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Home Office response to Guardian story on visa applications

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Today (26 December) the Guardian has published an article reporting on claims it says have been made by two whistleblowers.

There are a number of claims in the article which focus on the accusation that caseworkers are prioritising more profitable visa applications over complex cases.

Separately, it reports on allegations that staff in the Family and Human Rights Unit are inadequately trained and are unable to manage their current caseload.

Our response to each of the points raised in the Guardian article are below.

On visa applications:

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“This year UKVI issued 2.6 million visas, and each application is dealt with on its individual merits. Standard overseas visa applications are prioritised on the facts of the case and not based on profit.

“Some applications can be incredibly complex and require more information before we come to a decision. Staff equally rely on a variety of sources and can, and do, ask for additional documentation where it is required and pertinent to the decision being made. If an application is delayed, the customer is informed.”

  • Applications are prioritised on the basis of a variety of factors which include, but not are limited to, the applicant’s previous history, whether they have paid a priority fee, and the time sensitivity of the application.
  • Non complex settlement applications are being processed within the service standard. We are also currently processing priority settlement visa applications. Priority service allows you to have your visa application placed at the front of the queue.
  • Immigration and nationality fees are approved by Parliament and set out in the 2014 Immigration Act.
  • Complex and non-straightforward cases have defined definitions which we set out on the website and as part of Home Office transparency data. Where applications are delayed, customers are informed.
  • Operational standards are not new and are required to support the management and movement of work. There is no evidence to suggest standards affect decision quality.
  • We have a number of mechanisms in place to ensure that staff involved in the visa decision making process deliver high quality decisions. All staff are required to undergo a pass/fail training test before they can assume decision making powers and all of our Decision Making Centres are overseen by dedicated Entry Clearance Managers who carry out quality assurance reviews of decisions on a day to day basis.


On the Family and Human Rights Unit:

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“We do not recognise these claims made by anonymous sources about the Family and Human Rights Unit. We have dedicated and hardworking staff who are prepared to go the extra mile to provide a high level of service with what are often complex applications. Their individual workload is appropriate and dependant on their seniority and experience.

“Like any organisation there is a natural turnover of staff which is entirely understandable. New caseworkers receive the proper level of training, support and supervision to ensure they can effectively do their job.”

  • There is not an 18-month backlog. The aim is to reduce our work in progress to around 12,000 applications by the end March 2019, not 2018. There is currently no service standard at present for Human Rights applications because of the level of complexity and for the very good reason that different applications take varying amounts of time to process.
  • The Family and Human Rights Unit, which has a natural level of turnover, has been and continues to recruit appropriately both to substantive and temporary roles . Many of the staff who leave do so on promotion.  
  • Caseworkers are only expected to make decisions on applications which they are trained for and competent in. Different grades of caseworkers make decisions depending upon the complexity
  • Caseworkers are not expected to make eight decisions a day. Expectations of team and individuals’ performance do of course take into account potential complexity; however we also take into account the importance of providing a quality service to the customer.
  • We are constantly seeking to modernise and improve our processes, steadily increasing the productivity of our staff as our processes become slicker.
  • Caseworkers are given proper training, appropriate mentoring and supervision. Decisions made by new caseworkers are subject to increased and rigorous checks until such time as they have sufficient experience.

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