Shane Woodborne had been planning to visit Britain last February with the Camerata Salzburg, in which he is a cellist, accompanying Hilary Hahn on a short tour. As a South African citizen, he had to travel to Vienna and complete a biometric application, which he did in good time. He received no reply and the tour went ahead without him. His passport was returned a week after the tour ended.
The UK Immigration Service is getting a bad name for mishandling legitimate applications. Shane is not taking it lying down. He has written to the chair of the House of Commons home affairs committee, Keith Vaz, requesting an inquiry. Here’s his letter:
The Rt Hon Keith Vaz
c/o Clerk of the Home Affairs Committee
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Vaz,
The purpose of this letter is to appeal for clear, simple visa requirements for artists visiting the United Kingdom
for a short period, and to appeal for a friendly, helpful service from the UKBA towards highly -qualified artists
who are invited to perform in the UK.
My case is detailed in the accompanying complaint to the UKBA.
I wish to raise five points in which I found the service lacking:
1) Artists from countries requiring a visa, such as myself, are not terrorists or potential scroungers of public
funds. I have 2 university diplomas, an excellent position in a world – famous orchestra for the past 20 years, am
a recognized composer in the Salzburg area and – as a board member of the orchestra -have made a significant
contribution in programming and commissioning works of British composers in my sphere of influence. The
tone of the UKBA Homepage and Guidelines suggests that applicants are primarily concerned with handing in
forged documents, faking figures and intent on illegal activities. The phrase ” your application will be refused ”
appears 2 660 times. All I would have needed was a checklist.
2) On application in Vienna – that is after paying 238 Euro and travelling 300 km to have my biometric details
taken – it was stated ” The officer at the counter does not provide information what documents to submit”. Why
3) It took 29 days to process my application and return it from Warsaw. This should be no longer than one week.
4) My refusal of entry clearance was objectively absolutely unwarranted. The crux of the refusal was
maintenance and dependant on how one wished to view the matter. This could have been cleared if there had
been sufficient communication as suggested in 1. and 2.
5) It cost me in excess of 400 Euro to be refused entry into the UK, not to mention the loss of income, and
two letters of complaint, firstly from the General – Manager of a leading Austrian Cultural Institution and
secondly from the senior Vice President of the London – based International Artists Management, remain
unanswered and ignored. Is this service?