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July 19, 2022

Home Office visa delays leave thousands of Turkish business owners’ lives on hold

  • Migrants’ Rights Network have found ECAA visa extension and indefinite leave to remain (ILR) applicants have become the latest victims of the ‘Hostile Environment’ with many waiting up to two years for an outcome
  • Over 65% of Turkish visa applicants described either facing financial difficulties or a loss to their business
  • 91% of survey respondents stated the delays had seriously impacted their mental health, with many separated from families and loved ones

Turkish citizens who applied for extensions to their European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) and indefinite leave to remain (ILR) are facing significant delays. Despite the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) six-month standard, MRN’s latest research found the waiting period for decisions is reaching a shocking two-year waiting period causing financial loss to visa applicants as well as a significant toll to their mental health. 

Despite being allowed to apply for visa extensions, the Home Office has begun to classify more cases as ‘complex’ or ‘non-straightforward’. This has resulted in significant and unexplained delays for ECAA visa holders and has resulted in a profound impact on their lives. The visa applicants are not eligible for public funds and rely on the income from their businesses, therefore the delays have led to financial difficulties and in some cases, a loss of business. Some applicants told us that they have not been able to get further work due to incorrect interpretations of ‘right to work’ checks, and landlords refusing or threatening them with homelessness because of outstanding visa decisions.

ECAA visa holders were eligible for financial support for their businesses during the pandemic, including eligibility for the Covid-19 Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and were given no indication from the Government that applying for, and holding a BBLS would have any influence on the outcome or length of time to decide the outcome of their applications.

Respondents also told us that they have experienced a significant decline in their mental wellbeing. 91% stated they felt ‘stress and anxiety’ due to the delays while many said they have been kept apart from loved ones because they are unable to leave the UK while waiting for a decision, even in cases of illness or bereavement. While some asked to have their cases expedited, the Home Office responded in a typical, uncompassionate manner by telling applicants to withdraw their applications if they need to travel.

One respondent who applied for indefinite leave to remain in February 2021 stated: “I have been waiting for a decision with no end in sight. I am mentally, physically and emotionally depleted. I am severely depressed and have been seeing a therapist and taking anti-depressants. I have periodic panic attacks. My well-being and mental health has taken a major toll. Knowing that (the) Home Office is acting arbitrarily, I, along with the rest of the Turkish community, have been living in fear and despair.”

Despite being obligated to write to applicants if a case has been deemed ‘complex’, the Home Office and UKVI are failing to inform people of the delays. For too long, the Home Office has hidden behind excuses from Covid-19 backlogs, to prioritising Ukrainian refugees and stating it has to deal with ‘complex cases’.

Fizza Qureshi, CEO of the Migrants’ Rights Network said : “The Home Office has significant responsibility in determining someone’s future. The pandemic has become the defence for its poor efficiency, ability to process immigration applications in a timely manner, and communicate with those awaiting significant decisions. We urge the Home Office to abide by its customer commitments and ensure that everyone is treated with respect, and have their cases prioritised so they can restore their lives and livelihoods.”

To read the report in full, click here.