UKBA backlogs: Inspectors find thousands of new cases


John Vine, chief inspector of immigration: "The agency is bedevilled with paper"

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Immigration inspectors have discovered more UK Border Agency (UKBA) backlogs, totalling more than 16,000 cases.

The chief inspector of immigration said the latest backlogs, relating to requests to settle through marriage, were "unacceptable".

The backlogs included people waiting a decade to hear if their partner had permission to live in the UK.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper denied the Border Agency was a "shambles", and said managers were "getting a grip".

The marriage or civil partnership-related backlog is thought to be the 10th category of unresolved cases that has emerged in the past two years.

Inspectors looked at how well the agency was handling applications from people from outside the European Economic Area who have a partner already in the country, such as a husband or wife who is British.


Graphic showing the size of the backlog against the total number of immigration cases.
  • Live asylum cases: 25,500
  • Asylum controlled archive: 74,000
  • Live immigration cases: 3,500
  • Immigration controlled archive: 21,000
  • Migration Refusal Pool: 174,057
  • Ex-Foreign National Offenders living in the community: 3,954
  • Ex-Foreign National Offenders untraced: 53
  • Student visa checks backlog: Unknown number
  • Rejected Spousal application seeking reconsideration: 14,000
  • Temporary migrants including marriage applicants: 2,100 (now closed)
  • Total: 316,000

Sources: Home Affairs Committee and inspection reports, Home Office

John Vine, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said the majority of decisions were reasonable and caseworkers checked whether applicants were known criminals.

But he said his team had found a backlog of 14,000 cases where the UKBA failed to deal with requests to reconsider decisions after an initial rejection.

When inspectors visited a UKBA office in Sheffield they found a further backlog of 2,100 "complex" temporary migration cases. These included 180 marriage entry or settlement applications which had not received an initial decision. Some dated back to 2003.

One inspector said the unresolved applications had been effectively "dumped" on the Sheffield team after being transferred in a box from the UKBA's Croydon offices. Officials have since dealt with these cases.

At the time of the inspection last year, the marriage-related backlog was growing at a rate of 700 cases a month. Caseworkers told inspectors they could not deal with them until they had received new policy guidance.

However, a senior manager told inspectors that agency chiefs were unaware that these cases were not being dealt with and staff could make decisions without waiting for new policy.

'Not acceptable'

Mr Vine said: "I don't think I should be discovering these backlogs. The agency should know about its workload. It should prioritise its resources and, at the very least, have a plan to deal with some of the things that we come across in inspection.

"For people to be in such a backlog of cases is not acceptable and I urge the agency to deal with the cases swiftly. To wait such a long time, even if your case is complex, is completely outside any service standards."

Case study

Gerard Hearne, from Rotherham, has been trying to bring his Thai wife to the UK since last year.

"We got married in early February out there. I came back after two weeks, I had to get back to the UK," he says.

"I kept thinking... two months, three months, she'll have her visa.

"When she was turned down in October and I organised the appeal, I went out there in late November.

"I went to spend a month with her and I naively thought that by having sent the appeal into Leicester that that would be forwarded to Bangkok, they would quickly check it through, 'say yes, ok'.

"And I, naively, thought my wife would be coming back to me for Christmas on 22 December.

"As the month went on it became apparent that that was never going to happen. I did actually ring the embassy at one point to say 'have you got the documentation?'

"I just try and get through each day. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel reasonable ok and other days I feel so low, so down. It's difficult to know how to keep going. "

The immigration minister said: "We inherited an agency which had a lot of problems, we've got a new management team to deal with it. They're getting a grip and dealing with it."

Mr Harper said 14,000 of the cases "weren't people waiting for a decision", but people "who didn't like the decision and didn't go through the proper appeal mechanism".

"And what the Border Agency should have said in the past, it should have said 'no, there's an appeal process, if you don't like the decision, appeal'," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"But it didn't do that, it kind of accepted these requests [and] didn't have a process to deal with them.

"We have now got a clear policy, published, about how we deal with those - which is people should appeal properly and those people who have been refused are not allowed to stay here. Should leave the country and we will be taking steps to make sure that they do."

