Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Disability and the UK Visa

I had been invited for a business meeting to London on a short notice. I knew getting a visa for UK was not an easy task at all and needed time. I asked the company I was going to meet and who was sponsoring my trip to send invitation letters for me and my carer ASAP. The invitation letters arrived and they stated in very clear English :

“Shivani Gupta a leading authority on accessibility in India ..…… In this respect her presence is urgently required for a meeting in London from ………(date). Since Shivani Gupta is disabled she will need to be accompanied by her carer (carers name)

All expenses for both of them regarding travel and hotel accommodation will be borne by our company.”

I had travelled to Spain with my carer just a couple of months back and had the entire set of all other documentation required ready with me. I filled our visas under ‘Business Visa’ category as the invitation letter said that I was travelling for a business meeting my personal carer was to accompany me. Along with it I gave a visa fees of about Rs5000/- each and all other financial documents they required.

At the time of submitting our forms the lady at the counter informed me that I would need to fill another form for my carer as she was going to be in my service during the travel. And that the fee for the other visa form was about Rs 18,000/- 

I was shocked. I thought she didn’t understand my case. I tried to clarify

‘…bbut she had an invitation letter in her name stating that her trip is sponsored by the company and we were going to be in UK for only 4 days.’

‘I know’ she responded, ‘but you still need to fill the other visa form’

‘but Rs 18,000/- for 4 days……doesn’t it sound ridiculous?’

‘Its your wish madam’ she responded ‘you can fill the business visa form if you like, but I am just informing you.’

Rs 18,000/- for 4 days was not something I could afford, so taking a chance I filled the business visa form, deposited Rs 10,000/- as fees for both of us. I was positive to get the visa as:
1.     We had an invitation letter for both of us
2.     We had adequate supporting financial worth papers.
3.     My carer had lived in the UK with me for nearly 2 years in the past and
4.     She had a live Schengen visa in her passport.

To my disappointment her visa was rejected on the pretext that she wasn’t going for a business trip in fact was traveling in my service as a carer. Sure enough bit in other words it meant that if I had filled the Rs 18,000/- visa form she would have got the visa.

I found the matter very discriminatory especially after the UNCRPD is in force that talks about non-discriminatory immigration rules.

Is it not discriminatory that I am required to pay a heightened visa fee of Rs18,000/- for my personal carer’s visa just because  I cannot travel without her?

It is more like a fine I need to pay to the UK Government because I am disabled and require a personal carer.

The repercussion of this on me was that I was unable to travel also and had to miss my business meeting and miss the future business prospects just because my carer was refused a visa. Is it fair?

My wheelchair is not my identity

I became disabled person when I was 22 years old in a car accident. There was a very marked change in people’s behaviour towards me, and o...