Percipient Studios logo

Help, I need my passport back

01 June 2011
Filed under: codegarden - by Douglas Robar

The short of it

In order to travel to the annual CodeGarden conference I need my visa application approved and passport returned from the UK Home Office Border Agency within the next week.

Yes, you can help!

We now have an answer

I am requesting an expedited decision of my case, now two months old.

Applicant: Douglas James Robar
Case Ref: 014264466


The long of it

I'm an American living in Cambridge UK for 2.5 years. My wife is a PhD student at Cambridge University and has a student visa. I have a student dependant visa that allows me to work in the UK.

I own and run Percipient Studios. Not only do I offer website design and implementations using the Umbraco CMS, I am also the only official Umbraco Level 1 Trainer in the UK and have taught hundreds of UK software developers, webmasters, and IT staff attain the valuable Umbraco Certified Developer certification and tens of organisations become Umbraco Solution Providers.

I like being in the UK. My family and I would like to stay for some time even after my wife finishes her PhD. And I want to continue my business here.

For this I need a new visa and have applied for a Tier 1 General visa. I fully qualify according to that points-based system, provided all needed documentation and biometric evidence, and even used the excellent Global Visas to ensure a flawless application. My application was delivered before the deadline of 4-April (two months ago).

In mid-June I am to give a presentation at the annual Umbraco conference, CodeGarden, and will also be moderating a panel discussion. CodeGarden (twitter: #CG11) is the single most important event of the year for my business; I get work as a direct result of attending in addition to its being a key source for my own professional development in the field.

Though the Home Office suggests that 75% of cases are decided within four weeks, my case is still outstanding after 8 weeks.

I need a miracle. The Home Office won't discuss my case with me until 14 weeks have passed. I've called. Multiple times. It will only (only?) have been ten weeks by the time CodeGarden begins. But without my approved visa and passport returned I can't leave the country.

I had thought of getting an emergency second passport from the US Embassy in London (which they can do within 36 hours). But have found out from the Home Office that if I leave the UK before my visa has been issued, even on a valid passport, my visa application will automatically and immediately be cancelled.




At the Home Office's recommendation I have faxed a request for urgency to 0114 207 2536. I was told that no reply to my request will be given and no assurance can be made of fulfilling my request for urgency. Also at the HO's recommendation my fax included the important "do not withdraw my application" sentence. I'm not sure why this should be necessary but twice I was told it should appear on the fax.

1 June

Blog post and tweet to escalate issue in the hope that something can be done to ensure I will be able to attend the CodeGarden conference.

UPDATE: I contacted my local MP (Julian Huppert, twitter @julianhuppert) at the recommendation of many and his office was very responsive. They called me back within two hours with the news that "You will be pleased to know your application is nearing the end of the review process and you will be hearing shortly." I then asked when "shortly" might be. "If you have not heard from UKBA by Sunday 12th June please do contact Julian again."

2 June

Potentially hearing something by 12 June is not sufficient - I would then still need to wait to receive my passport by post. I am still looking for assistance to successfully complete my visa application and return my passport (in my hands) by 9 June. That's only one week away.

Others have suggested these avenues, which I will be following up on:

  • "Contact the US Embassy Consular Affairs section and have them intervene on his behalf. They are the only outsiders with enough juice to make it happen."
  • Continue tweeting and include @UKBorderAgency_ @UKBAinUSA and possibly others.
  • Contact Jim Paice, MP for SE Cambs and somehow involved with the UK Border Agency.
  • If you have other suggestions please leave them in the comments!

UPDATE: Benjamin Howarth has contacted his MP and discovered "MPs have access routes to the UK Passport Agency that are not available to the public, so Julian Huppert is your best bet. Letters of commercial support as well are also helpful apparently, so I sorted a petition for you:"

3 June

The volume of petition signatures (currently 140 signatures!), tweets, retweets, and outpouring of concern and support is overwhelming. Thank you!

I've emailed my MP again and am awaiting a response. I'll keep you posted, and as ever please accept my deep thanks and let me know if you or someone you know can assist in expediting the approval and return of my visa application and passport.