Lin Homer, who headed the Border and Immigration Agency and later the UK Border Agency, between 2005 and 2010, is currently chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs.

Chart showing the number of spouses and civil partners granted leave to remain in the UK since

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  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    I dont agree with Immigration what so ever, but I can understand why people do it. My brothers wife is Thai an she came to live with us back in October 2011 an it took almost a year to sort her visa out and I must say the people dealing with it were completely useless and watsed hours of our time and plenty of our money, no wonder people want to come in illegally!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Those of you thinking exiting the EU will lead to EU migrants being told to leave are wrong. Most of them have already settled and had 2+ children.

    The damage is done and is irreversible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    "Is anyone surprised? Government agencies are notoriously incompetent and inefficient, run on a 'jobs for the boys' basis. Good competent managers from private industry could sort it out"

    Bull. It's precisely because of the import of private sector managers and practices that this sort of thing happens: first cut staffing to the bone and then scrape by (badly) with the poor sods that are left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    And what of the full legal costs, funded by taxpayers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    103 Mustafa Yorumcu - I know, that's the point. Look how badly we're screwing up the part of immigration we're in control of. Yet some people think that we'd be better off if the UKBA were also in control of EU immigration.
    I'd say at best, it'd make no difference. At worst, it'd waste a lot more money and we'd still let everybody in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    When are they going to start sacking the incompetant idiots running shambles?

    Answer - Never, they wiull change the name over the door, tell us they need to pay more for senior staff and give them all a pay rise.

    How unreasonable of us to expect the state to deliver when we pay thsm to do soemthing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    102. chezza100

    So i suppose we should just keep the flood gates open?!? I am sorry but there are plenty of other countries these immigrants can try get into! But they won't because we are known as benefit britain!! i see scores of them at the weekends just walking around town and i can assure you none of them have worked here or contribute to our economy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Yet another example of public sector ineptitude. I would agree that the Borders Agency is one department that people would like to see properly stffed funded and well led.

    I think that Lin Homer was once regarded as a "high flyer" in the civil service. It says it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    It's about push or pull. Poor immigrants are being 'pulled' by British benefits. Set sensible qualifying threshold standards for welfare payments and then join Shengen - this will reduce the problem because they will go elsewhere while making the incompetent UKBF redundant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Conservative and Labour governments have done nothing but either made it worse or just paid lip service to immigration. Figures are being hidden or massaged and there are far too many appeals. Why not let people who care about this country, make the rules on immigration and work in this department. See how fast this mess is sorted out then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I am in this country, I have 'lost' my passport. You can't touch me ha ha ha!!!

  • Comment number 105.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I can guarantee that no one who thinks it is so simple and easy has ever worked for UKBA nor ever had reason to deal with it nor knows anyone who ever has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    73. Drunken Hobo
    This is why leaving the EU due to their immigration policy is a non-argument. Our politicians' capacity for incompetence far outstrips the EU's!
    Things would be no better if they were given more power.

    Just what is the relevance ??!?
    These files are for immigration from overseas.
    An EU citizen coming to UK has nothing to do with UKBA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    2 Minutes ago
    what is adding to the backlog is people re-appealing when their initial application is rejected!! If the initial application is rejected, then they should be sent on their way!

    Some people are not given the right to appeal and some do not get a fair hearing hence the right to appeal

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I don't think it's healthy for a country to allow such high numbers of immigration on an endless basis.
    What's that you say? Racist? No, i'm not a racist, stop calling me a racist, please!
    Oh no, I don't want to lose my job, be harrassed, called names or arrested for my beliefs.
    OK I take it back, immigration is wonderful for Britain, I love it. Happy now?

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I think more worrying is the influx from EU poorer nations such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Go to Boston, Lincolnshire and see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Another instance of a Minister denying that anything is wrong. They are never wrong but it is clear that for whatever reason the UKBA is a shambles and under resourced. It is also clear that inefficient managers need to be rooted out and sacked on the spot

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    These are people who are applying for family visas! They want to live in the same country as their husband or wife. Everyone commenting to just stop all immigration obviously has never experienced the agony that this process is for the people involved.


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