Sunday, January 25, 2009

pushing paper and credulity

The Gnomad has spent the day sorting, arranging and copying documents in preparation for the Gnomadette's visa application for the UK.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy really not very far away at all it used to be that being the spouse of a UK citizen would, by that fact alone, be granted UK citizenship and all the benefits and privileges that go with it. Unfortunately because of an abuse of the system known as "marriages of convenience" whereby some poor hapless person would be suckered into marrying only to have their spouse vanish into the distance never to be seen again once the afore-mentioned passport had been issued. Sometimes this was done as a financial arrangement and both parties knew exactly what they were getting into. When this situation got into the hands of the press there was the usual knee jerk reaction (was the word "knee" actually required there?) from Her Majesty's Government and the "loophole" was closed.

The situation now is that being the spouse of a UK citizen grants no privileges what-so-ever in the application for settlement in the UK. The initial settlement visa is valid for two years only, and only after that time has passed can it be transmogrified into "Indefinite Leave To remain" which effectively involves going through the whole process again. After this is completed there comes the only benefit in the process for being legally married. The incoming spouse only has to wait three years from legally being resident in the UK to apply for citizenship, instead of the usual five years, as laid down by the usual regulation. How kind of Her Majesty's government to be so considerate.

The amount of paperwork involved is staggering. The application form on its own is seventeen A4 pages long. The accompanying documentation and the required copies make a pile twenty eight millimetres thick, that's over an inch! The Gnomad spent eight and a half hours today collating, copying and checking the required documents. This doesn't count any time for collecting the documents or filling in the forms, that had all been done previously. The Gnomad strongly suspects that the next two stages will incur similar amounts of form-filling and copying too.

It is not, however, the time and paper that grate, but the cost:

Settlement visa £515 (£260 in 2005)payable now
Indefinite Leave to Remain £750 (£335 in 2005)payable in two years time
naturalisation £575 (£200 in 2005)payable the year after that.

That's £1,840 (UKP)! almost $2,500 (USD), 1,930 Euros or 120,000 PHP!

£1,840 so that the Gnomads can live as husband and wife like any other couple in the UK. Bargain, obviously.

No doubt these fees will have risen by the time they come due in two and three years respectively. Look at how much the fees increased in just two years, from a total of £795 in 2005 to £1,840 in 2007 - MORE THAN DOUBLE! and by now, 2009, there must be another hike in store

How can this possibly be justified?

to quote from the government's own press release*:

We will spend the funds raised by the fees on:

* providing additional enforcement to ferret out illegal workers and the employers who exploit them
* building new detention centres to securely hold those who are awaiting decisions on their asylum claims or who are waiting deportation following a failed application
* helping employers check their employees' nationality status
* running campaigns abroad to explain the UK's immigration rules
* increasing the rate and number of illegal immigrants who are sent back to their home countries

The new fees will mainly affect immigrants who make significant economic gains from living and working in the UK, while students, visitors and tourists won't pay as much.

So, lets get this straight,

1 Because a person is applying to come into the country legally they are having to pay to prevent others coming in illegally
2 Because a person is applying to come into the country legally they are having to fund detention centres for illegal immigrants.
3 Because a person is applying to come into the country legally they are having to pay the costs of potential employers who will benefit from their labour
4 Because a person is applying to come into the country legally they are having to pay for information given to others about how to get here
5 Because a person is applying to come into the country legally they are having to pay for the deportation of illegal immigrants.

So once again the British Government is making the innocent pay for the crimes of the guilty, as shown by items 1,2 and 5. Item 3 is ludicrous, if an employer needs to bring in ex-pat workers they should pick up the entire cost if only to encourage them to employ Britons first, train Britons second and only then if no one is available bring in workers from outside. Item 4 might be credible if it weren't for the fact that all of the information is out there and accessible already.

Its the last bit that really grates on the Gnomads sense of fair play though, this bit:

The new fees will mainly affect immigrants who make significant economic gains from living and working in the UK

What a load of disingenuous tosh!

Surely anyone making those "significant gains" will be paying tax on those gains like anybody else? So why are they being taxed beforehand as well?

This is worse than student loans, which are a pre-emptive tax on the higher earnings one might expect from having a degree, but of course higher earnings means the individual will pay higher taxes and therefore repay the costs of their education.

Her Brittanic Majesty's government really strains the Gnomad's patriotism at times!

*full article available here:

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

currying favour, or not

The Gnomads are getting used to life in the UK. The Gnomadette doesn't like the cold, but enjoyed the snow. The Gnomad does not like the swingeing taxation and the usurous duty on petrol but likes the effectiveness of the health service. Yes, the Gnomad is aware that many Britons don't like the health service and complain about it a lot, but they really should try living somewhere where there isn't one and where an individual has to pay for everything. Perhaps that would change their minds.

