Friday, September 14, 2012

Grounded (WARNING - long and slightly ranty post)

A few years ago I published an interactive novel, called Face the Consequences. It is a 'choose your own adventure' in which the reader could decide what the lead character would do next, click on the link of their choice and see where it took them. Some of the routes were (literally) dead ends. Other choices would force the reader back to reconsider your decision. Most of the options lead to a longer, more linear narrative, some with happy endings and some less so.

If you haven't checked it out, please do.

If you have checked it out, for a similarly complex set of options and 'endings', I can highly recommend the UK Border Agency website.

Start, as TLOML have, with 'Visas for partners of people who are settled here'. Click on the fiance visa partner visa page and then choose to 'apply from within the UK' since TLOML is very much present and correct within the UK. That'll give you some info on eligbility and some forms to fill in to apply.

Hang on a second, you say, we already filled all those forms in, and proved we have a place to live, I have a UK passport, and provided detail on the colour of our socks, our annual apple consumption, and other vital data. Isn't there a faster route?

Choose 'can you apply' to find references to something called 'switching'. This is just exactly for people like TLOML and I -  a faster process which takes into account the process we went through for the fiance visa, 6 months ago. Sounds good, right? Want to know more?

Too bad. I'll spare you a few mouse clicks and tell you know that whatever you next click on will yield you no further information on this 'switching' process: no forms, timelines, fees, or avenues to advice.

Let's call that a dead end. We did, anyway. Instead we applied for the full visa, submitting a mountain of supporting evidence, a whopping £800, and both our passports.

According to various pages on the UK Border Agency website (I'll spare you the circuitous routes to the information, just trust me on this one), the process can take 5 weeks, 12 weeks, or 6 months. We thought that range was a little broad so tried to make a 'one day' appointment, only to learn that there were no appointments on any date between July and December. His fiance visa expired end August, so we started the postal process assuming it would be faster.

7 weeks later we have heard nothing and - of course - there's no way to check the status of your application. Meanwhile we are both grounded. I've cancelled 2 business trips (nothing quite like telling Big Corp you can't go to work because you don't have a passport...) and TLOML is on the verge of cancelling his. This all massively sucks, especially as he can only effectively work when he's in the US.

I'm considering embarking on an angry letter writing campaign but of course, it's not really clear from the BA website, who to write to. Meanwhile TLOML is UK-bound, and a making a go of his new career as house husband.


One more example of this website's twists and turns... Just for shits and giggles, let's say you click on a link entitled 'Family settlement changes - online applications and new forms', in search of access to that online process and those forms.. You'll get nowhere. Just a press release blurb. No links, no nothing. 

When I put in those dead ends and loops in Face the Consequences I did so to keep the reader entertained for longer. Perhaps that's the Border Agency's purpose too. After all, till we have the visa TLOML cannot work: working his way through the BA website maze will occupy all those quiet house husband afternoons.

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