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Bad experience at Heathrow

Use this section for queries concerning applications on any of the EEA series of forms, and also for applications for EEA Family Permits.

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Marco 72
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Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Marco 72 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:32 am

My wife obtained her PR stamp last year after being married for 5 years to an EEA national. Yesterday we returned to the UK after a few days abroad.

Since obtaining PR my wife had no longer been asked to fill in a landing card. However yesterday the immigration officer at Heathrow told her she had to fill in one. My wife tried to explain that she didn't need to, but the officer insisted, so we asked to speak to her supervisor. We were asked to sit down and sometime later the officer took our passports away, then came back with her supervisor. The supervisor explained that, even though it may seem strange, once you stop being in the UK as an EEA family member and obtain ILR you do have to fill in a landing card. My wife explained that she did not have ILR, but Permanent Residence under the EU rules. He seemed very surprised at this, stared at the stamp for a while, and then said he thought the same thing still applied.

The first officer then added that there was another problem: my wife's PR sticker had never been stamped by an immigration officer, and according to her it should have been. There being no other alternative, my wife agreed to sign the landing card, but only after taking down the names of the officer and her supervisor, as well as details of the complaints procedure. The officer then proceeded to put a stamp right on top of my wife's PR sticker.

I have since read about Regulation 11(3) (see paragraph 5.2 of the Border Force Operations Manual), which prohibits immigration officers from stamping passports of EEA PR holders or asking them to fill in landing cards. Before making a complaint, I would like to check the following:

1. Am I correct that my wife did not have to fill in a landing card, and that her passport (let alone her PR sticker) should not have been stamped?

2. Is my wife's PR sticker still valid, even after having been defaced by the stamp?

Thanks.

Marco 72
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Marco 72 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:40 am

The first question has just been answered in another thread. However, I would still like to know if my wife's PR sticker is still valid.

Greenie
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Greenie » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:42 am

Marco 72 wrote:The first question has just been answered in another thread. However, I would still like to know if my wife's PR sticker is still valid.
yes - the stamp does not make it invalid (it is in any event only a confirmation of her entitlement)

fysicus
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Post by fysicus » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:44 am

Of course, under EEA regulations, either with a Residence Card or a Permanent Residence Card, you:

1. can use the queue for UK/EU/EEA passports,
2. do not have to fill in a landing card (all information asked on it, is already known to UKBA)
3. should not get any stamp in your passport

The stamp that your wife did get on this occasion does not invalidate anything, and in fact, it makes it easier to show that you were not out of the UK for more than two years (it proves your presence in the country on the date of the stamp).

I advise to report this incident by email to UKBACustomerComplaints@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk and demand that the original landing card, that you were unlawfully required to complete, be returned to you.

ca.funke
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by ca.funke » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:54 am

Marco 72 wrote:2. Is my wife's PR sticker still valid, even after having been defaced by the stamp?
I wouldn´t know why it should be invalid. However, some other ignorant officier might later claim that the Residence-Permit is an Entry-Permit, and only allows single entry. By now I believe everything is possible.

In any case, the stamping was unlawful.

I´d try to get a letter from the HO saying that the stamping was/is unlawful, confirming the continued validity of the passport. Should they send a corresponding letter you can always take it with you in further journeys, disarming these untrained/unqualified guys immediately...
fysicus wrote:I advise to report this incident by email to UKBACustomerComplaints@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk and demand that the original landing card, that you were unlawfully required to complete, be returned to you.
While I´d also recommend complaining (also to the Commission under sg-plaintes@ec.europa.eu, please post any reply that may come from it in this forum!), may I ask what´s so bad about filling the landing-card that you would want it returned to you? I never saw it, so I´m just asking out of curiosity!

Rgds, Christian

keffers
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Post by keffers » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:11 am

As a slight aside to whether or not a passport should or should not be stamped - why do people have such a problem with it?

Is there a practical reason why it is not desirable? Does it really matter?

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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Jambo » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:16 am

Marco 72 wrote: the immigration officer at Heathrow
Did she use the EU line or the non-EU line?

The IO in the EU line tend not to have stamps at their desks (as they hardly use them) so your changes to get stamped are lower if you use that line.

ca.funke
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Post by ca.funke » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:24 am

keffers wrote:As a slight aside to whether or not a passport should or should not be stamped - why do people have such a problem with it?

Is there a practical reason why it is not desirable? Does it really matter?
From my experience it DOES matter.

