Monday, July 13, 2009

What Home Office?

Here's a copy of a complaint email which I sent to the Home Office recently, regarding the most abhorrant experience we've experience in trying to apply a student visa for her to remain in the UK. I'm sure many fellow visa-applying members will find this helpful and relevant -- feel free to use it as a reference.

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Jonathan and I am writing to you on behalf of my partner who is currently applying for leave to remain in the UK under the Points Based Tier 4 scheme.

She sent in her visa application as far back as 10 weeks ago, and completed her submission of biometric information on 3rd June 2009 at the biometric centre in Croyden, England. On that specific day when she turned up promptly for her assigned appointment, she was made to wait more than three hours despite having adhered to the given time. During those three hours where she and others were made to wait, no staff from the centre appeared in person to explain the cause of the delay, nor to apologize for any inconvenience caused.

There was, however, an announcement running on the PA which kept repeating a message which accounted the (blatantly obvious) delay which was ongoing. This in itself seems to be quite a rather poor and lackluster approach in managing the centre -- I would think the Home Office would like to approach and resolve such matters with the public using a member of staff, instead of hiding behind a cold, pre-recorded message which plays from the ceiling without offering any explanation for the delay whatsoever.

Having said that, I would like to enquire as to why her visa application is taking such a long time to be processed. Her biometric information was submitted nearly six weeks ago -- surely doesn't that warrant some sort of correspondence on the Home Office's behalf to update her of the situation? With such poor service notwithstanding, she has had to cancel or reschedule several travel plans which were made before the visa application due to inaccessibility of her own passport. This has proved to be costly and extremely inconvenient, as all these changes and cancellations would obviously require money.

While I understand that the Home Office are evidently oblivious to personal problems as such, it would help effect a more positive image to the visa-applying public if they were more responsible and accountable for the multitude of applications (and passports) they receive on a daily basis. As a registered UK taxpayer, I am concerned that my contributions do not see any improvement whatsoever towards the customer service standards as well as attitudes of the Home Office. The main contact line, listed as 0870 606 7766, is almost always inaccessible and provides the caller with no option of waiting in line to be spoken to. With such strained and poorly-managed resources, I wonder why the Home Office even bothers publishing that number on its website at all.

I also observed that you have left out correspondent details such as phone numbers and email addresses out of official letterheads in documents sent by the Home Office. This makes me question why the Home Office operates on such an averse level of unwillingness in terms of being accountable and contactable. On the Home Office website, the UK Border Agency customer charter (which isn't easy to find, might I add) states that 75% of applications under the Points based Tier 4 system should receive a response within 4 weeks. I shudder to think how much longer the other 25% will have to wait. Additionally, on the Home Office's contact page, it states that enquiries should only be made 14 weeks after providing biometric information.

Firstly, I would like to know why it might take up to 14 weeks (or more) to process an application when 75% of your applications are purportedly processed within 4 weeks. I can only imagine that 14 weeks would be the timeframe where the Home Office finally admits that they might have actually misplaced an applicant's information and documents -- something which people I personally know have had happen to them.

If the UK wants to project itself as a hospitable country that welcomes diversity in the form of visitors, students and workers from foreign countries, then may I strongly suggest that the best place to start would be the Home Office. With the very apt and overdue departure of your Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, I was looking forward to numerous changes and improvements to the way the Home Office handles matters, most notably in the areas of visa applications. This has, obviously, not been the case, and I must say that I, along with many members of the visa-applying public, am most disheartened and disenchanted.

Should you require more detailed information, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing a response soon.

Best regards,

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Twelfth Month

And so the summer term has finally come to a close, and with it my first year at Guildhall is over. Unbelievably quickly, might I add. IPEs for both first and second years are all over, and they've all been a great success. The first year's IPEs were especially satisfying, and I've had a great time workshopping each piece including my own. Hopefully I can get a recording of it up sometime soon!

So, lots of people have been wondering (or at least silently questioning) what my Leadership course is really all about. Recently, Guildhall CONNECT just finished a massive concert featuring all its different ensembles under its wing. I was, of course, a part of the concert -- it was really inspiring to work with every single participant and ensemble. Chigusa Fukato, a writer for the Piano Teachers' National Association of Japan, covered this project starting from ensemble workshops and rehearsals all the way to the big concert, and came up with a few brilliant online articles which can be found here and here.

Here are a couple videos that would perhaps explain better. Enjoy!

Interview with Paul and Sigrun Griffiths

Urban Sounds In Action

I'll be headed over to Singapore on 2 Aug, arriving on the 3rd. Guildhall is sending the first years to Southeast Asia for projects throughout the entire month of August, so I'll be in Singapore for two weeks, KL for one and than Bali for the last week. I'm hoping to squeeze in another week back in Singapore before heading back to London, just in time for Min-joo's birthday!