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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  • Comment number 516.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    513. Steve Lynham
    If i was in charge of the UK
    On the other hand spending money on ejecting illegals won't win you an election: nobody knows when an illegal immigrant is ejected. If winning an election is what you want, torture the "'safe' applicants" because they will cry in outrage reassuring voters that you are being "tough on immigration". 'safe' applicants *pay* you to do it, too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    anyone with the UKs best interests would double the size of UKBA, stop the police cuts and get them both working hand in hand to locate all these people and return them.

    no appeals. no amnesty. no nonsense.

    then leave eec so we can get back control of our borders.

    there would be more chance for our children to get jobs if all of europe werent working here

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    If i was in charge of the UK I would employ a vast number of staff to process the 'safe' applicants; they pay almost £1000 and it only takes a few hours (I know because UKBA do a premium service and one caseworker does about 4 to 5 per day) so it can be afforded. In fact it makes a huge profit! Then I would use those staff and vast profit to tackle the REAL problem: ILLEGALS.

  • Comment number 512.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    As a British Citizen I wholeheartedly object to all these "Immigrants". How can they afford houses when I can't - that's the question. Great Britain is not just a rock on which to breed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    You would wonder why all these people are so keen to be in UK when we are so awful.I would leave but I am British so I am stuck now I have retired.With all the staff cuts,name and department changes is it any wonder there is a backlog.The privatised work is not done properly just doing easiest first.Most senior management are rubbish too,the rest doing it with one hand tied behind their back!

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Surely this is just what we need.

    Throw all those in the queue out of the country, sack the incompetent idiots who are unable to process applications and put their wages in the austerity pot, and close the borders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    If there weren't so many bogus marriages out there then there would be no need for such stringent checks on each case. While of course it's frustrating for people in genuine relationships to have to wait so long, the fact is that UKBA case workers don't know them personally - therefore have no way of immediately telling whether they're genuine or not. So each person must go through the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    A bit like the police this is another joke department which cooks the figures and is totally useless. My son recently arrived in to Heathrow and watched as a man walked straight past all the passport checks and in to the country saying as he went 'I haven't the time to wait for these idiots to get their act together.' Says it all really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    My wife left the country late last year for what UKBA's website suggested was an 11-day/2-week visa application. I took unpaid leave in a new job to look after our children. The process took 3 months, costing me several thousand pounds in childcare fees. Our 3-year old son didn't recognise his mum when she came back.

    Harassing illegals is politically unprofitable: nobody would complain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    It's really ridiculous. paying around £1000 for an application and wait for such a long time.even UKBA says 99% target within 6 month. But after 6 month when you call them for an update you have to wait at least 30 min to talk with somebody. and 99% will get only 1 answer "you application is under process and you have to wait and we don't know how long it will take". what a service!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    I'm so happy this has been brought to light & discussed. I'm a Barbadian waiting 8 months for my application to be finalised! It is such a horrible feeling waiting so long & your life literally in someone else's hands; one is paralysed & imprisoned not being able to do anything like travel, change jobs(I'm currently facing) or anything else requiring documentation. UKB GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    Honesty is Best Policy !

    Immigration From Non-Europe is Not Welcome.. Just Say it Guys!

    I have More Respect for a Man- Who lets me Know -Where he Stands
    than an Angel - who is Nothing but a Devil ..

    History is Ripe!!
    Jallianwala Bagh
    African Slavery
    HiroShima NagaSaki
    Australian Aborginal Genocide
    Scottish Genocide - William Wallace
    S-Africa Genocide - Mandela

    Jesus Saves Poor!

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    i am an African married to a British citizen for 7 years and have 2 kids who are also British citizens. i moved here in 2008 and got an interim 3 year spouse visa. i have since applied for an extension to that visa and its been a year now and not a single word has been said. as a result i cant travel anywhere for holidays as they have my passport, my marriage cert, & my kids birth certificates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Good old Theresa May cutting the Border abency staff by 20% must of helped no end.
    The problem is when you look at all the top politicians from all three parties are useless misguided and paralysed,
    what we need is common sense acountability and end of Pc and red tape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    I have lived in this country for 10 years and applied for ILR under long residency, my application has been there for almost 10 months and all very quiet. Am stressed as there was no response at all to say that they received my application. It just felt like I threw my passports and supporting documents in the bin. They surely need to make some improvements!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    i married with my British wife,i send Review request about my spouse visa in Feb 2011 ,but no reply till now we have 2 kids ,we are too much upset,

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    So a post I made 3 hours ago and is STILL awaiting moderation? Are you kidding me? I guess you don't like the words 'Third World', huh? Is that it? Yet you allow some scumbag lefty MoneyMaster to spam this board numerous times with anti-white, incoherent, badly spelled, idiotic racist drivel? To hell with you, BBC mods. Really. To hell with the lot of you. You really have crossed the line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    #496 Paco... Interesting, very interesting. I don't know. Very interesting.


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