The UKBA's Premium Service
"James, here's one you can do", said Margaret. "This client wants a premium service. Book one online please; ask Jo how to do it; it's pretty simple". There were knowing smirks from the rest of the office, which should have alerted me.
I opened the UKBA premium website. It seemed easy enough. There was a friendly message saying:
"Our online booking service is fast, simple and convenient to use."
I put in the details for a range of dates in August and September. Seven different premium sites were offered with the instruction to choose three. I did. Croydon, Sheffield, Birmingham.
"We do not have any appointments for your preferred dates and locations. Please change your preferred dates and locations and search again." I did.
Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool.
"We do not have any appointments for your preferred dates and locations. Please change your preferred dates and locations and search again."
I had been muttering under my breath. Jane took pity on me. "It's sometimes like that", she said. "In fact it's always like that. You just have to keep trying. Oh, and don't bother looking more than three months ahead. You can't. I know it lets you try, but you can't. Sometimes midnight is the best time to get an appointment."
"Has it worked for you?", I said.
"Well, actually no. The site crashed when I tried because everyone tries at midnight. But I've heard that it has worked for others."
"Is there a phone line?"
"Only if the online system is broken."
"It is. I can't get an appointment at all and there is no way of finding out if I ever will."
"Properly broken, like you can't get onto the website."
"Oh, but if you can't get an appointment what happens?"
"You have to apply by post and send in all your documents."
"How long does it take to get an answer that way?"
"Depends. Can be up to six months."
"Six months without a passport. That's barking!"
"Like I said, you just have to keep trying."
Alternatively you can of course submit your visa application by post. This is cheaper and as long as you submit before your current visa expires you remain here legally. The downside is that it may take several months before you get an answer, during which you will be without your passport.
You can also apply for a "super premium" appointment which is easier to get but mega expensive and may need to be done through a lawyer.
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