This is a public service announcement by the Mexile in association with an awful lost of frustration and angst. Roughly 24 hours before Mrs P and I were due to fly to Mexico for our two week holiday, there was what I shall refer to as an ‘incident’. I won’t bore you with the details of the ‘incident’. Just one of the consequences. The most pressing consequence. Mrs P was no longer in possession of her Biometric Residence Permit. This is the card that shows she has the right to be in the UK and is what she needs to re-enter the UK at the end of a trip abroad.
Potential disaster loomed. What do we do now? I did not know the answer. So I did what I always do when I do not know the answer to something. I got straight on to the internet. Where I discovered that, if lost in the UK, a replacement can take up to six months to process. Yes, there is a priority service, at over £500, which will take a few days. Neither option worked for us. But you know what the internet can be like. You log on looking for a cure for a headache. Next thing you know, you have, apparently, got a bad case of Ebola.
If the BRP card lost abroad, then you can apply for a single use entry permit. It’s just £72. And will be with you in 14 days plus. There is, again a priority service. In New York. Great, if you happen to be in the Big Apple. But this clearly wouldn’t work for us either. The internet basically told us just two things. Firstly, a BRP visa or replacement permit was necessary for re-entry to the UK in order to retain the correct immigration status. Secondly, we wouldn’t be able to get one in time.
So I did what I do when the internet fails me. I speak to a human being. Or try to. Good luck with that if you also care to try. There is a Border Agency helpline you can call where, for an extortionate per minute charge, a disinterested sounding person will read off sections of the website that you read yourself just a few minutes ago. It all just began to turn into a major headache. Which, according to Google, was not Ebola but just a bad case of Homeofficeitis.
So there you have it. No BRP card, no re-entry on the correct immigration status. Which is a bad thing. Very bad. So says the internet. So says the disinterested man reading from the internet. So we gave up. Except at the last minute, we decided not to give up and to have one last throw of the dice. Grab bags, head to the airport and speak to a real human being from the UK Border Agency. Face to face.
Where we finally had a sensible conversation. Not face to face, as it happens. There’s no UKBA presence in the Arrivals hall. But there is a more general airport Help Desk on the ground floor, with a telephone that puts you through to someone in Immigration. We spoke to a cheerful young lady and briefly explained our predicament. I can relate the remainder of the conversation almost word for word…
UKBA Lady: Where is your wife from?
UKBA Lady: Does she have the passport she used when applying for the BRP?
Me: Yes, she does.
UKBA Lady: That’s fine then. Enjoy your holiday.
UKBA Lady: Yes, no problem. They’ll just check her passport against the BRP database on her return.
Hours and hours of research on the internet, wasted. A two minute conversation with someone on the shop floor – priceless. The bottom line here was that Mrs P comes from a country that does not require a visa to visit the UK. If that were the case then she would have been refused travel by the airline on the way back. And it also helped that she had a passport that the UKBA have a record of in relation to her immigration status, although I am not convinced that this was the most important factor of the two.
So if you have found yourself in a similar predicament, then all may not be lost. Of course, it must be stressed that I am not a UKBA approved spokesperson, nor am I an expert immigration lawyer. Your circumstances may differ, or rules may have changed since this was written. But there is hope. Maybe. And it’s a good thing to share experiences. Whilst I did come across a couple of potentially positive posts on forums, I rather wish I had found something a bit more detailed during my internet search. Something like what I have just written, perhaps. But we did make it to Mexico and, more to the point, we made it back again. The UKBA agent took no more than 2 minutes to pop into the back office to do the necessary check. It couldn’t have been easier.