The crashing of the UK visa system caused hundreds of people to be turned away.
04 May 2012
UK visa system crashes
The Home Secretary and UK immigration minister's troubles worsened today as reports that the UK Border Agency's main UK visa processing system crashed, forcing hundreds of people to be turned away.
The ministers Theresa May and Damian Green have been plagued in recent weeks trying to pacify the after effects of what many are calling the overly necessary cuts. Just as the row over queuing times at Heathrow looks to be cooling, news that the UKBA's main UK visa processing office had to turn people away looks set to reignite the issue.
The UKBA confirmed that the system processing ID cards for foreign nationals shut down, causing hundreds of applicants to be turned away. An agency spokesperson later said the system was 'back up and running' but had caused a 'small backlog of applicants'.
Non-EU nationals are required by UK immigration law to have an ID card which contains their biometric details - fingerprints and facial image - to remain in the UK, otherwise they could face deportation.
The revelation has already prompted a storm of criticism with immigration lawyer Andrew Tingley saying the UKBA's dated system is 'not fit for purpose'.
"[My clients] are angry and frustrated," said Mr Tingley. "The reason we have delays at the border is due in part to lack of staff, but it's also because of an IT system that is coming to the end of its life."
Mr Tingley's concerns were echoed by fellow immigration lawyer Maria Patsalos:
"It's just madness at the moment. We have had chief executives caught up in this who can't understand why it is so backward. There are big problems with the computer system which crashes continually. These are often high net worth people who need to be able to travel.
"This has been an ongoing problem in relation to getting appointments full stop. It's a complete mess that is getting worse."
The crash caused hundreds of people attempting to submit a same day, premium application were turned away and could now face up to three weeks to combat the resultant backlog; the UKBA says outstanding applications will be processed first.
"In order to complete cases that have been affected, we will be reducing the number of daily appointments until 18, May. We will prioritise completing all outstanding applications and those with cancelled appointments can rebook through the UK Border Agency website or can submit postal applications using our postal service," said the agency's spokesperson.
Keith Vaz, chairperson of the Commons home affairs committee has criticised the UKBA and said it just further proof of the UKBA's failure to complete its task.
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.