Organisation we investigated: UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
Date investigation closed: 20 October 2020
Mr R complained about failings in processing his visa application, which was made under the Windrush scheme. He said he waited over a year to be told the outcome of the application, during which time he was destitute and unable to resolve his immigration status by any other means.
Mr R also said he was given incorrect information by UKVI, who told him that he would be able to claim benefits while awaiting their response. He said that this did not turn out to be the case. He was left unable to earn money or claim benefits, despite having lived in the UK for decades.
Mr R applied to the Windrush Scheme in May 2018. Later that month, Mr R had an appointment with UKVI, who told him it would take six weeks to get a decision. In fact, he waited over a year and did not receive a response until August 2019. His application was then refused.
During this time, Mr R was told by UKVI that he would be eligible to claim benefits but in fact was unable to do so because he could not provide documentation proving his immigration status.
What we found
UKVI said the reason for the delay was because it was unable to find any Home Office records to confirm Mr R had entered the UK before January 1973. It said that Mr R’s case was complex, and that there were ongoing actions to progress the case after September 2018. We found no evidence to support this claim. Had UKVI responded in a timely manner, Mr R would have been able to appeal the decision or seek to settle his immigration status another way.
We also found that UKVI gave incorrect advice to Mr R when it told him that he would be able to claim benefits while waiting for their decision. UKVI should have been aware of Mr R’s eligibility. We found their misleading advice gave him false hope at a time of great financial and mental stress.
Putting it right
Following our recommendation, UKVI has agreed to compensate and apologise to Mr R. It has also agreed to implement the following recommendations:
- remove unnecessary delays in the Windrush Scheme process
- improve the openness and transparency of the Windrush Scheme process so that applicants are told as soon as possible when it is proposing to refuse the application
- make sure it provides accounts of its actions which are not misleading, and which meet with our Principles of Good Administration of being open and truthful.
The compensation was awarded to the complainant in this case on the basis of the long delay in handling his case and the impact that had on his life. It is separate from any claim he may wish to make under the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
Complaints about the Windrush Scheme
Anyone who has complained about their treatment under the Windrush Scheme, has completed the Home Office complaints process and is not happy with the response they have received can bring their complaint to us via an MP.