The Home Office has recently published an updated Complaints Guidance for UK Visas and Immigration, HM Passport Office and the Immigration Enforcement and Border Force. The Guidance contains a set of procedures designed to deal with “any expression of dissatisfaction that needs a response about the service we provide, or about the professional conduct of our staff and contractors”.
At the outset, the Home Office makes an important clarification that this guidance is not intended to be used for challenging decisions in individual immigration applications or refusals to enter the country at the UK border. If you believe that your immigration application was wrongfully refused or that you were unfairly refused entry at the border, you should pursue the route of applying for administrative review or filing the relevant appeal (please do not hesitate to contact Gherson for advice and assistance on the remedies you may have as a result of any refusal).
In addition, the Home Office warns that a complaint lodged via the route described in this guidance “should not delay the appeal process; nor should it be assumed that the complaint would be dealt with as part of those procedures”.
The purpose of the guidance is to deal with complaints ranging from poor customer care and loss of documents to more serious matters, such as corruption, discrimination and criminal assault.
Normally, a complaint will first undergo an internal complaints and review procedure conducted by a designated Home Office team. Then, if the matter has not been resolved, it will be passed on to one of the organisations providing additional oversight of the Home Office’s complaints procedures.
In particularly grievous cases, such as allegations of sexual assault, serious corruption or any incident which engages Article 2 (the Right to Life) or Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, complaints are to be made directly to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
If you wish to file a complaint against an overseas Home Office contractor, such as a visa processing centre outside the UK, you should use the information listed on the contractor’s website and follow their procedure.
The Home Office encourages everyone who wishes to make a complaint to contact them by email at email@example.com and emphasises that all complaints must be submitted in either English or Welsh. The deadline for filing a complaint is within three months after the incident took place, unless there are serious circumstances preventing the complainant from satisfying this requirement, or if the complaint relates to criminal activity, including corruption. The Home Office states that it will respond to all complaints within 20 working days. For serious cases the target completion rate is 95% of cases in 12 weeks.
It is also possible to complain verbally to frontline customer-facing staff and where this happens, they should attempt to resolve such a complaint locally. Where this cannot be achieved, the staff should provide the dissatisfied customer with options to submit a written complaint by giving them a ‘How to Complain’ leaflet, a complaints form or by directing them to the relevant page of the UK government website.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.