It has been 2 full weeks since we submitted our UK visa application. The first part of the Visa application process review is here.
Once we'd submitted our the "biometrical data" at the Munich Visa Application Centre, we were given an "Application Validation Receipt"
This has the CSC tracking number on it which you are supposed to be able to use to track the status of the application.
We sent the documents to the Dusseldorf centre on a "signed for" service using Deutsche Post (called "Einschreiben") and we got a card in the post saying the documents had been delivered to Worldbridge in Duesseldorf on 24th September. (the exact address is Immermannstr. 51, 40210 Duesseldorf)
I have spent literally all morning trying to find a place to type in the CSC tracking number so I can find out the status of the application. There is a "Guide to processing times" which indicates that the visa decision will usually be made within 15 full working days.
I searched on the visa4uk site, I searched the Uk Border agency site
I even searched Google and found an amusing response to my question on Yahoo Answers
After typing in hundreds of different combinations of search keywords into Google, including the words "Track your application" "how to track my visa application" "uk visa application tracking online" "csc tracking number" "where to enter the visa csc tracking number". It helped when I included the word "WorldBridge". I eventually found a site called Visa Info Services .
Here I found my prize! The holy grail of the day! A place to enter my CSC tracking number!
Overjoyed, I entered the number and found a status update: here it is
"Status: Arrived at the Visa Section"
Deutsche Post, the German Postal Service informed me of that priceless information 2 weeks ago!
Glad I didn't pay to call them on the Premium Rate number of 2 Euros per minute to find out that shocking little gem.
This is from the Contact us page on Visa Info Services "If you are calling from within Germany, you can get information about how to obtain a visa by calling WorldBridge’s user pay phone service at 0900 1231010. Trained agents will provide you with visa application information. There is a fee of €2 per minute to make this call. The information that Worldbridge provide is taken from official UK Border Agency websites. WorldBridge staff cannot provide immigration advice."
That's funny. I seem to remember that a member of the public set up a premium rate phone line providing a recorded message about child benefit money. Here it is £50k fine for child benefits phoneline scam
"Official-sounding websites conned victims into paying for information that Government departments provide for free.
Shaun Freeman, a 25-year-old from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, was behind childbenefit.org.uk, housingbenefits.org.uk and ukpassportoffice.org.uk.
They listed 0906 enquiry numbers costing £1.50 a minute which kept callers on hold for up to 28 minutes. "
So how is the premium rate number on the Visa Info Services Contact Us page any different?
There is a "disclaimer" of sorts on there stating that you will be paying 2 Euros per minute to hear information that is available for free on official websites, dressed up in fancy words to make it look like you will be speaking to "specially trained agents". What are they specially trained for? Reading official websites out over the phone?
From Visa Info Services Website
"UK Border Agency
If you are calling from within Germany, you can get information about how to obtain a visa by calling WorldBridge’s user pay phone service at 0900 1231010. Trained agents will provide you with visa application information. There is a fee of €2 per minute to make this call.
You can also get information about how to obtain a visa by calling WorldBridge’s user pay phone service at +49 345 688 7195. Trained agents will provide you with visa application information. There is a fee equivalent to US$14 to make this call. You can only pay for the service (using a secure, automated system) with a credit or debit card with the Visa, MasterCard or Maestro logo. The call centre languages offered are: English, French, Spanish, Serbian, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic and Hungarian.
Note - We regret to inform you that telephony service in the german language is currently unavailable, however, you may submit an email enquiry in german language or utilise the service in English.
Please note: The decision to issue or refuse a visa is made by UK Border Agency visa officers. The information that Worldbridge provide is taken from official UK Border Agency websites. WorldBridge staff cannot provide immigration advice."
In my opinion, it is just another way to target vunerable people, especially those whose English is not their first language, into parting with their cash. If that's not the definition of a scam, I don't know what is. Edit: Especially when the number you are calling is in Germany and they can't speak German...
But if there's a disclaimer on there telling you it's a scam, it's not officially a scam is it?
Below: My phone bill from July 2009, when I called the 0900 number. Which, by the way, you can't call from a land line - it has to be from a mobile phone. It cost 46.89 Euros. For nothing. Because the person who answered the call could not help in the slightest apart from saying he would fill out the online email enquiry form for me. I was on the call 19 minutes and 59 seconds.
That was when I called about the previous Visa Application from March 2009. This should have been processed within 15 working days but it was not until the 12th JUNE 2009 that we found out it had been REFUSED due to WorldBridge omitting our Supporting Documents. So then it had to go to Appeal and the visa was finally granted a couple of days before the flights in July which were already booked, and involved having to have an overnight stay in Duesseldorf to personally collect the Passport and Visa.