My Thai wife and I arrived back in the UK for the first time in five years last Wednesday, so our first encounter with British bureaucracy was at Rhoose airport’s immigration. My wife was coming in on a five-year Spanish Residency Card, and the official had never seen an Asian with one before. The poor man didn’t know what to do, so he gave her a six-month visa.
A friend coming in six months ago in exactly the same circumstances, obtained an open-ended right to remain for his wife, but they could also have given her ninety days (I think). ‘Get her residency as soon as you can’, he said to me quietly.
The following Friday, I went to the Job Centre to see about a National Insurance number for her. The official turned to his computer, and I waited while he called up the right page. After ten minutes, I asked whether there was a problem. ‘No’, he replied, ‘I’m just Googling how to apply for a new NI number’.
I couldn’t believe my ears! British bureaucracy… even civil servants, now have to use an American search engine to find the correct government policy! It doesn’t sound right to me. I wanted to ask whether they still receive training, but civil servants are not renowned for their sense of humour.
It turns out that we have to travel fifty miles to make the application!
So, that left residency to sort out, and to get more information, we visited the local Citizen’s Advice Centre (C.A.B.). The man took one look at the stamp in my wife’s passport and left to discuss the matter with his supervisor. ‘I’m sorry’, he said, ‘but this is way over our heads. We can’t even understand how you got this far!’.
‘Research, hard work and perseverance’, I replied.
‘We can only suggest that you go to see an immigration lawyer’, he said offering me a list to choose from.
I declined it, and left, thinking how sad it was that the C.A.B. had degenerated into a mere funnel for the local branch of the legal profession… especially since legal aid has been abolished.
What sort of a country have I brought my wife back to?
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Podcast: British Bureaucracy