Independent Chief Inspector Publishes his First Report Following the Inspection of Visa Section in Rome

The Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), John Vine CBE QPM, has today published his first formal report since being appointed to the role by the Home Secretary. The report follows a recent inspection of the Visa Section in Rome, which took place from 1-5 June 2009.

The appointment of John Vine was announced in Parliament by the Home Secretary in April 2008. He took up his post in July 2008 and began the process of building the inspectorate from the ground up, which included staffing his office from scratch.

Beginning his formal inspection programme in Rome, Mr Vine and his team sampled 100 files of applications that were refused – with limited rights of appeal – between 1 December 2008 and 28 February 2009. They also considered the customer journey, including a visit to the Visa Application Centre, and interviewed staff working at the post.

The Rome inspection concluded that, on the whole, entry clearance staff were experienced and committed to delivering an impartial and consistent service to customers. The Inspectorate also found that decision quality and information provision was generally also impartial and consistent.

However, the inspection did uncover some areas that needed to be improved. The Chief Inspector found that more work needs to be done to improve the online application process to make it easier for customers to navigate, and to resolve conflicting information on the supporting documentation necessary for a visa application.

Mr Vine also concluded that management of complaint handling in Rome needed to improve. Amongst other things, he also suggested that where there are significant failures the UKBA should review its current policy of making the visa application fee non-refundable.

John Vine said:

“I am very pleased to publish the report on my recent inspection of the Visa Section in Rome – the first formal assessment I have published since taking up the position of Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA.

“The work of entry clearance staff is crucial to helping the UKBA address its purpose of securing the border and controlling migration for the benefit of the country. Staff overseas deal with huge numbers of applications, last year it was 2.5 million. In Rome, a medium sized post with ten employees, entry clearance staff dealt with 11,000 applications. This volume of work puts a great deal of pressure on staff and emphasises the importance of having effective processes in place and using them efficiently.

“It is my intention to carry out further scrutiny of visa posts as part of my core programme of inspection as the year unfolds.”

Rome was the first in a series of overseas and domestic inspections which form the inspectorate’s core programme for 2009-10. The plans include thematic inspections of asylum, customer service (including complaints handling) and enforcement. In addition, Mr Vine will carry out a comprehensive inspection of UKBA immigration services and border controls in the UK, beginning with an inspection of its operations in Wales and the South West.

Download the full report as PDF here:

Alternatively, the full inspection report on Rome can be viewed alongside all other Inspection Reports.

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