4 June

Things seem to be moving!

I received this note from Julian Huppert's office today:
"I have been in touch with the UK Border Agency about the need for Doug to receive the determination of his visa application and passport returned. The issue has been referred to the Border Agency MP Account Managers Office. I will contact them again first thing on Monday morning and let you know the outcome."

6 June

So far there are 177 signatures on the petition, thank you!


Please help

If you know anyone at the Home Office or Border Agency I would greatly appreciate your assistance.

Please sign my petition at

Email a personal recommendation to my MP, Julian Huppert to give urgency to Douglas Robar's visa application.

We now have an answer.

Good and bad news

I just heard from from Julian Huppert's office, who have been tremendously helpful. There is good news and bad news:

  • Good news = My passport will be dispatched today!
  • Bad news = my Tier 1 General visa application was denied

This means I can attend CodeGarden! And my existing visa is still in force so I can stay and work in the UK until my wife completes here PhD sometime in the next year.

I have hugely mixed emotions right now. On the one hand I am disappointed in the visa decision (I'll find out the reason when I receive the paperwork via post in a few days). On the other hand I'm overwhelmed by all for your efforts, good wishes, and prayers! How could one man be blessed with so many great friends and colleagues?


Thank you!


6 comments for “Help, I need my passport back”

  1. Gravatar of Matt Brailsford
    Matt Brailsford says:
    Hi Doug,

    I really wish there was something I could do. CodeGarden would not be the same without you. Many of the Umbraco devs own a lot of thanks you (including myself), both for teaching them how to use Umbraco, and for the outstanding contributions you make to the community.

    I personally can't believe it has taken this long. There are so many people that IMHO do not deserve to live in England, but they seem to know how to work the system. Yet here is a true and proven asset to our country and economy and they are being so unhelpful when it comes to keeping you here. It makes me ashamed to be British.

    I cross my fingers, and hope that someone with the power to help, steps in and fast tracks your application in time.

    All the best and god speed.

  2. Gravatar of Craig
    Craig says:
    You could contact your MP. Worth a try.

    Good luck.

  3. Gravatar of Thorsten Hoffmann
    Thorsten Hoffmann says:
    Hi Doug,

    maybe WorldBridge - - could help you in any way ?

  4. Gravatar of John Scott
    John Scott says:
    Doug - so sorry to hear about this - the populist politics behind this are idiotic and frightening, i blame the people who expect these sort of policies from our politicians, who demand everything is done to ensure that people aren't coming here full of malintent. it's the politics of fear and i despise any that fall for it.

    some of the best and loveliest and most influential people i have had the pleasure to know have been visitors, highly influential in broadening our outlook, enriching us and we are very lucky that you choose to be here and want to do everything we can to make it as friendly a place as possible for all nations to live peacefully together

    that is the great thing about the united kingdom, we were centuries ahead of putting national differences ahead of the enlightened greater interest, and this recent rise in suspicion fear and nationalism makes us all poorer - it's despicable and inhuman that you should have to suffer something so bureaucratic as this.

    my wife's full time job is advising international students in visa issues, we've seen the regime and the schemes get more and more complex and arbitrary to fulfil a political need that something must be seen to be done

    she's on the other laptop now reading up on it and being a lot more practical than me just ranting away here - i'll let you know if she finds anything more useful
  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Howarth
    Benjamin Howarth says:
    My MP's office said that a) Julian Huppert was your best bet and b) letters of commercial support are extremely useful. So for anyone interested, there's a petition going: - sign it and tweet/pass it on!
  6. Gravatar of Keith Jackson
    Keith Jackson says:
    All the best Doug,

    Perhaps, as a trainer, you can make an appeal due to the fact that you are enhancing the employability of British citizens. I'm sure the Umbraco community will get behind you again.

    I know the visa situation is hard my wife, like John's works with foreign students but in marketing and they are seeing a large drop off in non EU students because of these sorts of problems.

    Good luck and anything we can do to help, just let us know.
powered by <XSLTsearch>


Follow Us

RSS Feed
Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Flickr