Jon is headed to grad school in England and looking to nail down his student visa. Before he can hop the pond he’s going through a grad-level course on absurd, pricely hassles. Turns out the U.K. may have outsourced its visa customer service to a contractor that takes calls at a pay 1-900 number.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to apply for a student visa. Should be easy, right? Well, aside from the fact that they’ve just implemented a new “points-based system” for visas (Old system: to get a student visa you had to prove that you were accepted to a university, and that you can support yourself financially. New system: to get a student visa, you need 40 points. You get 30 points for proving you were accepted to a university. You get 10 points for proving you can support yourself financially), apparently the British have handed over visa applications in the United States and a number of other countries to a private company called WorldBridge ( http://www.visainfoservices.com ). Have questions about the application process? You can e-mail them, or call their 900 number for $3 a minute.
Now, I’ve lived in some of the weirder countries of the former Soviet Union, so I am no noob when it comes to convoluted visa applications. But I’m also on a pretty tight schedule and I have a very simple and specific question: the guidelines state that I have to provide originals of any “supporting documents” listed on the visa letter from my university. In my case, it says “Documents used to obtain visa letter: B.A. from University of Florida (Usa).” I have two simple questions: Do they need the certification of my degree directly from my university or is it OK to send a certification from the National Student Clearinghouse, which provides enrollment/degree certifications for various institutions for a small fee? And if they DO need the docs from my school, can I have the school send them directly to the visa processing center? My third question, does the UK Border Agency really believe that large state-funded British universities are incapable of checking their applicants’ degree status, will have to remain unasked…
I’ve now sent two very short, specific e-mail requests to WorldBridge’s support e-mail address, and both times I’ve received back irrelevant cut-and-pasted sections of the UK Border Agency guidelines, which I stated in my e-mail I had already read and had not answered my question. Aside from being morally opposed to paying $3/minute for visa information (the Kazakh embassy in Bishkek is the worst den of venal assholes I have ever encountered, but I will say that they refused to take a bribe), I frankly don’t believe that they will be willing or able to answer my question. Plus the visa itself is already a whopping $244, which you have to pay before you can even make an appointment.
Really, though, what kind of cheapskate government outsources one of the main functions of their EMBASSIES? Even the US State Department wouldn’t do that, and they’re the guys who hired BLACKWATER.
John says he did some additional research and found that the U.K., India and China have all outsourced the initial application process, and some googling for “same-day visas” is an effective way to be quickly scammed out of his money.
Just remember, kids. Calls to 1-900 numbers rarely turn out well.
(Photo: Great Beyond)