Expats Trapped In Visa And Passport Chaos

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Britain is not the only country where expats are experiencing a nightmare backlog of passport and citizenship documents.

More than 500,000 UK passport applications are stacking up in the UK – where one regional office has a mountain of 30 crates of applications to work through with more paperwork arriving every day.

In Canada, an open-door policy to skilled expats is creating similar problems, with almost 400,000 citizenship applications stacked waiting for processing and more new applications arriving every day.

In London, Passport Office supremo Paul Pugh told MPs the application backlog had grown by 30,000 cases since June to 508,000 despite thousands of extra staff being allocated to deal with the paper mountain.

MPs were told the bill for dealing with the applications would be at least £5 million.

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Profit from paperwork nightmare

Despite the chaos, he explained the agency was due to make a £50 million profit this year and was on target for handling applications.

The majority of the applications are from British expats. Earlier this year, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office closed seven overseas passport processing centres and diverted all the applications to a central office in the UK.

In previous explanations in Parliament, MPs were told that the Passport Office had received an unprecedented demand from overseas that had triggered the backlog.

Unofficially, passport staff have revealed a bug-ridden computer system and job cuts have contributed to the problem just at the time workload increased significantly due to the overseas office closures.

Lost documents

Canadian politicians say job cuts in the immigration service have led to the paperwork crisis there.

Expats are claiming documents are lost, they fail to receive replies to calls or letters and the even an email can take three weeks to respond to.

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder explained more than her caseload relates to immigration complaints.

“Everything has worsened since 19 immigration offices were closed in 20112,” she said. “These cases are not easy to clear as they are complicated and sometimes a bit of a nightmare.”

The immigration service case backlog has doubled since 2006 to 387,600 applications. Each application takes an average two years to process, which means clearing the jam would take 1,000 administrators 775 years to clear.

The Canadian government has recently announced steps to tackle the backlog, but MPs are asking if the action is too little and too late.

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