My wife is from Lebanon. Her passport contains ~30 pages which can be used for visas. Most visas nowadays consume one full page, some even two full pages. One for the sticker, and an opposite side for entry/exit stamps. (Strict example: South Africa! They only issue a visa if you have two empty pages. Should another officer decide to stamp on the opposite empty page, the visa is invalid.)

With a validity of 5 years unnecessary stamps can be a real burden, since you may have to apply for a new passport for more space. And all this because some EU-countries don´t obey their own laws?!

We developed the following strategy: At passport control (arriving in any EU-country) always hand over Residence-Permit (only) first. Once they asked for the passport, we asked back if they are aware of the fact that it may not be stamped. Only after a corresponding confirmation: Hand over passport. Otherwise: Ask for supervisor, before handing over the passport.

In all other cases, our passport was sometimes stamped so quickly/suddenly, that shouting "stop" didn´t prevent the stamp anymore + made us look a bit silly.

keffers
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Post by keffers » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:58 am

I suppose its understandable for good, practical reasons but on a point of principle I don't think its worth the aggravation. Funny how times change. No too long ago folk couldn't get enough of stamps in their passports as evidence of travel to foreign parts.

ca.funke
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Post by ca.funke » Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:08 pm

keffers wrote:I suppose its understandable for good, practical reasons but on a point of principle I don't think its worth the aggravation. Funny how times change. No too long ago folk couldn't get enough of stamps in their passports as evidence of travel to foreign parts.
I also find stamps a nice souvenir. But the 20th space-consuming re-entry-stamp into your regular country-of-residence doesn´t exactly qualify as a souvenir.

Not the EU alone is to blame: Lebanon feels the urge to stamp something when you enter, even for their own citizens. Each time my wife and me go through Beirut, we have a new lovely shiny souvenir. While it´s understandable for me (I´m not Lebanese), I wonder what´s the point for my wife since she is Lebanese...

They have the funniest strategy ever for Lebanese dual citizens: Once Lebanese citizens possess another passport that is worth the name, most of them don´t want to apply for the ridiculously expensive (USD 300!) Lebanese passport anymore. So Lebanon issues an ID-card for their own nationals, which does not expire (never). So for entry Lebanese citizens can produce the ID and any foreign passport, and then the foreign passport is stamped.

If you have no passport but just the ID: No entry!

The sense of all this? No idea!

Similarly, the most practical approach ever is taken by NewZealand. They are so "un-vain" and relaxed, that you can endorse your New Zealand citizenship into >>any foreign passport<<. That´s what I call practical and logical thinking!

Marco 72
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Marco 72 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:02 pm

ca.funke wrote:While I´d also recommend complaining (also to the Commission under sg-plaintes@ec.europa.eu, please post any reply that may come from it in this forum!), may I ask what´s so bad about filling the landing-card that you would want it returned to you? I never saw it, so I´m just asking out of curiosity!
Thanks. We are not interested in having the landing card returned. However, we are fed up with the ignorance of many UKBA officers. It's possible that the first officer was new or poorly trained, but I can't accept that a supervisor at Heathrow doesn't know the difference between ILR and EU permanent residence. For us, filling a landing card is not even a minor inconvenience. However, if this is how they treat a US citizen accompanied by her British husband, what prevents them from denying entry on a whim to someone from a third world country with a valid EEA PR or Family Permit? I wonder how many abuses have happened, and gone unreported.

Marco 72
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Marco 72 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:05 pm

Jambo wrote:
Marco 72 wrote: the immigration officer at Heathrow
Did she use the EU line or the non-EU line?

The IO in the EU line tend not to have stamps at their desks (as they hardly use them) so your changes to get stamped are lower if you use that line.
We always use the EU-EEA line and my wife always gets her passport stamped.

fysicus
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by fysicus » Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:21 pm

Marco 72 wrote:We are not interested in having the landing card returned.
Of course you aren't. The reason why I suggested to ask it back, is to cause a bit more embarrassment internally. I imagine that at some point somebody has to copy this handwritten information into a computer, and after that the landing card is filed, and will probably become irretrievable (at least from a practical point of view, given the sheer number of landing cards that must have been collected over time). It is just a way of rubbing it in, forcing them to spend much more time on your complaint. If they really would return it, which would enormously surprise me, you would of course just throw it in the bin!

EUsmileWEallsmile
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by EUsmileWEallsmile » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:02 pm

Jambo wrote:
Marco 72 wrote: the immigration officer at Heathrow
Did she use the EU line or the non-EU line?

