Breaking in to Britain

For centuries Great Britain invaded countries around the world. Now it seems that the pigeons are coming home to roost, as it were. Citizens from these former colonies and other countries are flocking to Great Britain, attracted to the strong currency and social care like moths to a flame. A large portion of these immigrants are from countries previously colonized by the British Empire. Then, when the European Union brought the barriers down between Great Britain and the rest of Europe, migrants from all the member states swarmed onto the little island at an alarming rate. The British people and government became alarmed and acted out like a sulky child trying to stop other children from playing with its toys when it knows that they have every right to do so. The British border control (BBC?) is using every trick in the book to prevent EU citizens from gaining access to the UK without first purchasing a seriously expensive visa. Technically EU citizens should be allowed to enter the UK on the strength of an EU residence card or even passport alone.

Getting in to the UK, then, has become difficult for all to the point where it feels like a husband breaking in to his own house because the wife has changed the locks. I’m a UK citizen and by default my partner, Frank, should be allowed to enter the UK just as I am. Having lived in Denmark for 3 months, he applied for his EU family reunification residence permit. He received an official letter stating that his application was under review, but that he was allowed to stay in the country until the result was declared. I decided that it would be fun to show him around my country, as I’m proud to be a UK citizen. Or at least I was.

After making lengthy enquiries, it became clear to me that the official letter from the Danish government, on behalf of the EU, would not be sufficient to allow entry into the UK even for a weekend break. We had no choice but to pursue a visa, so I set about creating the application online. It was all going very well and I was suitably impressed by the online forms….until it came to booking the appointment. It turned out that the visas are not handled at the British embassy, but rather at an office space provider in downtown Copenhagen. ‘That must cost the UK a pretty penny’, I mused and was feeling sorry for the downtrodden British government until I saw the price of the visa. I put on my glasses, because I thought I wasn’t seeing clearly. My eyes almost popped out on stalks when I saw the hefty price of €900 for the 5-year visa. I hastily backtracked until I could select again. This time I selected the minimum 6-month visa, but even that was €200! I decided to steel myself and just do it for Frank. I figured that if I was paying so much for the visa the service would at least be top notch. Not so.

We arrived at the office building. When I told the receptionist that I was there for a UK visa, she acknowledged with a look that said: ‘Oh yeah, them’ and directed us up to the relevant floor. There was no mention of anything British anywhere. So far no Royal treatment for my €200, but I was sure that the best was yet to come. We stepped out of the lift at the appointed floor and found ourselves in an open-plan area with a reception desk to one side and a glass-enclosed lounge area to the left. We told the receptionist we were there for a UK visa and she too acknowledged with a bored, harassed look that said ‘Oh yeah, them’. She directed us down the corridor to a room on the right. We arrived at the room only to find an interview in progress. We wandered back to reception and into the lounge area, thinking we would have a coffee while we waited. I noticed that the receptionist was looking distressed and trying to get our attention.

“You need to go to the office down to the left”

“I know”, I said. “We’ve just been there. There’s an interview in progress.”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“So we can’t have a coffee over there?” I asked, indicating the garden of Eden lounge area.

“No” she replied tersely

At this point I guess I could have staged a passive protest by actually barging into the lounge for a coffee, but I didn’t want to embarrass Frank or cause an international incident. It seemed that my €200 didn’t extend to coffee…or water for that matter. The receptionist was insistent that we should go to the room she had indicated, so we went back there. The interview was still in progress, but the gent behind the desk noticed us this time.

“We’re here for a visa application”, I said cautiously.

“Yes, come in”, he said in a tone that was a mixture of annoyance and fatigue. With his tall stature, tweed jacket, ruddy complexion and carefully coiffured greying hair, he looked every bit the displaced English country squire. If I were to guess, I would say that he lost his land titles and was forced to seek employment in public services to pay for his small flat in Croydon. Just a guess though. I doubt he was the ambassador…although with UK government budget cuts, anything is possible. I looked around, selecting my preferred chair in the tiny room.

“THERE! THERE!” he said forcefully as a teacher to a child. We obeyed and sat in a corner waiting for his interview to finish. As we sat there, more applicants tumbled into the office until there was no place to sit. This was solved by the squire sending some of the applicants to the office next door for fingerprinting and related biometrics. So they managed to shuffle the applicants around. So far I wasn’t impressed at the value for money.

Our turn came and we were invited to sit at the desk where Frank was questioned about the details on his form. I tried a few light-hearted comments to brighten the mood, perhaps elicit a smile, but I might as well have kept my mouth shut. He was determined that someone should atone for his shitty job and that someone seemed to be the visa applicants. After he had made copies of Frank’s passport he seated us in the corner again until it was our turn to go to ‘the next room’. There we found a nervous Polish guy who had been working in the Northern Ireland office, but explained, almost apologetically, how he had been flown across to Denmark to fill in for someone who had gone crazy….or was on leave. I can’t remember. He did the business with the biometrics, assured us that all would be well and we left. That was it. End of story.  The whole experience reminds me very much of the story of the little boy who was promised a pony and then locked up in a room with only a pile of pony manure in the middle. When they went to check on him later in the day, they found him still digging around in the manure saying: “There must be a pony in here somewhere…”

Such was our experience with the UK visa service in Denmark. €200 for the privilege of being interviewed, bossed around and having fingerprints taken. No coffee, no water and definitely no pony!

© 2016

1 Comment

  1. The joys of bureaucracy?

    Liked by 1 person

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