Tier 1 Fraud being Tackled Effectively, but Poor Customer Service and Record-Keeping Concern the Chief Inspector

The Home Office was carrying out all security checks and tackling fraudulent Tier 1 applications and most decisions on investor applications were reasonable. However, poor record keeping meant almost half of the decisions could not be assessed, and inconsistent customer service and poor forecasting had led to lengthy delays in processing UK applications.

These were the findings in the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s report on Tier 1 of the Points Based System. Tier 1 is intended to encourage foreign nationals who will contribute to the UK’s economy to come to the UK. People who wish to enter or remain in the UK as entrepreneurs or investors can apply under this route. During the financial year 2011 – 2012 there were 1,682 entrepreneur and 594 investor applications.

The inspection examined the efficiency and effectiveness of the Home Office’s handling of entrepreneur and investor applications, with a focus on the consistency of approach between decisions made in the UK and overseas.

The Chief Inspector found:

• all necessary security checks were carried out on Tier 1 applications;

effective links between decision-makers and intelligence units within the Home Office provided an important safeguard against fraudulent applications;

91% of decisions on investor cases were reasonable. However, this fell to 62.5% for entrepreneurs. Notably, all of the decisions assessed as being unreasonable, were decisions in which the applicant had been granted leave;

• in New York, Entry Clearance managers shared outcomes of Administrative Reviews with decision-makers, to improve the overall quality of their decisions in future cases;

• performance against service standards for applications made overseas was good with an average wait of 7.5 days. However, applications considered in Sheffield took, on average, 63 days for a decision;

• the Home Office had significantly underestimated the scale of the increase in entrepreneur applications following the closure of the Tier 1 Post Study work route. These rose by 1,520% between February and December 2012. As a result, they did not have the resources in place to deal with the applications and a backlog of 9,000 cases developed.

• despite recording 1,550 allegations against Tier 1 applicants, the Home Office was unable to tell the Chief Inspector what the outcome of the allegations had been;

• he was unable to assess the reasonableness of the Home Office’s decisions in 42% of the cases sampled, due to a lack of retained evidence and inadequate case notes.

Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine, CBE QPM, said:

“I was pleased to find that all necessary security checks were being carried out on Tier 1 applications. Effective links between intelligence units and caseworkers meant important safeguards were in place against fraudulent applications.

However, it is unacceptable that I was unable to assess the reasonableness of decisions made in 42% of cases. In addition, I was extremely concerned that in Sheffield case files were stored in crates in open plan offices overnight. We raised this with senior managers and as a result they agreed to store these files in lockable rooms with restricted access.

I also found applications considered in Sheffield took more than eight times longer to decide than those made overseas. This is a glaring inconsistency and represents extremely poor customer service.

Poor Home Office forecasting – resulting in under resourcing – following the closure of the Post Study Work route in April 2012 led to a backlog of over 9,000 cases. Whilst this had reduced by over 70% by July 2013, the Home office must ensure dealing with these applications is not achieved at the expense of decision quality.”

The Chief Inspector made five recommendations for improvement including, improving decision quality on entrepreneur applications, and better application intake forecasts when there is a policy change to prevent future backlogs developing.

The full report can be downloaded here.


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