visabureau.com > blogs > official blog

News, commentary & perspective from Visa Bureau

UK immigration mix up puts marriage in jeopardy

by Dominic 21/03/2013 12:23:00

The Colvilles could be faced with
the prospect of leaving the UK
following a series of blunders.

A married couple from Chester's life has been turned upside down following a mix-up by UK immigration authorities, threatening to either force them apart or to leave the UK.

When Briton Craig Colville, 31, married his Canadian wife Crystal, 29, in July last year, the couple pictured little other than a straight forward UK visa application for married partners.

The couple earned enough to meet the £18,600 salary requirement required to be eligible for a UK visa and had enough evidence to prove their marriage was genuine; they had little reason to think their application would be anything but straightforward.

First bad news

"You have to change your visa if you are a married couple so Crystal applied because she was now married to a British citizen," said Craig.

"We applied in September and then got a letter on February 4. You have to sign for it so they know you've received it. Crystal was at work so I asked her permission to open it.

"I was expecting it to be a happy result and that we'd all go out for a drink later, but the first I saw was 'REFUSED' in big black letter.

"It was a shock."

While UK visa applications can often be a complicated process and, particularly in the case of partner visas - which are open to abuse due to the subjective nature of a 'genuine relationship' - the Colvilles could not have expected to be rejected in this manner.

Mistakes

The letter did not so much concentrate on Crystal's application but on Craig, going so far as to claim he is not a British Citizen:

'You [Crystal] have not demonstrated any insurmountable obstacles that would prevent you from continuing your family life outside the UK, given that your spouse [Craig] does not hold settled status, is not a British Citizen and is not a person with refugee leave/humanitarian protection,' read the letter.

Craig was born and has lived most of his life in Wales, before moving to Chester a year ago.

"That was when I knew they had made a mistake, I just stood there reading it over and over for about 15 minutes in the post office not understanding how it had happened," he said.

"It was utter disbelief. I have deep family roots in the area. I have an identical twin brother whose citizenship has never been questioned. He was born nine minutes before me...that wouldn't have given my mother any time to cross a national border!"

A worsening situation

To make matters worse, the couple were given a deadline to appeal the decision and resubmit their documents, including the required financial evidence which was missing in the original application but mistook the stated deadline.

"Between us we earn well in excess of [the £18,600 threshold], we provided our employer details but didn't send them any bank statements or pay slips," Craig said.

"So we appealed and sent them the information. We were given a deadline of 10 working days by a letter signed on behalf of Theresa May, the Home Secretary. It arrived on February 4, so we had until February 18. It said so in black and white!

"We put everything together carefully and double checked it and then we sent it off."

However, the reply was further bad news, with the Home Office informing the couple the 10 working days had included weekends - putting the deadline at 14 February.

"The whole situation is extremely stressful," said Craig. "It goes from being ridiculous, hilarious, a big joke, to really upsetting.

"If we could have a chat with someone for just 10 minutes it would save time, effort and public money."

The UKBA has retained Crystal's passport, preventing her from leaving the country and the couple now fear the UKBA will revoke her right to work in the UK.

Should this happen, the couple will fall below the £18,600 threshold, making them ineligible for a UK visa in any fresh application.

"The Border Agency are still holding Crystal's passport, which means she can't return home to see her family. She can't leave the country, she can't update her name on her bank account, she can't sign up for a doctor though she's been working here and paying tax."

Crystal Colville shared her husband's frustrations:

"When I asked for an appointment to speak to someone face to face I was told that wasn't possible," she said.

"I know they have a backlog of cases, but these mistakes were avoidable and we did nothing wrong.

"We're just hoping everything will work out right."

Avoiding disaster

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the Colville's case is an extremely unfortunate situation but one which highlights the need for qualified migration agents.

"The Border Agency is one of the most overworked and busiest Government departments in the UK and the constant heavy caseload they have to deal with can lead to mistakes occurring," said Ms Murdock.

"While the Colvilles have been incredibly unlucky to fall victim to what is likely to have been a clerical error in mistaking Craig Colville's citizenship status, it does prove how vital it is to ensure all documents and pay slips etc. are properly prepared and sent in time.

"With such an incredible caseload, many applicants have just one chance to submit their applications to the UKBA and if it isn't done correctly, any error or slip up on either the applicants' or the UKBA's part can result in disaster."


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Changes to Australian visitor visa and how they affect you

by Dominic 15/03/2013 12:38:00

Visitor visa

Changes to visitor visa policy
take effect on 23 March.
 

Several different classes of Australian visitor visa will be superseded by new classes next week but if you're already in Australia, or already have your visa, how will they affect you?

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) announced recently that their nine classes of visitor visa will be simplified into just five classes, in order to draw greater distinction between work and business visitor activities.

The existing nine categories:

  • Tourist visa (subclass 676)
  • Sponsored family visitor visa (subclass 679)
  • Business (short Stay) visa (Subclass 456)
  • Sponsored business visitor (short stay) visa (subclass 459)
  • Medical Treatment (short stay) visa (subclass 675)
  • Medical Treatment (long stay) visa (subclass 685)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 976)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – short validity) (subclass 977)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – long validity) (subclass 956)

These will be consolidated into the following five visa classes as of 23 March:

  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) (subclass 400) visa
  • Visitor (subclass 600) visa
  • Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) visa
  • Medical Treatment (subclass 602) visa
  • eVisitor (subclass 651) visa
I already have my visa; do I need to apply for another?

