Well dear readers, the much criticised UKBA Kyiv…….at least much criticised here in Ukraine by both Ukrainians and Brits alike, has managed to irk me once more……..and that is before my good lady gets there on 23rd to apply for another UK Visa for the parents 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Now the UKBA is quite often the very first British State organ that any foreigner requiring a Visa will come across. The UKBA has a function to perform of course, and that is try to insure that those foreigners visiting dear ol’ Blighty are coming under the right Visa and are not likely, in the balance of probability, to overstay their welcome or transgress the terms of their Visa…..namely if arriving as a tourist they do not work, or if arriving on a Private Visa, they do not perform brain surgery in an NHS Trust (at least officially).
Nobody, including myself, are denying the soft administrative barrier they provide needs to be there. The amount of illegal westerners in Ukraine is just as annoying as the amount of illegal foreigners in the UK as far as I am concerned.
However, as the UKBA is the first British State organ most foreigners come into contact with, you would expect a firm but fair, helpful and polite UK Plc welcome, even if a Visa is going to be denied by the UK officials hiding behind a small army of locals facing the “public”.
So, today, I get a panicked telephone call from the son of a friend, who is in Kyiv at the UKBA and has been told his Visa application form is wrong, go away, put it right and come back.
Before I go into the “who’s” at the UKBA and what actually occured, it is better to provide you with a bit of background to the application itself.
The gentleman in question who came up against the Great British less than warm handshake is the eldest son of a quasi-important person in Odessa society. He is a male model and has fronted advertising campaigns for Bee-Line (a major mobile telephone service provider in Russia and Ukraine) amongst many.
He is on the books of a European modelling agency who were contacted back in May by a London modelling agency wanting him to come to the UK and front a campaign for a major UK company. By the 18th May contracts between him, the European agency, the UK agency and UK client had been signed, sponsoring letters from the UK Model agency arrived with him along with funds for flights and UK Visa.
Indeed, of however many models there are on the planet, the UK client had chosen him. I imagine that is similar odds to winning the lottery……but looking like roadkill myself, unless there was some form of gurning competition, I am unlikely to ever feature in an advertising campaign.
He then compiles notorised documents showing his financial worth, assets in Ukraine etc to show he will not overstay his welcome if given a UK Work Visa together with the letter from the UK modelling agency sponsoring him and confirming all expenses he will incure in the UK will be footed by them.
His English is not good but then, how much English do you need to stand in front of a camera for a few weeks?
Anyway, on-line Visa application form completed by those back in Blighty, half a rain forest in hand, he attended the UKBA Kyiv today to submit his application and be asked a few banal questions by a fellow Ukrainian who has no say over whether he gets a Visa or not……that is the perogative of a UK national he will never ever meet.
He takes a seat and is immediately told the Visa application is for the wrong Visa. The model agency had applied for a Tier 2 Visa which did not cover what he does……namely nothing special other than stand in front of a camera.
At this point dear readers, I am mindful of libel, so we will stick to descriptions of those involved in the Kyiv UKBA who dealt with him.
Our male model is “interviewed” by Mr X who hides his UKBA name badge behind his UKBA tie. I am told he was the only male working there today, is built “like a stick”, aged approximately 25 years, with black hair and sat at a desk near the window who immediately points out, that the Visa application for a Tier 2 Visa is wrong and that he needs to go away and change the on-line application form to the right Visa, resubmit it, print it again and come back.
Fair enough, other than his English is not good, the UK model agency obviously have someone either clueless who submitted the application and does not know what Visa he should have, or clicked on the wrong drop-down…….or the UKBA staff are completely clueless and simply obstructive…….so the obvious question follows.
Q: “Do you know which Visa it should be?”
A; “Yes…….but I am not telling you, go away and do the form again”
Interview ended there and then……with the usual Ukrainian pause associated with “slip me a few $ and I will tell you which Visa you need”.
Before he has even finished closing the door to the interview room, my friend’s son is decended upon by a woman from an agency with dark brown hair cut in a long bob who produces a card with the telephone number Kyiv 3900999, who immediately offers to put matters right for UAH 1000………and seems quite pally with Mr X. Hmmmm!!!!
This, for me, is more disconcerting than the extreme unhelpfulness displayed when not informing someone invited to the UK by a UK company for the benefit of a UK organsiation’s advertising campaign which Visa they actually should apply for.
These people represent the UK (and me) and quite frankly rudeness, unhelpfulness and then to be pounced upon by someone asking for money to put things right whilst still inside the UKBA building simply, as far as I am concerned, does not represent the UK and hopefully does not portray the image the UK is trying to give to the rest of the planet either!
Now returning to the issue of the UAH 1000 to put matters right, I can see only 4 possible scenarios:
1. There is a genuine service to put the forms right for UAH 1000. However, the system works on an appointment basis electonically submitted. How, for transparency purposes would taking UAH 1000 cash without an appointment number to marry the cash payment to, prevent a nice little cash in hand scam?
2. This is not an official service but it is a scam amongst the staff at the UKBA or maybe just Mr X and the agency at the other end of Kyiv 3900999.
3. This is not an official service, Ms Y does not work for the UKBA. If so, what is she doing in the UKBA offices hijacking people for UAH 1000 to put forms right? I, as a UK citizen could not even enter the premises and had to wait outside in -20 temperatures the last time my good woman went for a UK Visa for 40 minutes. How is she allowed in there to do that?
