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©2019 Shawn Basey | Tbilisi | Prague | Travel blog and tips

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the UK visa fandango

December 27, 2016

 Big Ben and Parliament

 

Big Ben and the home of the British Parliament behind it

Us Americans take our passports for granted. We can travel to most countries of the world without a visa, and oftentimes without even filling in a form about where we’re staying or why we’re there. It’s probably the main reason I’d rather not give up my citizenship, even though I haven’t lived Stateside for 8 years. Granted, with citizenship also comes a constant fear of the IRS and wondering how much I should care about Obamacare requiring me to buy American insurance—and then not caring after my umpteenth Czech beer and impending liver failure.


I’m long of the opinion that a lot of our immigration worries would actually be resolved if we made immigration easier and not harder. Freedom of movement has long been the pillar of economists on every side of the divide. 

 

In Capitalist theory, as everyone from Smith to Friedman has noted, without freedom of movement the workers are left without a point of market negotiation. The serf who was tied to the land had to accept the abominable conditions enforced by his master, regardless of the humanity of it. He had to idly watch his wife get raped or his children conscripted, else there would be no land, no job, no food and they would all suffer, starve, and die. By being able to relocate to a manor or job-provider who can offer better employment terms, it gives labor a huge bargaining chip. 

 

Foreign banks and local prisons

 

Without freedom of movement, labor is enslaved. 

Remember that when thinking about immigration, because one day, for your job, you might have to emigrate, and you will be all the hypocrite for it. In fact, Americans do have to move around lots, from city to city and state to state. Imagine having better opportunities across the globe, wouldn't you move?But back to the subject at hand. 

 

The British immigration system. It has taught me that government services run by the government, might not be such a bad idea. Privatization just means charging everyone more money, milking a failing system, and pissing everyone off in the process.

The British care so much about illegals immigrating into their country, that they’ve actually outsourced the visa process to a private company, called TLS Contact, part of the Teleperformance Group. The Teleperformance Group ironically has a board made up of Frenchmen, Portuguese, Chinese, and people of other nationalities and citizenships. Normally I wouldn’t think much of that in any large, multinational corporation, but when you are outsourcing your visa process and border security to a group that has no borders, nor concern for your borders—except in the aforementioned serfdom situation—then I think a red flag should be raised. Especially when this was the primary mover and argument for the government to depart from the European Union, while doing a bit of the above in regards to privatization.

 

The Tower Bridge

 

Here was what we went through, dealing with TLS. 


My wife, not being from the EU or the US, had to apply for a visa to get into Britain for the holidays, since Britain has opted out of being in the Schengen wanting control of their own borders—an ordeal made even more ironic that the point of contact for their visa service would be for a non-British company.

As we live in Prague, the process was that much stranger. TLS’s office is open “every fortnight Wednesday” in Prague, though they don’t define which Wednesday and which fortnight of the month. Is that the second and fourth Wednesday or the first and third? 

The British government requires that you apply for the visa up to three months in advance, and that you can't do it sooner than that. 

Fine. 

But the TLS website didn’t show any openings to put in the application at their office, and you can’t mail your own application to the British Embassy in Poland, where all applications in the Czech Republic are processed. Additionally, instead of showing all openings in a three-month window, they only show openings for maybe one month out, opening one random day at a time, as though the system refresh were being run by a drunk monkey. Remember, that’s just for two days a month. I’m not sure who came up with their scheduling system, but it’s clearly some cynical bastard who hates calendars and computers. We had to check the system every day to make sure one of those two days didn’t randomly open up and other people jumped onto the schedule, forcing us out. 

We only found out about this weirdness because we called the “customer service” line. On the Teleperformance website, they claim to take pride in their customer service, which is weird, because it’s clearly modeled around the same service a giant steaming mass of elephant dung might provide. 

“You need a web browser to make an appointment, madam,” the customer service lady said. I might add that you have to enter your credit card number and pay for this excellent customer service.

“Yeah, we have one.” 

“Then there is no problem, madam.” This is clearly the TLS line that means, “We designed a wretched system and couldn’t give a witches third titty about it.”

Then my wife went to the TLS office and found out about their scheduling system from a different frustrated customer, who explained that you just have to check back every single day and hope by some Christmas miracle you’re lucky. 

Which is what we had to do.

Over and over again, until we were able to apply for something exactly 10 working days before our vacation was scheduled, so really, half a month. 

Working day 10, one day before our trip, came, and the passport still wasn’t in our hands. So we called TLS’s Polish office. “Sorry, it’s a 15-day turnover.”

The website clearly says 10 working days. 

10 working days.

 

I should call my credit card and block those charges at this point. 

Let that all sink in. The whole process. And think maybe why our country and the UK have an illegal immigrant process, if this is merely the painstaking retardation people have to go through to have a holiday.

 

The Shard on a day of typical weather

 

To get reasonable hotel deals and flights, you want to plan a vacation months in advance. If you want legitimate tourists coming into your country, I would think you’d want the type of people planning things. But then you push them to the edge. You make it so they are either suicidal gamblers like myself, who went ahead and bought everything months in advance, or you make it so that people are forced to buy everything within those last few days, which they don’t even tell you the correct amount of days. 


By some Christmas miracle, we got the passport though. 

We drove to the DHL office next to the cargo terminal ourselves to pick it up. Then off to the passenger airport. 

Everything just in the nick of time. 

I know there are differences between immigration and tourism. Do you think it should be easier or harder for tourists and/or immigrants to get in to your country?

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