A case in Point, the Gnomad was required to go for blood tests. This could be done either at the doctor's surgery or at the local hospital. an appointment at the surgery was available in one weeks time, or the Gnomad could take himself off down to the blood test lab at the local hospital with a bit of paper and have it done on a first come first served basis. So off the Gnomad went, piece of papaer in hand to the relevant bit of the hospital. Arriving there just before 10am Gnomad took his number from the roll, #61, looked at the display #40. Oh dear a long wait. Gnomad sat patiently amongst the Stout but Aging Yeomanry of Britain who were universally discussing either their latest soap opera/tele-series or complaining at the wait, or in many cases both. At 10.38am #61 was called in, the Gnomad's blood was taken painlessly and professionally in a clean environment by cheerful and competent people. Most people seemed to think that a 40 minute wait (slightly less, actually) was bad and a sign of a decaying service. But think about it, 21 people had been seen in less than 40 minutes, that's more than one every two minutes. That's good by any standards.

Something the Gnomads can't get used to is British curry houses. One of the reasons for choosing the current Gnomad habitat was the large population from the subcontinent in this town. Bound to be good curry there. However, so far, the various curry houses the Gnomads have tried have all been rather disappointing. Nothing bad, nothing to complain about really, but just not very exciting. Many of the dishes have been bland and characterless, lacking in the lively fiesta of flavours the Gnomads have been used to. Not just not very spicy but not very anything. It struck the Gnomad today why this is.

In the Middle East the curry houses are invariably aimed at the ex-pat labourers, Indians, Nepalis, Afghanis, Pakistanis and others from the subcontinent, who have left their families behind are working much harder than any one could reasonably expect in conditions that westerners would deem intolerable and living off practically nothing because everything is sent home to send the children they hardly ever get to see to school and provide a decent life for the various other relatives in the extended family, so they will all have a better life. The food these people need is good, wholesome, nourishing food in large amounts like their wives and mothers make, at a price they can afford. The curry house is not just a meal its a gastronomic visit home and, for many, a meeting place and support network for disconnected people far away from all they hold dear.

In the UK the curry house is a place for the locals to have a jolly evening out occasionally. A not too expensive taste of the slightly exotic that is not too demanding on the taste-buds but different enough to be fun. Thankfully, the Phall stuffing lager lout showing off how macho they are by how far up the Scoville scale* they can get (and how far down the IQ scale they can reach) seems to be a thing of the past, so curries with no flavour except chilli heat are also going out of fashion. Many new curry houses (and Thai restaurants too) seem make a very promising start with full flavour foods, no-holds barred spices and a real taste of "back home". Unfortunately these do not last long or they rapidly tone down the flavours and spices for the very real economic necessity of making the product for the available market. This can happen in as short a time as two weeks. The Brits it seems, really don't like spicy food.

Immigrants to the UK tend to be able to bring their families with them, and this is a good thing, but it does mean that much of the culture they bring with them stays in the home and the British public seem to get a watered down version, if they even bother to try to get any at all. The xenophobia cultivated and encouraged by many right wing groups adds to this lack of sharing of culture. This is a real pity as Britain has always been a trading nation with connections all around the world. Britain has always been fortified by and gained from from the assimilation of new people with new ideas and different cultures. The Gnomads have not yet noticed anyone from the sub-continent actually eating in a British curry house as yet, except for a small group of children eating what appeared to be chicken nuggets and rice. The children bore a striking resemblance to the two waiters who in turn were so alike they must have been brothers. Surely this says it all, the children eating at the curry house had English food (albeit with rice, not chips) because, presumably, they could get real curry at home.

The Gnomad was truly appalled recently to see armed police in a well known superstore in middle England. Policemen with sidearms, bullet proof vests, no 1 grade haircuts, intervention suits and assault boots used to only be seen at airports and guarding politicians and heads of state. Now it appears they are becoming commonplace. Gnomads mother, who happened to be staying at the time, asked the policemen what they were doing there. "Just a bit of shopping, we're on our break" came the reply. How this country has declined since the Gnomad lived here before. It is not so many years ago that the armed police had to keep their weapons in a locked box in the boot** of the patrol car and could only remove them on the direct permission of the chief constable. How sad it is that civil discipline has descended so far that this is no longer considered a realistic option. What worries the Gnomad is that if the police are routinely armed, criminals will habitually arm themselves too and there begins the slippery slope.

* the Scoville Scale, a measure of the hotness of chilli peppers and chilli based products
** trunk, for any American readers.