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John Vine, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, today released investigation reports on the Home Office’s Dhaka and Warsaw visa sections.
The Chief Inspector found the customer service at both visa sections was good, but the quality of decision making was poor.
A press release quoted him as saying: “I was pleased to find that customer service targets were being met across most of the categories of visa applications we inspected at both visa sections, and there was a genuine commitment to improving customer service standards.”
“However, the quality of decision-making was poor in all the visa categories I inspected at both Dhaka and Warsaw. It is vitally important, if the visa application process is to be fair and transparent, that the Home Office corrects these serious failings in its decision making. Given the poor level of decision quality the Home Office should also review the target for Other Visitor applications in Warsaw to bring decision quality and ultimately customer service to an acceptable standard.”
The press release also noted that the Chief Inspector found in Dhaka:
• customer service targets were being met in the majority of the Family Visitor, Other Visitor and Tier 4 cases. However, targets for settlement visa applications were not being met;
• a number of initiatives had been implemented to improve customer service, including extended opening hours for Visa Application Centres and a shortened registration process
• staff were committed to addressing correspondence and complaints promptly and aimed to provide a full response to applicants within five working days;
• an effective working relationship between the Risk and Liaison Overseas Network (RALON) and entry clearance staff, was helping to tackle visa abuse;
• problems with half of the cases examined including; misinterpretation of evidence or failure to take account of positive evidence provided by applicants; not retaining relevant supporting documentation; not recording clear grounds for their decision; and refusing applicants for failing to provide information, the need for which they would not have been aware of at the time of making their application;
In Warsaw the Chief Inspector found:
• despite a 460% increase in application volumes since July 2012, Other Visitor applications were being processed within 12 days. This was a good performance;
• files were provided in a timely manner, indicating an efficient file storage and retrieval process and information security and data protection issues were treated seriously;
• the quality of decision making was poor. The decision to refuse the visa could not be maintained in 12% of the cases in our file sample. In a further 24% of the cases there were issues with the quality of decision making;
• the level of quality control conducted by ECMs in Warsaw was inadequate. In the 10 months to July 2013 an average of only 10% of refusal decisions were reviewed and between February and April 2013 this fell to just over 3%;
• ECOs in Warsaw had a benchmark target to process 45 Other Visitor applications per day. This equated to just 10 minutes per application;
• the RALON risk profile was not aligned with the actual refusal rates. Countries which did not feature on the profile had relatively high refusal rates whilst countries which were thought to be high risk had lower refusal rates.