Border Agency's visa renewal delay angers grieving woman

Helen Smith Helen Smith sent a fax to the Border Agency but did not receive a reply

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A New Zealand woman living in Kent has claimed the UK Border Agency (UKBA) prevented her from travelling to the funeral of her grandfather in Auckland.

Helen Smith, who lives in Deal with her British husband and their two children, applied for a new visa last September.

But she is still waiting for officials to return her passport, and said her plea to speed up the process after her grandfather's death was rejected.

UKBA said applicants could not be given updates within the first six months.

Mrs Smith said not being able to attend her grandfather's funeral had been "devastating".

"You've got the support of your family but you just want to be there with them and go through the whole grief and saying goodbye with them," she said.

She had sent a fax to the Border Agency outlining the situation, but did not receive a reply.

Her husband, Ross Smith, said: "I expected an answer that day because of the severity of what had happened - somebody had actually died.

"So somebody must've picked that fax up... and we got nothing, so that was as low as it gets in my eyes."

'Risk-based approach'

Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, said he was taking up Mrs Smith's case with the immigration minister.

"In cases like this, clearly it should be fast-tracked and what they need to do is take a more risk-based approach," he said.

The UKBA website informs applicants that "you do not need to contact us to check the progress of your application".

"We will contact you as soon as a decision has been made or if we require further information.

"Our staff cannot provide any information about your application if you applied less than six months ago."

Mrs Smith said she was still hoping to fly to New Zealand for the scattering of her grandfather's ashes.

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