Guidance

UK Visas and Immigration's service and values

Published

1. Our service to customers

We aim to provide a high level of service for all our customers. As a customer you can expect that:

  • our staff and our commercial partners’ staff (whether in the UK or overseas) will be thorough and polite, and will treat you with dignity
  • the information we provide will be in plain language, accurate and meeting your needs
  • we will process applications in line with our published delivery standards
  • we will provide you with a detailed response to an enquiry or complaint
  • if we refuse your application, we will give you a clear and detailed explanation of why we refused it and details of whether and how you can appeal
  • we will keep your personal details confidential and handle information about you in line with the Data Protection Act 1998 and our information charter
  • we will have regard for the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the UK
  • we will deal with requests for information in line with our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Freedom of Information Act 2000, whichever is applicable - see the requests for personal data and requests under the Freedom of Information Act pages
  • we will deal with ‘treat official’ correspondence within 20 working days of receiving it (see section 3 for information on treat official correspondence)
  • we will give you the opportunity to give us feedback on our services and to complain if necessary, and will use your feedback to improve our services
  • where possible, we will resolve any complaints immediately or pass them on to the appropriate person to resolve
  • we may share your information with third parties sometimes but only if this is lawful and necessary in the exercise of our functions or those of the third party - we may also use the information that you provide for training purposes

1.1 Our customer service standards

When you visit our premises, you can expect that you will:

  • be in a safe and comfortable environment
  • be dealt with by staff in uniform or dressed appropriately for their role, in line with our values
  • be seen within a reasonable time, if you have an appointment

When you contact us by post or email, you can expect that we will answer your question or respond to your comment. You can also expect that any replies will:

  • be in clear, plain language
  • be correctly addressed and accurate
  • include a contact telephone number

When you visit our website and our commercial partners’ websites, you can expect that:

  • the information will be up to date and accurate
  • you will be able to contact us by email through the website

If you contact us by phone, you can expect that we will:

  • explain why we may need to put you on hold or transfer you to another number
  • note any comments about our services, and pass them to the relevant person to be dealt with
  • treat you politely and in a professional way, in line with our values
  • provide you with the correct information

1.2 Our values

The Home Office values state that:

  • we deliver for the public
  • we are professional and innovative
  • we work openly and collaboratively
  • we treat everyone with respect

In delivering our business to our diverse society and to everyone who uses our services, we will assess the impact of our policies to ensure that there are no unlawful adverse impacts on the grounds of race, religion and belief, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or age. When dealing with children, we will take account of the need to safeguard and promote their welfare.

We aim to:

  • employ a workforce that reflects, at all levels, the diversity of society as a whole
  • treat all our staff and customers with dignity and respect

2. Acting on customer feedback

2.1 Outside the UK

What you said What we did
We should indicate how long it takes for us to process different types of visa. Every month we publish our recent processing times for applications made at each of our visa application centres around the world.
We should state the fees for visa applications in local currencies, and payment methods. We now publish the application fees in the currency required in each country.
We should give information about visa application centres’ opening times. We and our commercial partners have now published this information, plus details of local public holidays.

2.2 At the UK border

What you said What we did
You were unhappy when our officers asked you to show cash in full view of other members of the public at passport control. Our officers must be able to make checks on cash and valuables carried by passengers. But we realise that you may be carrying more cash than usual when you come to the UK on holiday or for a long stay, so you will want to protect yourself against theft. We have told our officers that they should give you the opportunity to have your cash checked in a private interview room if you are carrying a substantial amount.
You were asked to provide a completed landing card at border control, when the Immigration Rules say you did not need to do so (for example, because you are a family member of an EEA national who holds a residence permit). We recognise that a family member of an EEA national with a residence permit does not need to complete a landing card except on their first entry to the UK. We have issued guidance to our officers, to ensure that they do not request landing cards unnecessarily.
When you claimed consolatory (‘ex gratia’) payments from the agency because of incidents at the border (such as administrative failings), it took too long for you to receive that payment. Sometimes we get things wrong, and we want to put them right as quickly as possible. We have substantially reduced the time taken to get these payments approved and paid to you, by streamlining the approval process. The revised process still includes robust checks to prevent inappropriate or fraudulent payments.
You were unhappy about being questioned when you arrived at passport control with children whose family name is different from yours. Under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, we have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. We take this duty very seriously. If you are travelling with a child aged under 18, and you are not or may not be their parent (because you have a different family name, for example), we may ask you a few questions to establish your relationship with the child. We have issued new guidance to all staff at the border, to ensure that this is done quickly and is sensitive to the child’s interests and your interests. We are also issuing information to travellers, including leaflets at passport control, to explain the benefits of carrying evidence of your relationship and/or a parental consent letter when you travel with a child who is not or may not appear to be yours.
The e-passport gates at airports did not stay open long enough for you to pass through safely. We reprogrammed all gates so that they stay open automatically long enough for each individual to pass through safely.

3. Treat official correspondence

3.1 Introduction

If you email or write to the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary with a specific immigration case or a general immigration enquiry, your enquiry will be sent to us at the UK Border Agency, treat official team. We only respond to correspondence received by our team from these areas.

We aim to answer ‘treat official’ correspondence within 20 working days of receiving it. We monitor this very closely to ensure you receive a quick response. For further details on our customer service, please see the results of our customer satisfaction survey. All confidential and personal information we receive is protected under the Data Protection Act. We are not permitted to disclose information to third parties, including the progress of an individual’s immigration case, without the individual’s written consent.

If you need to contact us directly about an immigration enquiry or something else, you can find a list of contact details on the contact us page.

3.2 Customer satisfaction survey - treat official correspondence

Our customer satisfaction survey found 30 per cent of customers were satisfied with the overall service provided by the ‘treat official’ team. We are of course concerned that a substantial number of customers were not satisfied and we are continuously looking at ways to improve services.

3.3 Result of feedback

As a result of your feedback we have started to make changes to the way we respond to correspondence. For example, you have told us that when you wrote to the Home Secretary you expected a response from her, and that you did not receive one, or an explanation about why you did not receive one. As a result of this feedback, in future if you write to the Home Secretary you will receive a letter from us explaining why your correspondence has been forwarded to us to respond.

3.4 Other service improvements

We plan to incorporate a more effective IT system to improve the way we monitor ‘treat official’ correspondence and ensure all departments are meeting the service level agreement and responding to your enquiries within 20 working days.

We are reviewing our responses to ensure, where possible, your queries are answered in a plain, concise and easy to understand manner.

We are sharing your feedback with departments across the agency to ensure all departments work together to provide a quick and efficient service.