but in March all hell broke loose and all of these teams started to seriously malfunction under pressure. So, the file was never sent to Liverpool from Durham at all , until a brave woman from Mr W’s team – and I am grateful to her — managed to have it found through sending requests to the charging team, and then attach to it again a cheque that I sent.

However, the same person took no interest in my protestations that following the payment processing, the case was mistakenly registered as an EEA national’s application — while in fact of course the applicant was Russian.  Instead of biometrics and COA, we received an email with Case ID, usually sent only to EEA citizens. I had sent numerous emails, both to the team and to Mr W, and personally spoke to  him about it on the phone when he called to yell at me about Mrs Wilson’s “IT problem”– but nothing was done.

Basically they have people working there who can mistake a Russian citizen for an EEA citizen, and refuse to do anything at all about it. Thankfully for my client Mrs R, when they mistakenly identified her case as EEA, they sent it to fast-track — so it was straightened out only when it has, on that fast-track, reached a caseworker in about two months. Thankfully we still have caseworkers who can tell Russian is not an EEA country, and that was, I surmise, the point at which they took it around and reinserted it back into the proper process. All this time no one on the exceptions and bio team gave a jack squat that for instance issue of a Certificate of Application was a legal obligation under EU law. They are all somehow certain that they are doing everyone a favour by existing in the first place.

And yes, make no mistake — I am grateful to every person, including PM Exceptions team members, who had helped me sort out various kinds of admin and IT  mess around the applications — but Mr Ws and the UKVI’s in general consistent failure to recognise that it was then who CAUSED these problems, not the applicants or the reps, is mind boggling. Administrative processes surrounding application pre-processing at The Capital are routinely carried out at such kaqkaesque levels of incompetence, that there is no question that they will never be able to cope with any sort of seriously increased application levels.

Again, this discussion has nothing to do with caseworking or decision making — in this instance, my gripe is with the IT, the admin, the filing systems, the stupid incompetent triage, the people sorting EEA applications that mix up who is or isn’t an EEA citizen, letters sent without city and postcode, wrong addresses, lost photos, and a constant, ignorant wall of self-assurance, in which the management completely fails to understand that when these things lead to problems, it was THEM who create these problems. That if indeed there are hundreds of thousands, let alone millions of applications, coming, they CANNOT deal with them at all at this level of incompetence.

The problem seems to be at its worse in the biometric and exception unit at The Capitol — there are departments in Sheffield that deal with biometric enrolment and deal with it just fine, more or less — but  it could be a factor of statistics, eg having filed 100+ applications and seeing some profound pre-procesisng/admin screwups in 10% of them, it is more starking. In Sheffield I also recall filing, in the same envelope, applications by a mother and her 3-year old son, both post-2012 PBS dependants of teh same former Tier 2, then Tier 1 migrant by then with ILR, and Tier 2 and 5 data entry team somehow managing to completely separate the applications, and putting one of them in a completely wrong category — they were registered days apart under completely different numbers by different teams.  The reason for mistake was, that an idiot who initially processed them saw that the mother used to be on Tier 2 and assumed this was a Tier 2 extension — without realising that she’d left the country and came in with a new entry clearance after 32013 wuith the son who was in that time born overseas. Again that had happened because they are trained to assume the applicant and their lawyer are all iditos, and substitute their own judgement for what’s written and applied for — in retrospect, this must have happened because of course they looked on CID, and it did not show her subsequent entry clearance, because, like Mr W pointed out, these are different systems, and initial data entry worked have no access to entry clearance data. That particular application, with IHS fees, cost the family £5000, yet it was almost irreversibly screwed up but for my frantic intervention — which resulted in their data processing team manager also calling and yelling into my answerphone rather indignantly. .

 

Now what?

I could go on — in fact I would probably remember way more after I press the submit button. But I also CAN’T GO ON. Like my youngest daughter Clara, the recently minted British citizen mentioned somewhere above, likes to say, “F*** this s**t, I’m out!”. She reserves this expression for cases of strategic systemic failure, such as when she arrives in the kitchen for dinner and discovers there is spinach on her plate.

I declare war on stupidity, because it is NOT possible to do my job, or even the caseworking job, I suspect, without being supported by admin on a very basically competent level. Filing is not hard, Mrs Rudd. data entry is not hard. It should be possible to hire, in all these different locations around the country, some people capable of doing it, but that will not solve the problem alone, without change in training techniques and corporate culture.

People who make mistakes need to be told that they made them, not rewarded by the closure of ranks around them like in a bad Holywood police movie. Your low-level admin stuff need to be told that they do NOT know better than the applicant and the lawyer. People paying thousands of pounds need to be allowed to decide themselves what they are applying for and what their name is, without it being questioned by a person with 5 GCSEs, who shoudl no longer be told that applicants and reps are idiots, and nothing he or she does can possibly be wrong.

The organisation needs to realise that — and I can back it with numbers and Case Ids and examples — A DATA ENTRY, BIOMETRIC OR PRE-PROCESSING ADMIN ERROR OF SOME SORT IS MADE IN AT LEAST 10% OF ALL APPLICATIONS GOING THROUGH PM TEAM IN LIVERPOOL, BOTH NATIONALITY AND EEA cases that involve a non-EEA national, eg those that go through biometrics team. I understand that there are not millions of EEA cases involving biometrics, but it’s simply that they comprise majority of cases in my practice.  Nonetheless, The only feature that marks them is that they have additional steps that need to be undertaken by biometric and other pre-processing teams, and at those steps error rates increase. However, if your only job is to copy names from passports and enter addresses from the applications into databases, it should be possible to get people who can do it without screwing up in 10% of cases. That is A LOT of cases. If this somehow presents a challenge, we need to get some people with actual management skills to figure out how to reduce that admin error rate down to manageable.

I, for one, am presently making recommendations that should cut down on both EEA and nationality workload, because chaos in The Capital is now beyond bizarre and piling more files on top of that seems counter-productive until they figure out how to deal with it.

Additionally, following from hysteria surrounding my personality in Mr W’s team, and  Ms Bateman’s manifested desire to complain about the tone of my letter to Mr W’s employees to the OISC, alongside their constant unwillingness to own up to the incompetence of their own admin staff, I shall from 1st June no longer handle nationality applications. I delegate all responsibility for them, as well as all communication with Ms Bateman’s team and nationality exceptions, to my new business partner Marina Ten. I will check her cases before submission until the end of August.

The Capital today represents the eye of the storm, where admin and data proc error rates reach kafkaesque proportions. However,  the overall problem of admin and data entry incompetence, alongside the ridiculous redundancy of It systems described above, and complete failure by the UKVI management to address any of these things, remain — and they remain a problem across all of the organisation.  Immigration policy and caseworking competence are all important, but difficult issues impacted by political conjuncture and lack of budgets for legally qualified staff, as well as lack of actual people who could do those jobs better.  Admin and data entry, and basic IT, however, should be well within our government’s capability. Let’s get  on it.

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