I have not dealt with the British High Commission in Ghana for almost a decade until last week. But I still remember the sort of ‘snail service’ they had many years ago when seeking a visa—the anxious wait alone was capable of killing you before your visa or that dreadful refusal notice arrived.
Let me quickly mention that, the British High Commission’s online presence in Ghana has without doubt been pretty interesting in the last few years—arguably by the handwork of the current Commissioner, Jon Benjamin, a social media addict.
Though I’ve not had any official dealings with the Commission as a Ghanaian-British based in United Kingdom, I’ve had some few public twitter run-ins with Jon Benjamin on religious conversations, mostly with Bishop Obinim’s charlatan ways being the subject. I don’t think he even knows that I wrote the infamous ScrewLife.Com satire piece that said Bishop Obinim had been denied a UK visa by the British High Commissioner and Jon Benjamin had asked him to turn into a bird and fly to UK rather—in the week of Obinim’s claim that he could turn into any animal of his choice.
It’s an undeniable fact that Jon Benjamin is a proponent of free speech on social media; Ghana has never seen a thundering diplomat like him and he continues to make headlines—but he seems not to be a mere talker, at least from this single expedited visa processing service I am going to tell you about.
Perhaps I should first mention that I don’t know anyone personally at the British High Commission who could have speeded my application. I don’t even think that’s possible if you know someone there. I am therefore of the reasonable belief that, the British High Commission’s general visa application process in Ghana has gotten extremely faster and better. It surely would have been painfully ironic if things were appalling and running on a snail’s back, and the Commissioner rather had a lot of time to be discussing football and religion on twitter.
Having been to Ghana twice already this year and with my first major Legal Practice Course’s examination scheduled for mid-January 2017, I asked my girlfriend to come over to UK for the Christmas holidays to save me the headache of traveling with huge Law books to Ghana to see her. And also, to wickedly freeze her butt in the cold winter for her ‘unending annoyance.’
Then the issue of acquiring a visa for her came up—something that can ruin your entire plans if refused. But even before an approval or refusal comes through, the hectic documents preparation and the long wait make the process extremely stressful. I may write a different article to look at the sort of documents needed to apply for a General UK visitor visa as this seem to be a popular search question online.
When I checked UK’s visa processing time, I got a fair idea that about 90% of non-settlement visas (including general visitor visas) take 3 weeks but there’s that 12 weeks catch for 100% of applications.
After my girlfriend received the necessary documents from me as a sponsoring boyfriend, she started with the online application which took her about 1 hour to complete. And shockingly, when she had to book an appointment with the UK Visa Application Centre to submit the application form and the supporting documents, there were available slots for the next day. I thought the earliest we were going to get would have been in a week time.
She completed her online application on Wednesday, picked Friday’s appointment and submitted her documents to UK Visa Application Centre at the MovenPick Hotel in Accra around 12 mid-day.
Later on in the day (that Friday), she received an Email from TLSContact (UK Visa Application Centre), saying; “Your UK visa application has now been sent to UK Visas & Immigration for processing.” That was within a few hours of submission.
@JonBenjamin19 Really impressed with UK in Ghana’s visa service.Invited Gf 2 spend Xmas with me in UK and visa process took just 5 days. WOW
— GhanaCelebrities.Com (@Ghanacelebrity) November 19, 2016
— Jon Benjamin (@JonBenjamin19) November 19, 2016
On Monday, another notification came in and this time it said: “Your UK visa application has been received by UK Visas & Immigration and will now be processed in accordance with published timelines.”
I couldn’t believe how fast things were moving when the tracking said the application had been assigned to an Entry Clearance Officer at Sheffield in UK for decision-making on Tuesday.
That very Tuesday while I was at the Law School, I got a call from the Entry Clearance Officer working on the application at Sheffield—and she asked a few questions. I guess she wanted to ascertain if I had indeed invited my girlfriend to come over briefly.
And then on Wednesday, the below E-mail came through;
UK Visas & Immigration has now assessed your UK visa application and made a decision.
Your documents and the decision will be sent back to either the UK Visa Application Centre where you applied, where we will contact you by email over the next few days to collect them, or if you are using the courier return service, will be sent directly back to the address you provided.
Please note that TLScontact does not know the outcome of the assessment and has played no role in the
UK VIsas & Immigration.
Girlfriend received another E-Mail on Friday, alerting her that her passport and documents are available for pick up at the UK Visa Application Centre in Accra, the same place she submitted them.
We were excited to know she got the visa but more importantly, I was extremely impressed with the processing speed—something our state institutions, especially our foreign Ghanaian Embassies need to look into.
Let me add that, we did not pay for “Priority Service’. Considering how quick the ordinary service took, I guess priority will take 24 or 48 hours.
NB: My girlfriend paid about £1 for SMS-passback alert and yet she did not receive any SMS from the UK Visa Application Centre. So it looks like the service is not available and yet it’s being sold.
Customer service in Ghana and most parts of Africa is the crappiest we’ve ever come across; as if Ghanaians or Africans use mango leaves to pay for services. The broadband never works, the electricity is never on, the water never flows—and the waitress can keep you waiting for your food until hunger kills your buds.
The real pain is, you have no alternative to turn to—because, like a gang of fools, they are all the same.
Almost every service and product delivering company in Africa has it butt in the faces of customers, farting uncontrollably because the customer cannot really do anything. Mostly, if you quietly complain, they do nothing and if you are unlucky, they tell you to go f**k off.
Consumers have no voice, not even individual voices—let alone a collective one to force any sort of change.
So we’ve started this website-CustomerDiscuss.Com, supported by GhanaCelebrities.Com and other platforms, dedicated to corporate and public Africa, especially Ghana—-it’s time we shame some of these companies, tear down their lousy services, help them to lose customers and force them to do what’s right.
If you have a complaint about your telecom company, internet provider, a restaurant, your bank or even your church, shoot an email to us via; [email protected] or call/whatsapp 00447961817712.
When you go to a restaurant and you are served in a broken plate or on a dirty table, just take some photos and send them to us with the needed details.
Together, we can get these people to be accountable and importantly, do what’s expected of them.