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 136.

    The cavalier approach of the Home Office/Borders Agency has been apparent for at least 10 years ever since Steve Moxon blew the whistle on dodgy Romanian visas and Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes had to resign. There has been an endemic indocrinated mindset in favour of open door immigration for years and re high rated 22 it's not just about staff numbers but also their attitude/effectiveness

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    How is it that we cannot police our boarders, in any one place there is at least 20 plus miles of water to contend with, it's a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    It's like a cab ride home after a night out on here, "I'm not racist but", comments. I have lots of Eastern European friends and I can assure you that I would happy to export a lot of UK born Brits to make room for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    130. ROD


  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    For economic EU Migrants we should introduce an additional tax for them only and it should be retrospective. Could call it the EU unification tax.
    (similar Germany s re-unification tax).

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    The UK government has to stop using a process that it cannot deliver. Controlling a huge number of complex immigration cases requires a large army of staff, so sack the minister in charge of it and redesign it to what is achievable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    MPs treat us with disdain. Billions spent invading other countries, overseas aid, allowing unfettered immigration without criminal checks. You can’t visit America with a criminal record, let alone live there.
    Useless Theresa May banned an American because he taught people how to defend themselves against criminals. But anyone wanting to blow us up is welcome, and you’ll get benefits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    How long before they offer G4S £50million to step in and "save the day"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    My wife is Spanish and I'm Canadian. We lived and Spain and before moving here, I went through a rigorous application process in UKBA's Madrid office. Apparently you can only get an entry stamp that's valid for 6 months from there. I submitted the exact same application here (for a 5 year permit) and have been waiting for almost 6 months now for my response!

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    There is no blanket response to this.

    Immigration takes many different forms and people want to come here for different reasons.

    I acknowledge the bad eggs want to come for the housing and benefits and once they have kids here its their tickets to stay but not everybody has that agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Slave to the System - I am not a number
    29 Minutes ago

    Another day another civil service joke. The civil service should not get automatic peerages until they can actually perform the functions that the private sector do every day.
    You mean private secter like:
    Banks(were private secter)

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Its a shambles, just like this country as a whole. I just feel sorry for my children and grandchildren.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Roland Read - 117 Thank you for backing up my point UKBA are useless and waste time and money. The government needs to have a serious look at what is going on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I watched a documentry on this last night and what I found most shocking is that there are no checks when people leave the country and we have no idea how many people have gone home. We have no idea how many people have entered illigally. All the figures are in accurate and we dont really know what is still here and who has gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    112. Drunken Hobo

    Believe me, the EU border control would do a better job !!!

    The French and German are a lot more strict when applying immigration control. They're not worried about "upsetting their own immigrant communities". They're not obsessed with multiculturalism.

    Anyways, the EU has never taken up on itself controlling the borders of member states. This is a member state task.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    It seems that regardless of which parties are in power, none of them seem capable of dealing with immigration, why? Other countries around the world seem able to manage their borders and deal with illegal immigration very effectively, why can`t we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Whistling Neil
    "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"

    There are probably too many who have only ever worked for UKBA and had experience of nowhere else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I think the question is - Where are the immigration staffs?

    1. They are not at the airports: kiosks at the airports are becoming increasingly unmanned, same in seaports too.
    2. They are not in the offices as most of them had been sacked or made redundant
    3. Number of applications have not decreased nor increased compared to previous years but the staff numbers are.

    1 + 2 + 3 = What we have now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    How long until we see comments referring to the UKBA as "racist little Englanders"? Immigration is a complete and utter joke in this country and has been for many years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    My Malaysian girlfriend had an accident 2 weeks before her visit stamp expired at the end of October 2012. To complete her treatment and remain in the UK legally we applied for a temporary visa extension on line.

    The application form we were told to complete contained nothing relevant to our situation.

    The UKBA took £561 from our bank 1st week Nov...since then we have heard nothing at all.


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