The UK Immigration paperwork and evidence process is infuriating, frustrating, mind-bogglingly tedious, and a fair bit frightening. It was not helpful to us that they just imposed a new set of rules one month before we applied. In fact, it was downright maddening that the rules were written poorly, difficult to decipher, and unclear in their intent and portent. If one has a question regarding the visa application process or regulations and they cannot answer their question with the aid of the on-line FAQs, their only place to ask questions charges $3 per minute or a flat fee of $12.oo per call. The Furious Five have paid this particular "help" agency a total of $72.00.
The new regulations stipulated that we obtain a Visa Letter from the institution that is my husband will attend. We were unfortunate to be in the first round of students to be required to obtain said letter, as it took about two weeks for said institution to figure out who was responsible for creating this new letter and what exactly the visa letter was.
We finally got the visa letter and all other supporting documents collected (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, oh, my!), finished the tedious hours of online forms, and FedExed off the package to the British Consulate.
We received our notice of denial on June 10th.
I thought I was going to throw up. We have rented our house. We are scheduled to pack up our house into a sea container on June 23 (hooray, what a way to spend my birthday!). I am supposed to leave for a week-long photography seminar in 3 days. The kids are supposed to leave for summer camp in 4 days. WTF??
I'll tell you WTF: We did not include the proper "supporting documents" for 007's admission to the university. Apparently, we were supposed to include his transcript from the college he graduated from here in the US. Because the visa letter from the school isn't enough to prove that he got in? Does it say anywhere that this is required? It said, "send supporting documents for school admission." A $12 call to the help desk clarified that for me by saying, "send in any paperwork that your husband has pertaining to his admission to the school." I took that to mean the acceptance letter and the visa letter, silly me.
I set aside all packing and devote myself to redoing all the paperwork. YES, you have to start over from scratch if you botch the visa application. YES, you have to pay the $1200 in visa application fees again. YES, you have to go and get your biometrics (face scan/fingerprints) collected again from your local Dept. of Homeland Security Office again.
It took me no less than six hours to fill out the five applications required of our family. Most of the questions I had on the application the first time were answered as I went through the process a second time.... because it was largely re-written and included all kinds of little "help" sections to clarify what the Immigration people really want to know.
Thank you British Immigration for flatly denying our application because of errors that you clearly knew were giving people problems because of poorly written instructions. We are very happy to contribute $1200 to the refinement of your regulatory verbage.
New documents were added, paperwork readied, and all recollected.... but there was still a daunting hurdle to overcome: Time. We needed to make appointments at the Dept. of Homeland Security in Milwaukee to get our fingerprints/photos collected. Because we couldn't schedule appointments for the next day- Friday!- and the kids were leaving for two weeks of sleepaway camp, we were left with a heap of crummy option: they would have to start camp late, miss a couple days in the middle (as camp was a 6 hour drive from Milwaukee, as opposed to the one hour away from our house) it would be a great inconvenience to all concerned, or we would have to wait two and a half weeks before going and sending in the new application. (This would require us shipping our earthly belongings to England without knowing if we had been approved for the visas yet!)
Enter Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin to save The Furious Five's collective behind!!
Her Constituent Support staffwoman came to our aid (after two tearful, anxiety-ridden phone calls from yours truly) and got us appointments at the Homeland Sec. office THE NEXT DAY.
The boys had to miss the last day of school (and saying goodbye to their friends one last time) but we got to Milwaukee, had our information collected, and got the whole package in the mail before I left for Missoula the next day.
I don't think my stress level has ever been higher.
We got our approved visas a week ago. Right before our rescheduled sea container arrived to be packed up. Phew!
If you have a minute.... One of the more interesting exercises to complete on the application was listing every country you've visited in the last 10 years and why you were there. I think I took for granted just how much I've gotten to travel over the years, because this was a time-consuming and concentration requiring exercise! Esp. when I had to sort out which trips I went on with my husband, without him, with the kids, without them, etc. Every person in the house had a different list! The Animal was the only person to not have anything on his list. :)
Ok, one last thing:
I Think Jon Stewart's Daily Show writing staff is stealing from me. I know, those are some big words, missy... and, really, HOW could they steal from me anyway, right? Well, let me tell you:
While I was dealing with the nightmare of paperwork concerning our visas to the UK. The online forms for these things are ludicrously long. I mean, I GET that they want to keep the riffraff out. I do! But if I am a reasonably intelligent, well-educated person and I am having this much trouble wading through it all and interpreting every nuance, then how is everyone else doing it?? So anyway, at about 1 am I let loose with a terrific rant on Twitter against the British Immigration process that went something like this:
Now, if you were to take the time to watch this video from the Daily Show that aired the next night (and I totally understand if you don't want to), it offers compelling evidence that they did indeed steal my rant almost verbatim. Only they're talking about the European Parliament.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Indecision 2009 - Everywhere but Here Edition|
If you watch this at the time: 2:04 for a about 20 seconds, you'll get there.
Sorry for the length of this post.... hope it was interesting and not as tedious to get through as that paperwork. If yu have any questions about the process, don't hesitate to ask me! I am now intimitely acquainted with the Tier 4 Student Visa application and am available to help. For free!
Oh, wait.... I left out the kicker:
The immigration people didn't even OPEN the sealed envelope with his transcript in it!