Make thee mightier yet

I do believe that I may have said in a previous post on my deepening relationship with the UK Home Office that their refusal of my visa application and my grounds for appeal are "too boring for any of the readers here." But did I prove that? I can, you know. Below is the text of the appeal letter I sent to my friends in the HSMP office in Sheffield, which will arrive to them by express courier on Monday (and has already arrived to some of them by e-mail).
14 September 2007

Highly Skilled Migrant Programme
PO Box 3468
Sheffield S3 8WA

Re: Request for review of application [right, I'm going to give you my case number]

To the members of the HSMP team:

I am in receipt of your letter of 28 August 2007 informing me of the decision on my application for an HSMP visa [secret magic number]. I believe that the HSMP team has reached an incorrect decision based on misinterpretation of the documents provided, and am therefore requesting reconsideration of the application for the reasons set out below.

The decision was based on an interpretation of the documentation I provided under the section “Previous earnings.” Allow me to address the contentions made in your letter of 28 August individually:

1. The letter claims that "the evidence does not corroborate the wage slips." It is difficult to follow the logic of this contention, since the wage slips are evidence, and their function is to corroborate, not to be corroborated. The wage slips do establish that the income claimed was earned, and the letter does not claim otherwise. It is unclear what is meant by corroboration in this context, since there exists no other evidence of what is contained in the wage slips aside from the wage slips themselves, which were provided to your office in accordance with the guidance notes for application. They clearly set out the amount of my salary for each fourteen-day period covered by each wage slip, the amount deducted for state and federal taxes, payments into federal and private pension schemes, medical insurance, and the amount deposited into my bank account.

2. The letter claims that I "have not provided an original tax return that corroborates individual earnings for the full period claimed." Here again it is not possible to discern from the letter what the HSMP team found to object to regarding my tax return. The only basis I can use for response is the half sentence offered in the letter. What follows is my detailed response based on what the HSMP team’s conclusion might have been, as derived through an exegesis of the half sentence in the letter:

a) Is the tax return original? Our tax return was filed electronically, which is done by an increasing number of people in the United States as it accelerates the process, simplifies the procedure of filling out the famously complicated forms, and reduces the potential for error. This practice is explicitly encouraged by the Internal Revenue Service as a matter of policy. Since the entire process takes place through electronic transactions, there is no "original" paper document. Rather, when the procedure is completed, the software produces a PDF file with the completed return, one copy of which is sent electronically to the Internal Revenue Service for processing, and one copy of which is downloaded to our computer. If we had filed our taxes using paper documents, we would still not have the original document as this would have been sent to the Internal Revenue Service, and we would have saved a copy for ourselves, as is the normal procedure. The copy which taxpayers save for their files is accepted as evidence of income and taxes paid by every existing relevant institution, including banks, mortgage brokers, and the Internal Revenue Service itself.

b) Is the document a tax return? The document that was provided is what is called a “tax return” as defined by the US Internal Revenue Code, and is referred to as such by taxpayers, accountants, banks, other financial institutions, and the Internal Revenue Service itself. There exists no other type of document which is referred to universally as a “tax return.” Under the definition in the Guidance Notes for the HSMP application, the document provided is also a tax return. The obvious and unavoidable conclusion is that the document is a tax return.

c) Is the tax return individual? There are three options available to taxpayers filing returns in the United States: they may file an “individual” return, file as “married filing jointly,” or they may file as “married filing separately.” The option of filing an “individual” return is not available to taxpayers who are married. My wife and I filed a joint tax return. This is what is done by the overwhelming majority of married couples, particularly if they want to take advantage of joint tax deductions for charitable contributions or child allowances, or if they own property in common. As the status of “married filing separately” involves twice the paperwork, it is generally used by people in less common circumstances, such as married partners who have widely differing individual property holdings or individually owned income-producing assets. Our tax return was prepared in accordance with the US Internal Revenue Code as the most complete and succinct statement of our family income. It may be the case that we could have filed separately when reporting our 2006 income, but 1) at the time, I did not know that I would be accepting employment in the UK, and 2) even if I had, I would not have known about the Byzantine interpretive strategies employed by the UK Home Office. I do not believe that the UK Home Office has the authority to penalise US taxpayers for complying with US tax law.

In any case, I corroborated my individual earnings with two pieces of additional evidence: 1) my wage slips covering an entire twelve-month period in 2006 and 2007, and 2) the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 "salary letters" which are sent to each member of the faculty by the president of Clark University (my employer since 1997) giving details of salary for the coming academic year.

d) Does the documentation cover the full period? I provided documentation of earnings over an academic year, which is how salaries are calculated by my employer. Income tax returns cover earnings over a calendar year. The guidance notes for the HSMP application do not specify that the periods covered by two types of documentation need to correspond exactly with one another. They request income documentation for 12 of the preceding 15 months, and they request the most recent available tax return. Since tax returns are filed in April of each year to declare income for the preceding calendar year, there is no possibility of providing that type of documentation for income earned during 2007. Since most of the period between January 2006 and December 2006 does not fall within the 15 months preceding the HSMP application, that evidence is not suitable for submission. Here the HSMP staff appears to have invented a rule which is not stated in the application instructions, and would contain fatal internal contradictions if it were. The contention in your letter of 28 August is arbitrary, and it contradicts the published guidance.

