THE UK GOVERNMENT is outsourcing the customer enquiries service for its Visa and Immigration department, and it's fair to say that it's not being received well.
From the 1 June, all customer enquiries will be handled by outsourcing specialist Sitel UK, in an effort to reduce costs "and ensure those who benefit directly from the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution."
Does this take the form of a higher cost on the visa, you ask? Perhaps an adjustment to the existing sliding fee, based on time to be spent in the UK? No: instead, all enquiries from outside the country will be subject to a charge - including those made via email.
Under the new system, simply contacting UK Immigration by email will cost the questioner £5.48. To be 'fair', the charge covers both the first and all follow-up emails - at least, those relating to the same subject.
On top of the new email charge, the number of languages offered by the immigration service is dropping to eight. Accusations of xenophobia are, predictably, already flying on Twitter.
So let me get this straight. UK Visa and Immigration services are to increase fees and reduces number of languages they support? Racist.— John-Paul Smiley (@JohnPaulSmiley) May 30, 2017
New plan to limit immigration...charge a fiver for each email to the Visa and Immigration Service!!! https://t.co/PlNI93Kg9h— Matt Jukes (@jukesie) May 30, 2017
The charge to contact the Visa and Immigration department by phone, we understand, remains unchanged at £1.37 per minute (plus standard network fees).
The benefits of outsourcing are going to be extremely hard to see, although could include faster response times and a more streamlined service in an area that's difficult to navigate. On the other hand, we've already seen negative reactions to the burden of payment falling on the customer - the reduction in languages is another sticking point that will be hard to swallow for potential migrants. µ
The week in Google
The scandal that just keeps giving
Clip to the end....