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"But I was really worried so I called UKBA – they couldn’t find me on their system, saying my reference number was invalid. The woman told me it was odd but said as it hadn’t been six months, she couldn’t take it further.” 

Sherwell was called to a meeting with her manager. “She told me based on UKBA advice, it was recommended my contract be terminated immediately. My face was a picture.”

Luckily, Sherwell managed to keep her job – she had enough evidence to show her application was in the system.

“I called the UKBA again. I wrote and faxed them a letter. After speaking to an immigration lawyer I requested all the data UKBA held on me under the Data Protection Act. It was all five years old and suggested I’d never entered the UK!

“Six months to the day after submitting my application, I called UKBA and I was told they couldn’t find my file and suggested I write to them. Out of desperation, I contacted my MP. In January UKBA finally requested my biometric data.  

“I wasn’t given any indication of how long it would take from then. I felt like I was in the middle of a nightmare. I needed to move house in April, but had no idea if I could without my documents. I couldn’t plan to go back to Oz or go on holiday. I couldn’t even get a new phone contract. My life was put on hold for eight months.”

Last week, Sherwell’s visa was approved. “It took four weeks after receiving my biometrics. If it can be turned around so quickly, why the eight-month wait?”

Brendon Watkins ‘My family could be deported’

Nearly 13 years ago, Brendon Watkins came to the UK from New Zealand. He met his now wife the following year and they both travelled together, settling in the UK on various visas to work since 2004.

In October 2012, the 35-year-old was advised by the UKBA to apply for naturalisation for indefinite leave to remain. Just weeks later he received a rejection letter – he’d applied for the wrong visa, costing him £991. Watkins, who has two kids, appealed against UKBA’s decision with the help of his MP, but it was refused. He sought help from an immigration lawyer which cost £1800 – and will also have to pay a further £991 for the correct visa. 

“I’m absorbed in our community in South Ealing; we pick up shopping for elderly neighbours and help out with gardening, for no other reason than that’s the type of people we are,” he says. “The cynical part of me says the UKBA has got money off me and they’re ticking the box with regards to lowering immigration.

“I’m being told I could expect a letter telling me to leave the country in the next two months. I can’t just uproot my family – they’re all British and would need visas for NZ.

“And all the money I’m spending is a holiday home to see the grandparents that I can no longer afford. I feel like I’m being held to ransom. They’re destroying my life.”


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UKBA Balls Up: Readers reveal UK Border Agency visa horror stories
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