3. The letter claims that two of the supporting documents provided state "your expected salary and they do not state your actual salary for the period claimed." The two documents in question are letters from the President of Clark University, Dr John Bassett, informing me of my salary for the 2006-2007 and the 2007-2008 academic years. These letters are sent each year to each permanent member of the faculty at Clark University, as they are at nearly every other university in the United States. According to US employment law and the rules of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), these letters are legally binding documents with contractual status. As the president of the University, Dr Bassett is the highest ranking administrative officer of the institution, and under the university statute does not have the authority to discuss vague expectations in this type of communication (although he may do so in other contexts, such as addresses before a public audience).

For the reasons stated above, it is apparent to me that the HSMP team has misinterpreted the documentation which was submitted to them, has rejected documentation without valid reason, and consequently reached an incorrect conclusion in considering my case. I am therefore appealing the decision and requesting that the case be reconsidered.

Please permit me to remind you that my application was submitted with a request for urgent treatment, and that I request that my appeal also be treated urgently.

Thank you for considering my appeal.


Dr Eric Gordy
Only hope (also, glory) stands between me and a positive decision. We shall see.


Make muster 'gainst the foreign hand that's raised to the Rose of England

The appeal of the Home Office's decision went off to them today. I will keep everyone posted on my long road to gastarbeiterlichkeit.

For the record, perhaps I should note that I am not a terrorist, have never committed a crime, and always clean up after my dog.


The triumph of bureaucracy over matter

Well, it took some doing, but I finally got from the Home office notification of the status of my visa application. It turns out I was refused (Jelenko, gdje si?), for reasons that I believe I will be able to contest. But let's get to the first step: how does one receive information about the disposition of his or her own case? It turns out that it can be done in several hairpulling steps:
  1. Ask to be informed.
  2. Fail to receive a reply.
  3. Ask for intervention by the complaints unit.
  4. Receive a bewildering variety of contradictory replies, some stating that the case has already been taken up, some stating that the case will be taken up in the future, and some stating that the case cannot be taken up.
  5. Ask to be informed again.
  6. Fail to receive a reply again (repeat two times).
  7. Find the address of the head of the Border and Immigration Agency.
  8. Ask her to intervene ("Hej ministre, jel mogu da dobijem jednu garažu za svoj bend?").
  9. In the meantime, continue to receive correspondence telling you that it is impossible to be notified of the status of your case in less than twelve weeks "due to security reasons."
  10. After a short interval, receive the document that they were obligated to supply in the first place, along with a note stating that informing applicants of the status of their cases in a timely manner "is not common practice and has been done on this occasion exceptionally."
The details of the matter and the grounds on which I will appeal are, I do not doubt, too boring for any of the readers here. But there is a nice little gem in the letter I finally did receive, which contains the passage:
You may request one reconsideration of your application. This will be carried out on the basis of exactly the same information provided in your original application. If you wish us to review our decision, you should clearly set out the reasons why you believe the decision is incorrect in a letter to the HSMP Team or complete the review request form available on our website: www.workingintheuk.gov.uk. This must be sent within 28 days of the date of the decision. Please note that any review requests received more than 28 days after the date of the decision will not normally be accepted and any verbal request for a review cannot be considered as valid.
Considering that I was able to be notified of the decision within 17 days only by virtue of the extraordinary intervention of a powerful individual, and that otherwise the Home Office seems to insist that twelve weeks is a reasonable amount of time in which to be notified of decisions, an interesting possibility arises. Since weeks, if they are calculated using base-10, generally last 7 days, and since 12 x 7 = 84, and since 84 - 28 = 56, it looks as though somebody has calculated a way to deprive every applicant of the right of appeal by design.

Quod erat zajebatum.


Your dreams made real

Everybody has a dream. Mine is to introduce the guy on the label of Jagodinsko pivo to the guy on the label of Birra Moretti. Vlade Divac aims a bit higher than me, and wants to use his new foundation to secure homes for people who are still living in refugee camps (might he have an object lesson for his younger colleagues?). And some other people's dreams may be better left alone.


Neither sleet nor snow

Bless their little hearts. The Home Office, after being informed by me that the claim that was made in their previous communication with me could not possibly be true, sent me this corrective note today:
Dear Applicant, Your documents and letter were actually sent back to you by airmail on the 28th of August. Please allow up to twelve weeks for delivery.
Twelve weeks to receive a letter! What dread postal service dogpaddles off Albion's shores?