No. Any visas granted before 23 March will remain valid until the original expiration date provided when your visa was granted.

For example, if you were granted an Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 976) visa on 15 March, 2013, the last date of entry would be 15 March, 2014 or the expiry date of your passport (whichever is sooner). 

This will still be the case following the changes.

The changes are intended to streamline and simplify the application process. We will continue to update our clients as more info is released.

However, it is important to remember that all visas which have already been issued, or will be issued before 23 March, will be honoured for their entire validity period.

I will be applying for my visa soon, what does this mean?

If you know which visa you require under the current system, applying for an Australian visa under the new changes should be easier and quicker. If you are unsure which visa you will require, use our online travel advisor to find out.

If you intended to visit Australia under the following three classes:

  • Electronic Travel Authority (visitor) (subclass 976)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – short validity) (subclass 977)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (business – long validity) (subclass 956)

You will be able to apply under the new, single Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) visa.

If you intended to visit under one of the following visitor visas:

  • Tourist visa (subclass 676)
  • Sponsored family visitor visa (subclass 679)
  • Business (short Stay) visa (Subclass 456)
  • Sponsored business visitor (short stay) visa (subclass 459)

You will be able to apply under the single Visitor Visa (subclass 600) visa.

We will be making changes to our online application forms in the next few weeks. In the meantime however, you can continue to use our current 676 visa application and we will use the information provided to lodge a new, 600 visa application on your behalf.

If you have any questions regarding the validity of your visa or which visa to apply for, do not hesitate to contact us.


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

The worrying state of the Australian 457 visa row

by Dominic 07/03/2013 11:50:00

457 visa

The 457 visa program is mostly
used for temporary workers on
construction and mining projects.

The Australian government announced last month that they would be tightening the rules surrounding its temporary worker program - the 457 visa - triggering an ongoing row that is quickly becoming embittered.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a reshuffling of her Cabinet earlier this year and one of her most notable changes - handing Victorian politician Brendan O'Connor the Australian immigration portfolio - has already made headlines.

One of Mr O'Connor's first acts was to announce a tightening of the 457 visa program, claiming the system was open to 'rorting' - abuse of the system. The 457 visa program is intended to allow Australian employers to bring in overseas workers, but only when local labour is unavailable.

Why does the system need changing?

Mr O'Connor, along with several workers' unions, claims that the system is used by unscrupulous employers to undercut local labour.

The minister claimed employers were bypassing the system's rules by hiring unskilled workers from overseas in high paid, senior positions and then demoting them on arrival. The minister cited cases of 'project administrators' in Western Australia being brought in to work as security guards.

The immigration minister's announcement have triggered a row that quickly reached both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott, who accused each other of inciting fear and even xenophobia against foreign workers.

Yesterday the Treasurer Wayne Swan weighed into the debate:

"I'm frequently approached in my electorate by people who I know to be quite well qualified, hard working Australians, who are looking to get jobs in certain sectors," he said.

"My summation of this is that there is a bit of a problem in parts of the mining sector, where Australians are not necessarily getting a look in first as they should, where they are appropriately qualified and willing and able to work."

The mining and construction industries have been at the centre of the debate due to their rapid expansions and the remote nature of the projects but Mr Swan was quick to add 'it’s not only the mining sector where this is an issue'.

Why are people defending the program?

However, there are plenty of voices defending the program; Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has said his state's AU$237 billion (£162 billion) economy is dependent on the temporary overseas workers - known as Fly-in Fly-out (FiFo).

"FiFo workers are modern day heroes. They do separate from their families, they do put up with some loss of amenity, they work in harsh conditions, for long hours, doing exciting work," said the premier.

"They are building this state and building this nation...these are the modern day heroes of the economic development of Australia.

"They deserve more respect, and not to be treated like some scourge of the Earth."

A spiralling debate

Pauline Hanson made her name
in the 1990s as a strong opponent
of Australian immigration.

Mr O'Connor himself has admitted that tracking down and prosecuting 'rorting' is difficult due to the processes involved and the government's critics have pointed to an almost complete lack in prosecutions associated with rorting in the last few years - just one prosecution.

The federal opposition, along with other detractors, have used this to accuse the government of xenophobia and inciting divisiveness in communities with a large immigrant presence.

While Mr O'Connor's changes were likely quite well intentioned - the government have repeatedly stated they are open to foreign workers in Australia who follow the rules - the debate it has triggered has already begun to raise tensions.

Over 1,000 workers in Melbourne marched through the city's Central Business District today, protesting against the 457 visa program by chanting 'local labour, local jobs'.

Perhaps even more disquieting though has been the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson.

Ms Hanson, who led the One Nation party in the mid 1990s with her strong, anti-immigration rhetoric, has stated she intends to run in this September's election due to the 457 visa situation.

"I think [the 457 visa] is a back door for immigration, I think a big investigation needs to be done," said Ms Hanson, who has not stated in what capacity she intends to run for.

"It stinks to me. I wouldn't be surprised if they're using this to bring people into the country.

"I just don't think that there are people there who really understand how Australians are feeling. I don't think there is a representation for our culture, our way of life, our standard of living."


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.