So, the story starts because my wife is a foreign national and has a visa that permits her to stay in the UK for two years.
Now, since my wife's passport has expired and is with her consulate being renewed, I contacted the immigration service at the point in time where it would be possible to apply for a new visa allowing her to permanently settle in the UK - this was the 23rd March - and asked what the situation was when applying for a new visa without a current passport. No problem, said they, you can send in the application with a covering letter but - they said - it would be easier if you could wait until nearer the time (which happens to be tomorrow, April 19th) in case the passport becomes available to pick up.
Ok, I thought - no problems; I'll wait until the very last day then, if the passport becomes available we can send it off and, if it doesn't, I just send the covering letter that I've got prepared...
Well, the passport still wasn't ready by this morning so I got ready to send off the application. However, while putting together the package to send I realised that I'd made an error on one of the pages of the application form so I hopped online, googled up the form - it's a SET(M) form if you're interested - and pulled up the PDF file.
The application form looked completely different.
Assuming I'd clicked the wrong file I navigated back and checked - nope, this was the SET(M) file and there was some text about it having changed on April 2nd 2007...a small alarm bell started to ring in my head...
I flicked through the information - from April 2nd, the form and application process had changed and, not only had the fees more than doubled (£335 to £750), but there was a requirement for all applicants to have passed something called the Life in the UK test.
To say I was displeased is an understatement - I could have posted the form with a covering letter on the 23rd March but only held off because the immigration service told me it would be easier if I waited. Of course, they neglected to mention that if I waited I'd also incur an extra £415 in application fees, plus a £34 test (and the £10 book you need to revise the information from!).
It got worse.
I rang the immigration department and explained the problem. To paraphrase, they told me 'tough'. Apparently this change had been in the news so I should have known about it. Not only that but - because my wife hadn't passed the Life in the UK test (since we didn't even know it existed until this morning and you can't take it within seven days of booking it) she can't apply for the settlement visa but must, instead, apply for an extension of stay until she can take the Life in the UK test...
The extension visa costs £395 and will last a month or two until she has to take the test, at which point we will have to pay an additional £750 to apply for a settlement visa. So, due to the advice of the immigration service, the cost of the visa has risen from £335 to £1189 (a not entirely insubstantial increase of 355%).
And, just when I thought the day could get no better, I read about the Life in the UK test...
Apparently, the sort of information that you need to know in order to be deemed fit to live in the UK is as follows (and I've taken this from the website!):
- What and when are the Patron Saints' Days of the four countries of the UK?
- What type of constitution does the UK have?
- What are the powers of the devolved administrations?
- What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?
- How is education different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
- Who can offer information on occupational or personal pensions?
- What documents must a child have before they can work?
Never mind that my wife works in Higher Education, has a Bachelor's in Linguistics and knows considerably more about how to use the English language than I do - it is obviously far more important that she knows about the powers of the devolved administrations and what documents children need before they can work...