A report published today by the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) found that the Visa Section in Kuala Lumpur was well-managed however there were considerable delays in dealing with administrative reviews of points-based applications.
The report "Inspection Report of the Visa Section in Kuala Lumpur" reviewed UKBA processes and procedures including the quality of decision-making and consistency of approach, customer service at the Kuala Lumpur and Singapore visa application centres as well as management and leadership within the Visa Section.
Independent Chief Inspector, John Vine CBE QPM, said, "This was the first time we examined cases where visas had been granted and I was pleased to find that all cases in our sample had been issued correctly. However I also found that there were considerable delays in dealing with administrative reviews of points-based applications. This is particularly important in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, where many of the customers are students who have a relatively short period of time to take up their place of study."
For the first time, the inspection team looked at the effect of the UKBA’s 'hub and spoke' model which sees visa applications made at the collection point (the spoke – Singapore in this case), being sent to a processing point (the hub – Kuala Lumpur), where entry clearance decisions are made. It was also the first inspection where the team examined cases where visas had been granted and the first time the Independent Chief Inspector’s core inspection criteria were used to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the UKBA’s overseas operations .
The Independent Chief Inspector added, "I saw strong evidence of effective joint working with stakeholders and delivery partners to manage the high volume of student applications during the summer period. However, I was disappointed to find that interim casework instructions of the points-based system relevant to overseas decisions had been issued in the United Kingdom but not disseminated to overseas posts. This meant that applications were refused when they could have been deferred and potentially granted."
In Kuala Lumpur, the inspection team sampled 200 randomly selected files, drawn from a list of decisions made in Kuala Lumpur since 1 March 2009. These included 100 refusal decisions including Tier 4 student visa applications, 50 cases where a visa was issued and 50 cases that had attracted an administrative review. The files were examined to assess the quality of decision making and whether correct procedures were used to reach balanced decisions.
The inspection found that entry clearance staff in Kuala Lumpur were experienced and committed. Customer service was good with prompt responses to complaints at both visa application centres and posts. The Independent Chief Inspector commented favourably on the local development of a document checklist which had been designed to clearly set out the documents required for different visa applications and in what format they were acceptable.
However, the inspection did uncover some areas that need improvement. There were considerable delays in dealing with administrative reviews of points-based applications. The team also found that a revised interim casework instruction on the points-based system, encouraging staff to contact customers and sponsors to clarify minor errors or omissions, had not been circulated to posts overseas. The team considered this to be an organisational failing which impacted negatively against customers in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The team also highlighted the need for the visa application centres' telephone helpline service to be monitored and have service standards set.
The report on Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is the third to be published on visa posts overseas by the Independent Chief Inspector, following formal assessments of the Visa Sections in Rome and Abuja in 2009. The inspection took into account the remit of the former Independent Monitor in considering cases where Refusal of Entry Clearance carries limited rights of appeal.
The full inspection report on the Visa Sections in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore can be viewed alongside previous inspection reports at www.ociukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.
To view the report that accompanies this press release, please follow the link below:
Notes to Editors
1. The Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA publishes inspection reports on his website at www.ociukba.homeoffice.gov.uk
2. The Office of the Independent Chief Inspector was created by the UK Borders Act 2007.
3. The appointment of John Vine CBE, QPM was announced in Parliament by the Home Secretary in April 2008. He took up his post in July 2008.
4. The Chief Inspector is independent of the UKBA. The Inspectorate is required to report annually to the Secretary of State. The Inspectorate’s reports will be laid before Parliament.
5. The Independent Chief Inspector’s core inspection criteria is published on his website at www.ociukba.homeoffice.gov.uk
6. The purpose of inspection of the UKBA is to provide assurance to Ministers, Parliament and the public about the safe, proper and effective delivery of immigration and nationality services.
7. Administrative review is the mechanism for reviewing refusal decisions made under the points-based system, where the customer believes an error has been made in the decision. Administrative review replaced full appeal rights, where the customer had the right for their case to be heard by an independent adjudicator in the United Kingdom.
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