Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A letter to the despicable British High Commission of Malaysia

I've no guts to send this to British High Comm. or the press...

So I put it here...


I write to complain about the process of the UK Visa appeal, and not regarding the outcome of my appeal. I’ve sent a copy of this complain to the British Council of Malaysia because I believe they need to know how the current Visa process may jeopardize the interest of many Malaysian students wanting to study in UK.

My name is Shin Liang Chin and I have applied for the UK Visa at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia because I’m pursuing my PhD degree in the University of Cambridge. Twice I’ve applied, twice I appealed, and all of them failed. I do not wish to contest the decision here, for if that is my intention I would have continued to pursue this matter to the tribunal in UK. (For your reference, the notice of refusal’s post reference no. is KUALA LUMPUR\99895).

My complain is that due to lack of information and transparency on British High Commission part, the process of Visa appeal could become a matter of trial and error. Thus, it becomes an extreme nuisance to the applicant.

In my first application in April, I was rightly denied the Visa for I do not show sufficient funds. But after I’ve acquired a scholarship from Maxis in September, the application was still rejected on the reason that:

1. the ECO does not believe the letterhead from my sponsor was genuine
2. the ECO does not comprehend why my sponsor - Maxis was still willing to sponsor me when I’ve already resigned 4 months ago.

This is not the standard requirement for Visa application. While I agree that the ECO have the rights to question, but how could an applicant know, beforehand, that this is what the ECO would need? How could the ECO assume that the scholarship HAS to be given to an employee and not to the public? How could the applicant know that we need to provide evidence that this scholarship is not limited to the employees of the company?

If such ‘special’ situation arises, shouldn’t the ECO call the sponsor (which the contact was given in the application form)? Or call for an interview with the applicant? Then how could the ECO say that he/she has reached this decision without the need of an interview?

Besides, the letterhead was genuine. Perhaps, the ECO should tell the applicant how to prove that the letterhead was genuine? For your information, the letterhead attached was NOT a photocopy.

Again, if such ‘special’ doubt arises, shouldn’t the ECO call the company to verify? Or interview the applicant?

In order for me to better prepare my appeal/application, it was necessary for me to know what exactly does the ECO needs. But there just wasn’t any information to assist me in either appealing or re-application. What does the ECO needs me to provide to show that the letter is genuine? That I am indeed a recipient of the scholarship? The information in the notice of refusal is clearly insufficient (i.e. it only states that the letterhead may not look genuine, but when in actual fact it is, and how is the applicant going to prove this?). Unless the applicant has a simple straight-forward application, e.g. having 1 million MYR in his/her bank account, there is no way that the applicant can know from where the ECO will attack him/her because there are just too many angles. And in this case, it is unfair to bring up the issue of “burden of proof”. ECO doesn’t have the burden of proof, but that shouldn’t mean ECO has no burden at all.

But the most frustrating bit is that the ECO is off-limits to public, which cuts-off all possible source of information. Neither VFS, the British council nor anyone else in this world can be consulted prior to my appeal. It’d seem that the ECO is contacting the applicants via a ‘3rd party’, shielding behind the security guards at the British High Commission or the personnel at VFS. ECO is not even contactable on phone or email. Applicants are only allowed to leave messages at the voice mailbox of British High Commission.

I understand the requirement for ECO to be off-limits to the public. Among the reasons I can think of is

i. for ECO to be free from the public’s influence

ii. to ensure ECO’s safety and ensure that ECO will not be subjected to the applicant’s harassment (since ECO processes a lot applications a year).

iii. to assist ECO in better focusing on their job, i.e. to make decision on Visa approval rather than addressing complaints.

But such “shielding” has to be reasonable too. If such “shielding” is excessive, I’m afraid it will cause a lot of tension between the British High Commission and the applicant, as such is the case for me.

After my failed second application, I’ve submitted my second appeal. In this letter of appeal, I’ve tried to address the concerns by submitting pictures of me attending the scholarship awarding ceremony, by attaching news articles covering the ceremony and mentioning that I was indeed of the recipients of the scholarship. I’ve also included an additional letter from my sponsor – Maxis. Yet, the appeal did not succeed and the decision to reject my Visa was not overturned.

No reason was given.

I was merely given two choices: bring it up to the tribunal in UK, which will take 6 months to a year. Or re-apply.

I’ve asked repeatedly to the ‘3rd party’, “what is missing? What is the reason? What do you need me to do?”.

Again, no reason was given. Only the two options were repeated.

Obviously, it was easy for the 3rd party to repeat that he/she is not in charge of the decision. Easy on the ECO, but hard on the applicant. I was almost down to tears at this moment as I’ve been longing to go to Cambridge University and I thought this would be the final nail in the coffin that would seal my fate.

Have I sufficiently addressed the original issues on the notice of refusal? Or has there been a new issue due to my appeal letter? Or did I submit the wrong evidence?

I did not get any answer for these. Instead, I was told to wait for 6 months to a year. Logically, would any prospective UK student want to wait that long? I’m seeking for Student Visa not asylum for refugees.

By not providing us sufficient information, letting us know exactly what are the documents that can address the issues to your satisfaction, my application/appeal for UK Visa becomes a matter of trial and error. And each trial costs me 100 GBP. If the ECO or the British High Commission can have someone to talk to us, you may find that we may have the documents you require.

Why such secrecy over the true reasons for rejecting our appeal?

No one in his/her right mind would want to bring this to the tribunal in UK, because as a student, 6 months is too long and he/she will have to re-negotiate the admission date. Students will always opt for re-application, and that means the ECO decision will always stand, and be “correct” because no actual contest to the decision will ever happen. It is as though the ECO can get off scot-free for any biasness in his/her decision. Is this a good process? This situation will only worsen if there is only one ECO reviewing each application and the same ECO reviewing the application’s appeal.

I understand that the decision of the ECO is purely at his/her discretion, subjected to the Immigration Acts of UK. After all, we (non-citizens of UK) are trying to enter your country. Therefore, the British High Commission has every right to reject our application for UK’s interest and national security.

However, such discretion has to be reasonable and has to be ensured that it does not put excessive burden on the applicant. After all, the British High Commission of Kuala Lumpur’s objectives (as stated on the website) are to be helpful, efficient and to improve relationship between Malaysia and the UK.

Given the lack of response from British High Commission in my previous enquiries, seriously, I do not expect much response from this complain letter too.

For the British High Commission of Kuala Lumpur, which receives hundreds of applications a year, I may be insignificant. Insignificant as I may be, but until I obtain a satisfactory response, I will spread words as a Malaysian citizen, as a PhD student in Cambridge, and as a lecturer in University that British High Commission of Kuala Lumpur is far from being helpful.


starting with my own blog.....


srevyg said...

These may give you some clues....

shinliang said...

yes. I've noticed those articles too.

M'sia as top uk visa abuser translates to BHC's top stupid judgement...

shinliang said...

(referring to the my own comment above)

I guess, British High Comm believes in "two wrongs make one right".

BeeV said...

hi, i sympathize with your situation. My bf is having the same problem although trying to get back to uk to live a normal live more than to study as we've been here almost 6yrs. it is ridiculous the way they deal with things. so inefficient and lack of transparency.
I think you should send the letter of complain...also, it is worth going through to tribunal u stand such a good chance of success because you have a valid sponsor etc. try it. and i wish you every success.

shinliang said...

btw, why does the ECO requests for contact no. for my scholarship when they have no intention whatsoever to call them arr?

Anonymous said...

ECO is hinting you to back to work, instead of further studies during the current recession.