An Unexpected Holiday in Rural France

Having been once pickpocketed it was time to deal with UK Immigration about our stolen Residence Cards.

First the facts:

  • British Residence Cards stolen
  • Told when we entered the UK that if these were stolen or lost outside of the UK we must get a counterfoil or visa to return to the UK
  • Once in the UK we would then apply for a replacement card

Simple enough except:

  • Given my background with Immigration I know how the visa systems work
  • In our passports which we have possession of are our UK visas
  • The visas are clearly marked ‘multiple entry’ and valid to June 5, 2017

So re-entry to the UK should be possible based on my knowledge – the ‘multiple entry’ visa is valid until June 5.  The haunting question is whether there is an unique UK law that nullifies multiple entry visas in these circumstances given what UK Immigration told us.

Our next step was to contact the UK Immigration.

There are two ways to do this:

  • send an e-mail
  • call their pay per minute line

I decided to do both.

The email contact attempts to reply within 24 hours – so off it goes with my precise question.

I then call the pay per minute line, where the person tells me I must reapply for a card.  I tell her that is not possible, it is clear from the website that you cannot apply directly because you must first be in the UK not outside of the UK.  A terse short conversation ensues until I conclude this person knows nothing about what she is talking about and hang up.

Next call – ah!  The person listens and clearly understands the question – is the visa valid for reentry?  In the end she says that is a good question and she does not know the answer to that question.  She is honest which I appreciate, but why am I paying for this call?   Will they not call me back with an answer if they do not know the answer?

Third call – yes the person listens again, and concludes that ‘probably’ it will work but again the person is not sure.  I could ‘give it a try’.

The problem with ‘giving it a try’ is twofold.  First if there is some provision in UK law that nullified the multiple entry visa, then we would be refused entry and forever after I would have to answer ‘yes’ to that question common with all visa applications, “Have you ever been refused entry to a country?”.   Second this assumes we would be returning May 31 as planned, then, if refused, we would start the process of obtaining a new visa.  They require up to 15 working days for visas – so we would be in mid June to late June before we could return.

Three days have passed no answer to the precise written e-mailed question.

On balance we decide to act conservatively and spend the  €246 euros each and apply.  The application takes about four hours to prepare, then we must make an appointment with a company that handles UK applications [they act as a proofreader and mailbox with biometrics, and are not a decisionmaker].  The appointment made on a Friday is for the following Tuesday.

We attend the appointment.  The sympathetic reviewer expresses his regret over our loss.  We redo our fingerprints, photos.  He then forwards the application to Immigration in the UK where the wait of up to 15 business days begins.  They hold our passports while we await a decision.

That night, unexpectedly, we finally get a reply to our written e-mail.  YES your original multiple entry visa remains valid – just as I suspected.

As an aside to any one who has worked in the field of Immigration this is very basic knowledge.  It is unbelievable that the cost per minute line could not give a simple definitive answer.  My expertise is Canadian Immigration law and there was always a possibility that UK Immigration had a law or regulation that nullifies the UK entry visa once the Residence Card is issued.

This is great news – I was right all along and we can proceed to the UK with our original visas.  A huge sigh of relief EXCEPT we then realize that our passports were forwarded to the UK and we must await a decision.  ARRGH!

One sliver of hope remains.  The agency in Paris retained our passports.  They do not forward them to the UK.  However what if, upon receipt of those newer applications the UK cancelled our old visas and reissued new ones.  At that point without a valid visa we could be refused entry and would start the process of applying yet again for a new visa along with yet another payment of €246 each.

There are many problems with management of the Immigration program by the UK government, and the Canadian system is similar.  First at no point can you talk with an experienced immigration officer.  Sorry fifteen hours of classroom training then working at the pay per minute call centre does not cut it.  Second governments have inserted a private company between the user or constituent.  That private company buffers the process, so the government does not have line-ups outside their offices but something is lost.

In this case what could have been a simple question and answer across a desk, turns into a paper war with complete bungling of both information and decision-making.  Does it really save resources?  I don’t think so – in this case what could have been a five minute question and answer period has turned into time spent by the private company interviewing us, transmitting an application, then UK government resources spent evaluating an application that was unnecessary in the first place, then returning the material to the Paris visa centre.

So off we go for an unexpected holiday in rural France while we await the return of our passports to the visa centre in Paris.

Life is tough – an unexpected holiday in rural France.

Next post – a visit with Sean [son] and Jessica [daughter-in-law] in Paris for the weekend.  And maybe some pictures from a very warm day +32 and sunny.

1 thought on “An Unexpected Holiday in Rural France”

  1. Your experience sounds like a story by Kafka! What a headache! I hope you enjoy your trip to rural France and that everything is sorted by the time you return.

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