Although, the letter informed us that we could appeal against the visa refusal, they did not say how to appeal or where to appeal. After a few attempts, we finally found out an email address where we could lodge our appeal.
So, I sat down and cloaked myself with a positive and polite attitude. I wrote an email and explained the circumstances of my mother. That she is a resident of her own country; that in spite of her advanced years, she is an independent lady with her own home help; that she has four sons and two daughters who are grown up and that she is widowed and her children support her with a generous monthly stipend; that she is in general good health and she would want to visit the UK to attend a family event and return, just like she had done many times before to the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai and many other places; and finally that given that she was 87 years of age, it would be unthinkable for her to seek employment in the UK. I then explained that the cost of her entire trip, including air tickets is covered by me, a British Citizen with family in the UK with a home where she will be received and welcomed. I offered to provide them with any additional information they require and for them to let me know what else we could do to convince them of her genuine case.
I felt I had done enough in my lengthy and well set out appeal and sent it off with the expectations that any half-witted embassy staffer would see sense and grant a visa. In the meantime, my mother began to ask anyone and everyone what happened to her application for a visa. She optimistically began to prepare for her trip. She asked what the weather would be like; what would the happy couple like for a wedding present; what she should wear on the big day; would her back withstand the long flight to London. On and on the questions streamed.
Two weeks later, an email reply came back with two simple statements:
- The original decision stands
- We may wish to submit a new application
That knocked the stuffing out of all of us! Apply again on what basis? No explanation as what else might we provide in terms of evidence and the date of the wedding was less than six weeks away. Do we tell my mother the truth and say her application was turned down? Already, many people began to get in touch with us and say they have been granted visas and understandably, she became suspicious.
In desperation, I went to the British Embassy in the hope that as a British Citizen I might be granted the privilege of speaking to a lowly official who might hear our case. At the fortified gate of the embassy I was told by a sour-faced woman that my chances of seeing someone inside were less than zero unless I get an appointment before hand. I asked how might I get an appointment and she took out from a tray a strip of paper cut with scissors you usually see in airport lounges giving you the Wi-Fi password but this time it had a telephone number on it. I returned to the office and dialled the number only to be met by an answer system, which gave me options to press 1,2,3, or 4. When I answered correctly, I was directed to a pre-recorded message informing me I should go to their website. I then corrupted my answers a few times and finally had a human being answer the phone.
It was a young woman who was trained in stonewalling and nothing else. No matter what I said to her, she referred me to their infallible website. She would not even hear my story and the specific circumstances of our case. She finally stated:
Embassy Staffer: We are not trained to handle this kind of issue
Me: What are you trained to handle then?
Embassy Staffer: We do other work here
Me: Give me an example, in case I need your help in the future
Embassy Staffer: I can only refer you to our website
Me: It won’t be long now before they enhance the website and replace you
Finally, we decided to lie to my mother, something we hated doing, by saying her application is still pending. At the same time we took a number of actions:
- My wife contacted our local member of Parliament to see if he could do something at his end – His story will be in the next blog
- I produced bank statements for the previous 12 months
- I also obtained a letter from my company stating I had been employed by them for a number of years and stating my current salary
- My brother did the same
- We also included a full copy of the lease on her apartment
- My wife wrote a long letter explaining the special circumstances and why she should be granted a visa, undertaking to make sure my mother was trounced out of the UK as soon as decently possible after the wedding
- My work colleague and I logged on to the UK visa application system and began the process of application all over again.
We also booked an appointment for her to go back to the visa submission centre and again, my poor brother had to take her and explain to her that there was an error in the original application and that she had to go back and sign again. Once more, some idiot insisted on her going in alone and once again my brother hit the roof and screamed the place down that an elderly lady cannot negotiate their many check points and gateways and go it alone in order to sign a stupid piece of paper, especially this time, her application was twice the size of a medium sized country telephone directory. They finally relented and let him accompany her into their hallowed signing of applications room.
With the wedding date looming, and the days ticking, we had no choice but to wait. The wait was made more intolerable with my mother’s repeated questions about her visa.
Two weeks before the wedding and five days before she was due to fly, we had the official email informing us that a decision had been made and that we must allow for 48 hours before attempting to collect the package. I don’t know if it is arrogance or lack of sensitivity but, where every other organisation would write an email and say: “we are pleased to inform you…” or “We regret to tell you that…” but, not the British Embassy! They just tell you a decision had been made and that you have to wait 48 hours to find out what the decision is, hence increasing your anxiety and elevating your blood pressure.
My brother had the dubious pleasure of opening the package and rummaged through the contents to find the passport. He flicked through the pages of the document searching for a visa.
They granted her a multiple visa for 180 days! He took a picture of the visa and sent it to me on iPhone What’s App. It was the most wonderful sight I had seen in years.
He took her passport round to her place and gave it to her. That night, she began packing her suitcase.
The next blog in this miserable series will cover the last of the village idiots and unhelpful Member of Parliament.