The vicious cycle of a Pakistani applying for a UK visa: Apply, reject, more money, re-apply, reject, more money

Published: March 11, 2016
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Is there a solution to the on-going discrimination? Who could dare take this matter up with the authorities? Our ruling class is indifferent because somehow they remain unscathed.

London is like my second home. My love for the city knows no bounds. My friends like to call me the brand ambassador of London. Even my wife feels envious at times. While London in summer is more like a ritual for me and my family, I am not too sure if the tradition can be sustained anymore given the visa tragedy.

Recent news has been dominated with UK visa horror stories of endless delays and unreasonable rejections. The United Kingdom seems to be pursuing an unannounced policy of rejecting visa applications from Pakistan. A recent study conducted by an online news agency revealed that the British High Commission in Pakistan has declined thousands of Pakistan’s visa applications in the past year without any valid reason.

What’s going on?

While obtaining a British visa has always been hard, the present rate of visa rejection is unprecedented. Visa applications to the UK are notoriously challenging. Besides exorbitant visa fee application, the amount of time and energy that each application requires is substantial. From employment letters, salary slips to rigorous forms, the process is exceptionally daunting. In case of rejection, all the hard work and resources simply go to waste. But here’s when the real exploitation begins; The British High Commission operates a zero refund policy and the right of appeal for visitor visas has been removed.

In such scenario, what options do ordinary citizens have?

Pay again and re-apply?

More resources, unchanged outcome?

What about genuine applicants who wish to visit their relatives in the UK or simply shop on the Oxford Street?

Could the visa authorities get more unjust?

Rejecting visa applications in droves without solid grounds is blatant exploitation. An overwhelming majority of applications are rejected on a standard assumption; weak social and economic roots in the country of origin.

A friend’s family who simply wished to attend their son’s University College London graduation ceremony was refused clearance exactly for this reason. My aunt’s application was denied on the same grounds despite a different case altogether. My application in 2009 was turned down for similar concerns despite a prior visit in 2006. May I ask the visa authorities how can an applicant possibly prove his affiliation to his own country? A decent job is not enough. Having a heavy bank statement may be insufficient. Travel history does not really matter. There’s another confusing twist to the story. When you re-apply, the authorities might come up with a completely different reason for rejection which wasn’t previously highlighted. Common sense dictates you will clear all the objections and re-apply but only for another ridiculous revelation by the High Commission. This sets a vicious cycle; apply, reject, more money, re-apply, reject, more money. Beware!

The scourge of visa refusals has been made possible by severe lack of accountability and transparency in the visa process. When viewed from a historical perspective, the visa policy begins to look like an extension of colonialism. The colonial mission in the subcontinent was primarily motivated by economic gain. Years of extractive rule stripped the continent of its valuable resources. In the 1950s and 60s, colonies were looked upon as repositories to meet the acute post-war labour shortages in Britain, in much the same way that they were forced to supply cotton and other raw materials during the industrial revolution. The state’s attempts to control immigration reflect a strong sense of self-interest and Euro-centrism, which were key features of colonial thinking. Accountability was completely missing from the colonial story. The contemporary trend of rejections appears to follow the same plot only with a different cover.

Is there a solution to the on-going discrimination? Who could dare take this matter up with the authorities? Our ruling class is indifferent because somehow they remain unscathed.

I have been wanting to visit London this summer but given the current situation and despite strong travel history, I am extremely reluctant to apply. I might still take the risk but none of us will be surprised if the outcome is negative. May I request Thomas Drew, the new British High Commissioner, to kindly look into the matter? The enthusiasm and optimism about Pakistan reflected in his recent speech gave me hope that things might change. While emphasising the centrality of relationship between UK and Pakistan, he remarked,

 “So my job is a great one because Pakistan matters. But it is also a great one because I believe the UK can make a difference.”

The on-going visa mess might be a good starting point to prove that. The injustice and exploitation on display must end!

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Hamza Siddiq

Hamza Siddiq

The author teaches global politics and international development for the University of London International Programme. He tweets as @hamzasiddiqkhan (twitter.com/hamzasiddiqkhan).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.