The IO in the EU line tend not to have stamps at their desks (as they hardly use them) so your changes to get stamped are lower if you use that line.
Oh they have them all right, I assure you. Now ink is another thing:)

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Post by EUsmileWEallsmile » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:04 pm

keffers wrote:As a slight aside to whether or not a passport should or should not be stamped - why do people have such a problem with it?

Is there a practical reason why it is not desirable? Does it really matter?
Because it's the law and because it takes ages to get a visa and ages to get a residence card and just because.

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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by EUsmileWEallsmile » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:06 pm

Marco 72 wrote:
ca.funke wrote:While I´d also recommend complaining (also to the Commission under sg-plaintes@ec.europa.eu, please post any reply that may come from it in this forum!), may I ask what´s so bad about filling the landing-card that you would want it returned to you? I never saw it, so I´m just asking out of curiosity!
Thanks. We are not interested in having the landing card returned. However, we are fed up with the ignorance of many UKBA officers. It's possible that the first officer was new or poorly trained, but I can't accept that a supervisor at Heathrow doesn't know the difference between ILR and EU permanent residence. For us, filling a landing card is not even a minor inconvenience. However, if this is how they treat a US citizen accompanied by her British husband, what prevents them from denying entry on a whim to someone from a third world country with a valid EEA PR or Family Permit? I wonder how many abuses have happened, and gone unreported.
Complain and things will improve. Let it go and things will go on as before.

alekos
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by alekos » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:44 pm

EUsmileWEallsmile wrote:
Marco 72 wrote:
ca.funke wrote:While I´d also recommend complaining (also to the Commission under sg-plaintes@ec.europa.eu, please post any reply that may come from it in this forum!), may I ask what´s so bad about filling the landing-card that you would want it returned to you? I never saw it, so I´m just asking out of curiosity!
Thanks. We are not interested in having the landing card returned. However, we are fed up with the ignorance of many UKBA officers. It's possible that the first officer was new or poorly trained, but I can't accept that a supervisor at Heathrow doesn't know the difference between ILR and EU permanent residence. For us, filling a landing card is not even a minor inconvenience. However, if this is how they treat a US citizen accompanied by her British husband, what prevents them from denying entry on a whim to someone from a third world country with a valid EEA PR or Family Permit? I wonder how many abuses have happened, and gone unreported.
Complain and things will improve. Let it go and things will go on as before.
Please, do complain, don't let them get away with it.
Thank you everyone in this forum.

Marco 72
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by Marco 72 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:29 am

My wife is about to submit her complaint, but is unsure whether to do it by post or email. According to the leaflet they gave us at the airport, they seem to prefer email. However, I don't know if we are supposed to include details such as my wife's passport number or her Home Office Reference number - in this case, regular post may be better. What would you recommend?

ca.funke
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by ca.funke » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:17 am

Marco 72 wrote:...but is unsure whether to do it by post or email...
For the Commission I recommend email.

They take a long time to reply, however when they do it´s always by "real" mail, never email. So at least bureaucratically they take things seriously. Actually sometimes I received "real" mail (only), and sometimes "real" mail AND a scan of the same letter by email. So you can see that they take everything seriously, even email. (That is, if you consider what they do serious... Maybe it´s more prudent to say: email or "real" mail doesn´t make a difference...)

Summary:
For the Commission email will do. Inside the UK - no clue. Always include your full personal details, being as specific as possible. Anonymous complaints are not dealt with. Incomplete complaints only trigger additional questions.

Rgds, Christian

fysicus
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Re: Bad experience at Heathrow

Post by fysicus » Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:05 pm

Marco 72 wrote:My wife is about to submit her complaint, but is unsure whether to do it by post or email. According to the leaflet they gave us at the airport, they seem to prefer email. However, I don't know if we are supposed to include details such as my wife's passport number or her Home Office Reference number - in this case, regular post may be better. What would you recommend?
Just complain to UKBA by email (to the adress I quoted earlier in this thread, or the one mentioned in the leaflet you have if that is different). They send an acknowledgement (usually the next day).
There is no need to mention passport number or HO number; just be specific about time and place of the incident (flight number will help), so that the IO involved can be traced.
Choose the wording of your complaint such that your wife is the I-person, who actually makes the complaint, and send it from her email address.
I made the mistake to complain myself on my wife's behalf and then they required authorization from my wife to disclose her personal details to me.

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