13th Mar 2013 4:42pm | By Carol Driver
When applying for Indefinite Leave To Remain in the UK, Amanda Parker opted for the premium £1377 one-day service after being told she had no choice.
As the 27-year-old Kiwi, who’s been living and working in the UK for five years on an ancestry visa, works as cabin crew for an airline, being without a passport wasn’t an option.
So when applying for the visa, she wasn't prepared to be without her vital documents.
Parker - who got in touch with TNT as part of our campaign to demand better services from the UKBA (sign our petition here) was informed she couldn't apply for the new visa until there were 28 days left on her ancestry visa - misinformation which ended up costing her.
"The application is not an easy process, it's rather hard to decipher some of it, and the UKBA website is not great (the search engine sucks) and when you ring the office (good luck trying to find that number on the website) it really depends who you get. Some of them are helpful some are most definitely not.
“Most of my trouble started about a month out from when my current visa was due to expire – you can’t apply to renew your visa until then,” she explains.
"I went on to the UKBA booking system, put in my dates and the office I wanted to go to, then hit search.
"It should come up with a list of offices and dates available - and there's a small window of opportunity as you have to apply close to when your current visa expires.
"Unfortunately when I went to book my appointment, there was nothing available at any of the offices within the UK.
"I searched for a number of dates, even going beyond my expiry date and I couldn't find anything.
"I rang the UKBA offices to ask what I could do was told if there are no appointments online then there are none available.
"I would have to send my application in, which would take a minimum of six months to get back to me and I wouldn't be able to leave the UK in the meantime.
"They would have all my important stuff like my passport, birth certificate. That was all she could give me.
"Without a passport I can’t work, without work I can’t pay my rent, which means a whole new life for the sake of one visa.
"I was told I could’ve applied for an appointment in advance, despite never being told this by a UKBA adviser before.
“After a small meltdown, I rang the office again and spoke to a helpful guy who told me I could hire an immigration lawyer as they book up all the appointments.”
However, a BBC investigation last week revealed some appointments are being sold by unofficial agents, who scoop them up and sell them for a profit to those who can’t find one themselves.
Parker managed to find a lawyer and paid £1050 for their services.
Three days later, she got an appointment in Croydon, but not before having to travel to Birmingham to meet with the lawyers.
“So in the end, it cost me approx £2530 for a small plastic card that lets me stay in the country.
"I’d sum the whole thing up as stressful and expensive.”
Have you suffered at the hands of the UKBA? We want to hear your story, email email@example.com