08 January 2013

Home Secretary promises to investigate incorrect UK visa text messages

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The Home Secretary Theresa May has promised to investigate text messages which incorrectly instructed people in possession of valid UK visas and passports they were required to leave the country.

UK visa

Mrs May has promised to look into how people incorrectly received the worrying text messages.

Private outsourcing company Capita secured a £40 million contract with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in September last year to track down and remove 174,000 people who had either entered the country illegally or overstayed their UK visa.

The company began sending text messages to people informing them they were required to leave the country over the Christmas period. However, reports quickly began to emerge of people with permission to remain in the UK receiving the worrying message.

'Message from the UK Border Agency: You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain,' read the message, with instruction to contact the UKBA immediately.

People reported to have received the text message include a woman with a valid British passport and a man in possession of a valid UK visa who had invested £1 million in a British business.

A spokesperson for Capita insisted it was working on information received from the UKBA:

"A contact telephone number is provided for applicants to discuss their case, and any individual contacted who believes they have valid leave should make use of this number.

"Capita has been instructed to contact individuals regardless of their legal representation as many of the details the UK Border Agency has on file may be inaccurate and out of date given the age of the cases."

The UKBA admitted there could be errors in records as some are over four years old.

However, Mrs May has promised to look into the errors after being pressed on the matter by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman Julian Huppert during Home Office questions in the House of Commons yesterday.

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the text message scheme is an optimistic move from Capita.

"The vast majority of people in the UK illegally who receive the text message are unlikely to contact the UKBA through fear of being deported," said Ms Murdock.

"The most likely people to contact the UKBA are those who have either received the message in error or those who are unaware of their immigration status. In both cases it is advisable to contact either the UKBA or an immigration adviser to try and clarify your status."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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