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 296.

    We are newly weds (March 2012) and our lives are on hold. We've had to delay our honeymoon from March this year to Dec/Jan next year. It is now 5 months waiting for our documents. The new bizarre law change means I have to surrender my passport 3 more times and risk going through an avg 6 month wait again & again. A terrible start to our marriage and terrible forecast for the next 5 years. Cruel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    I and my husband have been waiting for more than 1 YEAR and the maximum time stated on our application form was 6 MONTHS, we do not have our documents, they have all been sent to UKBA, because of that we cannot get any job, how do these people expect people like us to live?! we want to work and contribute to tax but we don't even have that right! They are destroying our lives!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    who cvn blamw them when they can work even atlow wages but considerinjg thy don`t pay tax some mcan ghet bebifits and some even accommadation while the true brit suffer from cutd lack of housing poor services anda failing health service that is grossly under staffed

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    290. he never did he won't give you your referendum that con man is just out to get the vote. he will find a way to go back on his word because he wants us in the EU. clearly. vote UKIP get democracy. vote any others lose it not matter what they say it's not the truth. Yet your happy to be fooled but not me. fool you once shame on you. fool me twice shame on me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    I used to have a shotgun. I had to pay to have it converted to carry 4 bullets instead of 3 (so I could not kill anyone with just 3???) and then had to undergo costly and time consuming checks every few years. The criminals do not bother.
    Most systems PUNISH those who cooperate; immigration does that. It makes life hell for those who follow the rules. It treats them like scum. So, many go illegal

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    someone just needs to pull a finger out but atleast there is evidence of immigrants that play by the rules opposed to those who enter illegaly

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.


    "The answer it every problem is to vote UKIP..I'm going to bang the drum till it happens."

    You can bang the drum for UKIP untill your knuckles bleed, Cameron destroyed UKIP with one word- referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    The answer it every problem is to vote UKIP..I'm going to bang the drum till it happens."

    And UKIP plan to stop people marrying any non-UK citizen if they propose to make their residence in the UK do they?

  • Comment number 288.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    UKBA is defunct. There is no accountability or responsibility

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    #270 good point lets see milliband answer a few questions, now hes stuffed on the eu referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    My lot came over in 1890 from Ireland.............still not heard anything yet !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    The answer it every problem is to vote UKIP..I'm going to bang the drum till it happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    What's concerning is that its back log of people already does that happen?

    Surely its as simple as saying you said you were here on holiday or business or whatever, you should have told us the truth on arrival, time to go

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Shocking, but it reflects that the Government has no desire to resolve immigration issues, they want to drive the numbers down, what better way than to leave applications in a 'pending' tray. The UKBA staff are fighting a losing battle against no resource, no management, no direction, no interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    The BBC said many of the backlog "went back 10 or more years" yet John Vine is the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. He was appointed to his post by the Home Secretary in 2008.

    So if what the BBC says is representative, why wasn't this discovered earlier by Vine's team?

    Should the BBC have said "some" rather than "many"? I don't see any evidence this was inherited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    One of the big problems the UK has is that the priorities for those in power seems to be :
    Gay Marriage
    Dismantle the welfare state
    Dissolve the NHS
    Keep the corporates happy.

    What we want is:
    Overhaul immigration and the banks.
    Bring the Utility co's in line.
    Boost manufacturing
    A decent army and police force
    ACCOUNTABILITY in westminister.

    Never vote ConDemLab again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    " Inspectors find thousands of new cases"

    Slipped down the back of the filing cabinet I assume?

    It's safe to say that if anybody else did the job so badly they would be immediately be fired....why is this tolerated??

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    WOW you don't say. under New Labour the boders were effectivly left wide open that's why English isn't the first language down my local town's high street these days, Is that meant to be progress?, why is it you never hear multiculturalist saying things like "What Africa needs are more white people".:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    My partner, a non-EU immigrant, took a few days to get her Visa to come to the UK. When in the UK her Visa renewal took over one year! And that was after pleading for a response so she enrol for her next course.
    If coming into the country takes a few days, then why does it take a year to gain permission to stay? It should be the other way around.


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