4. It is a ligitimate service that is strangely not advertised on the website and charged in very nice round numbers unlike the fees for the Visas themselves…..but why does Ms Y work for the agency at the end of Kyiv 3900999?
It is at this point I get the panicked telephone call from the mother of this male model…….as of course his English is nowhere near good enough to complete the now required new on-line form…….and there is no way to amend the old one on line either…..even if he knew which Visa was required…….but of course he doesn’t because the helpful UKBA won’t tell him…….despite Mr Hague now pressing the FCO to generate business for the UK.
How much the modelling industry is worth I have no idea……and how much a successful advertising campaign using this particular Ukrainian model, selected by the UK client from amongst tens of thousands of models is worth is anyones guess……but that is irrelevant as of course he won’t get to go and generate economic growth in the UK economy because the unhelpful UKBA staff will not answer a simple question as to which Visa he should be applying for despite the fact they know and they are sat face to face.
Mr Hague, I would suggest another open letter to the UKBA staff similar to that you sent all FCO staff encouraging them to help the UK economy……a UK economy that actually pays their bloody wages.
Anyway, I digress slightly, I then contact the friend’s son in Kyiv…..who is not impressed with the UK at this point……despite having met nobody from the UK of course.
I agree to complete another on-line application form there and then (my English being slightly better than his and my typing speed probably faster also) after getting the full story and descriptions of those involved for this blog, I advice him to find an Internet Cafe where he can print out the new application and return hot-foot to the UKBA offices.
10 minutes later, an on-line application requesting the a different but seemingly more appropriate Visa has been submitted and he is printing it somewhere in Kyiv, this time for a basic 6 month Work Visa not subject to any of the Tier system……considering Tier 2 was deemed wrong……but this Visa on the drop-down seems to cover everything not associated with the Tier system……as I cannot see any Visa, Tiered or not, that matches being a human coat hanger.
He returns, is told by the same Mr X, still hiding his name badge with his UKBA tie that this Visa is also wrong and in fact stopped existing two years ago……despite it being on the UKBA official Visa drop-down.
Q: What is the right Visa then, this is the second time today.
A: If you cannot read English that is not my fault. That is it now, go away!
Q: What is your name?
A: My name is not relevant, you time is over get out of the building before security is called.
So, dear readers, now, after two attempts, and one application written by someone who can read and write English much better than the Ukrainian UKBA official who really needs the sack as I strongly object to my taxes paying his salary……our male model is now on route back to Odessa without even having submitted his Visa application….. without knowing whichVisa is the right Visa to apply again……..and without paying the UAH 1000 to have the forms “put right”.
The UK client may or may not get their model and their advertising campaign may or may not get the face they wanted.
Now this tale will be nothing new to the UK expats living here in Ukraine…….or any other nation looking at the Expat forums…….and it is certainly old news for the Ukrainians applying for Visas to the UK……but as a British citizen, I have to say that this latest incident is in no way how I would wish for my nation to be represented in a country which has afforded me the right to live here permanently and with whose citizens I live with, day in and day out. The UK tries to project a “firm but fair” corporate image across the globe…….not a rude, possibly corrupt, unhelpful holier than thou attitude.
Now before all you expats and Ukrainians fill the comments section of this post, stating I should complain and send me links to the complaints section of the UKBA, I will remind you that apart from what I have done personally regarding the completion of the new on-line application, everything is “hearsay” evidence as per the law……although I do not doubt it……. especially when taken as one incident amongst many with the UKBA Kyiv…….as many incidents prove a trend when it comes to rudeness, unhelpfulness, pregnant pauses generally associated with “now is the time to slip me some cash” and overtly portraying UK Plc in an extremely poor light.
Now if anyone should complain it should be the gentleman in question of course. The problem then is, complain now and put somebdy’s nose out and have his Visa refused, or wait and then complain? If the Visa is refused then any subsequent complaint will undoubtedly be written-off as sour grapes.
Is it too much to ask for those who officially represent the UK (be they UK nationals or Ukrainians) to possess manners and the “reasonable man” attitude when dealing with people who have yet to have contact with anything else “British”?
Is the bar set so low when recruiting these people?
In an effort at fair play and proving that “Britishness” is not represented by tw*ts, I think some form of payback is required to at least allow this gentleman to even get to the point of submitting his Visa application (be it subsequently refused or not).
I am tempted to apply for every single possible Visa on every single possible drop-down (whether they still exist or not) and take up ever single possible appointment time in an effort to get this application submitted……all of these applications written in perfect English so that it meets the standard of the UKBA’s Mr X, the Ukrainian English language master.
Rest assured I will not waste my time with the UKBA complaints system which will not be seen by anyone but the UKBA, but will write to Mr William Hague, email this to His Excellency Mr Turner, copy it to former Ambassadors I am aware of, two UK Consuls here in Ukraine, send it to several RADA ministers I know notwithstanding plastering it over more Expat forums than the UKBA can combat in the next 24 hours.
It is not about the UKBA as an entity or even whether he eventually gets a Visa or not, it is about STANDARDS, it is about MANNERS, it is about how they indirectly represent ME, it is about REPRESENTING MY NATION, it is about MY TAXES PAYING FOR TW*TS…….and it is about finding out WHICH Visa is the right Visa for this gentleman and WHY it is such a closely guarded secret that can only be unlocked by paying UAH 1000!!