Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Random Tuesday Roundup: UK Visa Acquisition Edition

The process to get Daddy-007's student visa was so harrowing that you should count yourself lucky that I spared you the details. However, now that all is said and done and we have the visas firmly affixed to our passports for the next three years, I feel at liberty to talk about it without throwing up or needing to dash the loo. (Ooooh, see that? I'm practicing being British!) Random Tuesday Roundup (hosted by The Un Mom) seems like the perfect venue to regale you with the more interesting parts of the process.


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 StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2009 - Everywhere but Here Edition
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorNewt Gingrich Unedited Interview

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!



  1. WHAT a ton of work for you to plow through! The hoops and red tape sound unbelieveable. I'm impressed that, after all that BS, you still sound SANE!

    And YES! I'd say the Daily Show is absolutely stealing from your thoughts! That damn John......

  2. My eyes were the size of saucers as I read this! I can't believe you had to do everything again. $1,200!!!!

  3. Every country you've traveled in the last 10 years?! You just know there is no one there checking on that information at all!

    I had no idea such a process was so tedious, difficult and not to mention costly. Probably because I never get out of the confines of Iowa! So glad you got everything worked out and are getting days closer to departing.

  4. That is insanity! I'm glad to hear you survived it.

    I'm looking forward to hearing about your life in England.

  5. OMG I'm so sorry! I can't even imagine the hell. When we came to Germany our Visa's were handled by a immigration lawyer and we had to give them documentation up the yin yang. And we renew every year. But still nothing in comparison. The fun continues!!

  6. Amy, I feel for you, but I am not at all shocked at what you went through.
    I help a lot of docs with their apps to become providers for Medicare and I cannot begin to tell you about all the problems we have. It took over a year to get one provider on California's Medicare doc list. These departments are bastions of inefficiency. They have no reason to be efficient, as that would probably lead to a cut in the number of people needed to perform these mindless tasks. Gotta have job security! And with bureaucracies, there is little accountability since I doubt there is little reward for keeping costs in check.

    Glad to add to your rant;-)

  7. What a pain!! You gotta love bureaucracy. I know they all sit in their cubicles devising all kinds of pointless forms for people to fill out that make absolutely no sense to anyone.

  8. It gives me a stomach ache just reading it, even knowing what was going to happen!!!

    When you called me I thought I was going to have to get a certain other politician involved...


  9. OMG what a headache! And girl, it is time to sue the shit out of the Daily Show!

  10. That sounds like a nightmare! I can't believe how complicated they made it.


    I'm sending you lashings of sympathy. ("Lashings" is an English thing and just means generous quantities. Does not have anything to do with S&M.)

  11. This makes you wonder what their process for developing the requirements must look like. I see three lazy government workers sitting in a flourescent lit, windowless conference room, feet up on the table and eyelids drooping with boredom. They throw pencils at the tile ceiling and try to make baskets with wadded up letterhead, pausing now and again to say something like, "Okay - I've got another one: #15, section b, paragraph ii - Name all second cousins on your mother's side and list in alphabetical order any relvent allergies [British guffaw] That ought to keep them busy for a while - I wager it's take at least a day to figure out what 'relevent' means. As if we know!"

  12. Enjoyed the tirade!
    Glad it wasn't me!
    Jon needs to pay you for writing!

  13. I would be in an asylum by now. Seriously. oh and yes, they did steal your words.

  14. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars. ???!!!



    And so sad to hear from Bee that "lashing" has nothing to do with S&M.

    Deep breathing must feel so good now. Best wishes to you and the fam on your new adventure!

  15. Busy hanging my sorry British head in shame....

  16. Twelve. Hundred. Dollars.


    Omg, now see what you've done, you've gone and made me use more than one punctuation mark. That never fucking happens.

    I'd be going postal, myself. Glad everything is shiny now!

  17. Wow. Sucktastic.

    I can't believe I haven't found your blog until now - I'm a Mke native and seem to "tweet" with a lot of the same people you do! Maybe we'll meet up in Chicago at BlogHer before your trip over the pond.

    Till then, deep breaths...sounds like the paperwork is behind you and that's most of the battle, right?

  18. No wonder I don't live in the UK anymore!

    On the other hand, bull-headed red-taped bureaucracy exists everywhere - it has no nation or boundaries, I'm afraid!

    Your post made me laugh though. A lot.

    Does that make me a freak?... ;-)

  19. My brain hurts reading that. You know where to get ahold of me at if you have any other questions though.

  20. Good grief!! Glad you got it all worked out.

  21. Oh my, well thank goodness you got it after all that work!

  22. Hell no. This is a murderous process man.

    Crikey. Had to get my cockney accent it.

  23. this post is exhausting to read... too bad it is only 9:45 or i'd go get a drink...

  24. I'M BACK!!! My computer!! It's fixed!! Yes!!

    OK I've calmed down now.

    Well hell, it's been THREE FREAKIN' WEEKS.

    And just so you know? I'm gonna copy and paste this comment and post it on all the blogs I visit....:))))

  25. In defense of your husband's university (though it's a competitor of the one I work for), the British government has done universities no favours in regard to Tier 4. The UK Border Agency is not entirely sure what it wants to do, so universities can only blindly stumble along. Not that it helps you at all having gone through this process now, but I'm sure once the teething issues are resolved in the next couple of years it will be a bit less of a bureaucratic nightmare!

    I am surprised to hear that you were asked for a transcript. My understanding (as someone who works in university admissions) was that unlike before, the government wasn't going to interfere with the prior qualifications of incoming students. Previously, I would get phone calls from Immigration/emails from Embassies querying decisions which had been made. It's none of the government's business to query an academic decision - their job is to ensure that the student him/herself is legitimate. However, the Border Agency seems to think it will also be able to verify qualifications itself as educational fraud is rife right now, but I have my doubts that they will be successful in managing this.

    I'm forever complaining about bureaucracy - not only do I work in admissions, but I've done US to UK visa paperwork, UK to Canada paperwork, and now UK to US visa paperwork. Good times.

  26. Hi, I just stumbled across your blog and oh how I laughed at this post!

    I'm English moving to the US via India and just finsished getting our US visa's last week...with just as much hassle as you've had!! Same questions, same beauracracy and we even had to fly to Belfast in Ireland for 'our interview', which lasted all of 5 minutes! Happy days, now it's all done and dusted!

    Hope you enjoy your time in the UK!

  27. what an adventure I could not imagine

  28. Let alone feeling sick I would have had a nerve breakdown! And it's funny that my country is so keen to keep good folk out like yourself and let all the immigrants come in with nothing but the clothes on their back, 10 kids and a family at home to support on benefits. Welcome to the 'fantastic nation' I call home :-)

  29. Thanks for telling me the ending of the story first. Seriously...it helped with the suspense. And wow...it sucked up until the end...

  30. Tammy Baldwin has my heart. Love her!

  31. Late to this party, but after reading this, I don't know that I want to MOVE to another foreign country. I think just visiting should be fine enough.

    However, I think in the last ten years we've been to Canada. Oh, shoot, wait, I guess we did go to England, well the UK, cause we were in Scotland too. But that was it. I've only traveled in the US much. Our poor daughter has never left the country (and Hawaii counts as the country. hee, hee)


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.