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This is a very rare speak my mind from me. Normally I don’t talk about locations or relations however I already “outed” myself in May to get help from the Home Office and then FCDO due to the first govt. dept. mentioned causing us a problem in Turkey.

If I had a pound for everyone who said to me as a British citizen, UK embassies will help you or since your wife married a British citizen she will automatically and instantly get a British passport, I would have a small fortune. Sadly, this is totally not true and perhaps it was true a decade plus back.

Previously I did not really care about immigration or govt services. Why? It did not affect me till the wife came along who has a non-Western weak passport which makes travel tough even in Eastern Europe.

This article is in follow up from which covered our plight till Tuesday 10th May.

The purpose of this article is to show how the Home Office is not fit for purpose. Here is my high-level story.

Last year in October my then girlfriend submitted a tourist visa application in Chisinau, Moldova and the Home Office’s website stated a decision within three weeks. 5.5 weeks later despite chasing it in different forms it was refused. We then went to Odessa, Ukraine and my then girlfriend overstayed by 12 days in Moldova due to the Home Office’s fault.

In March this year we submitted an application for a two-year tourist visa in Minsk at the outsourced visa centre – literally all visa application centres are outsourced to VSF Global or TLS Contact. At the same time my mother contacted my MP to try and speed up the application. Close to one month later my MP sent the below – note the MP took one week extra to forward the reply from the Home Office:

The above does not sound too bad right? Three weeks post applying, and a decision has been made. Wrong! This is one of two or three complete untrues which shows even within the Home Office they are totally gormless.

Days and weeks past, and nothing was happening. Belarus is not the place to overstay on a visa and we were already told by an immigration official what would happen to us if we did. Note: my wife had no passport, and no one could tell us where it was.

Within 1.5 weeks to our expiry in Belarus my parents tried their MP who was far better but the Home Office do not listen to MPs too much. With ten days left I spent 12 hours a day trying all sources for help. The outsourced visa company, local embassy, other MPs, ministers, Home Office press team, emails to FCDO, calls to FCDO in London and tonnes of paid calls to the visa helpline (escalations inc. reference numbers raised).

All of the above were utterly useless, jobsworths in my view. I explained to the FCDO hotline in London we will be seeking help once we overstay, and they said that is fine. They didn’t care and no one wanted to help.

I felt ashamed to be British and do at times still. The stress was more on my wife due to my government not caring at all. The FCDO even said you are British, you have a passport, just leave the country and leave your wife there. Seriously, abandon the wife!

We were at the last weekend and again I barely slept, barely ate and spent every second fighting. The last option which I did not want to do since it would expose many personal details which even my family and friends did not know was… the media. Previously I have done tonnes of media work, so it was not hard.

Monday 9th May I called up The Guardian, told part of our plight to a woman, emailed a general mailbox and one hour later Matthew Weaver called me. I had to give him everything. Tuesday came and nothing was happening with four days left to get out. We ok’ed the story Tuesday morning.

Due to “data protection” even the two MP’s could not be given a straight answer by the Home Office. This also applied to the FCDO initially, TLS Contact and the outsourced visa helpline. Hold on this thought…

By the end of Tuesday, Matthew Weaver (journalist) received the below email:

How would you feel if the Home Office could not even give the slightest detail to two MP’s, TLS Contact or the call centre yet they tell a journalist without checking with me first and even telling it? It took over 24hrs for the Home Office to even contact me. Many times a day I was contacting the Home Office press office but nothing.

Details around: passport location, where the visa stickers are printed, how it is shipped, decision timing, shipping time and where the decision makers are, are a state secret.

My wife’s passport was in Minsk the whole time, yet no one could tell us this and some said it was in UK. Thursday 12th of May we got my wife’s passport back and left on a business class flight on Friday 13th May. Business class was all that was left at a cost of £970 from Minsk to Istanbul to collect a visa sticker in Istanbul.

We were relieved to escape on the last day of the visas only to be held in Istanbul for 24hrs with no luggage, showers, hotel, shops, restaurants, passports taken and no where to sleep. Despite having great documentation to show the Turkish authorities they wanted to deport my wife back to Minsk. At the last second on Saturday 14th of May the FCDO saved her, and we left to LHR even though my wife had no physical UK visa sticker. Under two weeks later my wife visited Home Office Croydon to get a vignette placed in her passport. Hold the last sentence in your head…

To sum up how bad the Home Office is/was, read the below from the Home Office despite my wife being in the UK, her tourist visa application being approved and collecting a visa sticker on the day of the below email:

After all of our hell, my wife returned last month to The Philippines since you cannot change a tourist visa to a spouse visa in country. At a cost of £5000 to me and just the visa fee alone is £3600 plus: English test, TB test, travel costs and adviser fee. Currently the Home Office states it is a six-month wait for a decision but as we and the media know, it will be far greater. This means the Home Office is responsible for separating families. My theory is the Home Office make a kickback from the handful of approved English certification and TB test firms.

Some questions please:
  1. Should it take a newspaper article to get help?
  2. How can the Home Office give two totally wrong answers to MP’s despite having access to the Home Office visa database?
  3. Why did the Home Office ignore two MPs, me contacting the press team and both TLS Contact plus the outsourced visa helpline raising escalations?
  4. Why should a journalist with no connection to the visa application hear about the status without my permission and before me?
  5. Should we be prioritising Ukrainians visas (even those are slow to approve with bureaucracy, and many are middle class+ economic migrants not poor people fleeing) and then leave British citizens with no help?