back to article UK Border Agency servers go titsup, thousands grounded

A computer crash yesterday left hundreds of UK workers, students and visitors without valid residence permits, creating a month-long backlog for Blighty's immigration staff to clear. IT systems at the Border Agency have reportedly suffered outages for the past few weeks, but on Thursday the organisation's Croydon office …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And thats before they even get to the trains

  2. Stephen 2

    A grand for a visa

    Over a grand for a 24 hour turnaround on a visa? That' seems insanely expensive!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A grand for a visa

      The ones that actually pay for expedited turnaround are the employers of the foreign techies hired to implement the latest clutch of public sector boondoggles, obviously.

      (No really, it is.)

    2. LateNightLarry
      Paris Hilton

      Re: A grand for a visa

      Definitely EXPENSIVE... US Department of State Passport Agency only charges about $60 for an expedited passport, although that usually takes 1-2 weeks. There are provisions for same day service at the Passport Agency offices (only a dozen in the entire US though), but you can use passport expediters who have offices in all the cities where Passport Agency offices are located and they can usually turn it around in 2-3 days. Their charges are over and above the Passport Agency fees, usually around $100-200, depending on how soon you need it. And the people STILL scream about the cost, when it's their own d*** fault they waited until two days before they needed the passport to think about that... Lessee, mine expires in ... ummmmm... ummmmm... five years from April.

      Paris, cause she can afford to use the expediter if she forgets to renew in time.

      1. David Ward 1

        Re: A grand for a visa

        I think you are confusing passports with work visa's. UK passports are £129.50 for a same day service from any of 7 locations across the UK. £112.50 for 1 week special delivery service and £77.50 for normal ~ 3 week service. I think I would rather the UK service to be honest..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A grand for a visa

        Work Visa, not Passport.

        The fee to expedite a H1B work visa in the US is $1225. That's $1225 above the standard processing fees which run $2K - $3K.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like some public service numpty went for the unicycle option when it came to "these are the options, here is the worst - we don't advise you get it as if there's a problem you're fucked and thi.."

    "We'll take that option."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3rd party vendors.....

    ......and the government don't have a great time together do they.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe they should have gone back to their area of expertise and used Hollerith machines to keep track of people?

  6. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Isn't this the cut-down remnants of the ID card system?

    Glad that never went live then.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Melanie Winiger

    What changed?

    Let me guess at a "Route Cause Analysis":

    Software upgrade to record the DNA and urine specifications for non-EU resident Kent Strawberry Pickers Temporary Summer Visas went wrong.

    That kind of thing...

  9. Richard Cartledge

    Renationalise it

    It's a very disorganised place. The facility is managed by Group 4 Securicor ( G4S) so it's not just the IT that is run by global corporations who want to make profit out of tax-paid municipal services.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Border Agency!

    Frankly this rubbish is NFFP, Not Fit For Purpose. The whole thing is a shambles, why do not they check the people onto the planes, oh yes we already were... twice...

    If I had not a limited disable pass last year it would have taken us about 3hrs to come thru gatwick, and that was EU people! there were about 2000 people and another lot arriving all the time and there were only two immigration desks open, the one that did us as disabled, certainly did not have a UK accent.

    Just think at 1 minute for each person thats a 1000 minutes or some 16.5 hrs! I also had concerns about escape emergency exits in case of fire (now that would be fun just imagine a bomb scare there!)

    Frankly this HAS to stop, its down to the country's to sort this out, silly visa's, stupid access times.

    It must be also law that ALL persons go through the system, no opt out for politicians, even Obama or Cameron. Just Imagine Obama sitting sorry standing for 2 hours or so to get in!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Border Agency!

      There are plans to open a second desk for the olympics - once Sharon gets back from her tea break.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Being a civil serpent means you can mess with people

    Why don't they just wave people through?

    Nope. "Our fault is your loss. Deal with it."

    If need be, just pay twice.

    The difference between public and private sector couldn't be more stark.

    1. mrslappy

      Re: Being a civil serpent means you can mess with people

      "The difference between public and private sector couldn't be more stark."

      Have you ever actually worked in private sector? They're just much better at keeping their cock-ups secret, that's all.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Being a civil serpent means you can mess with people

        The difference is when the customers can leave and cause the place to close.

        Your supermarket is slow and awful? Change it.

        ISP? Change that one... Oh, some people can't and oddly they are the ones who get the worst service.

        It's all about being able to deprive the organisation of revenue, and for that lack of revenue to be able to close the organisation.

        When the organisation cannot fail, it will rapidily become terrible.

        The civil service is a classic example of a set of organisations that cannot fail no matter what they do. The management are never held personally responsible for anything and that makes it even worse.

        Who is going to eat the consequences of this latest failure? An underling, a manager or nobody at all?

  12. janimal


    They should have used it on their IT rather than their workforce

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The private sector at its finest.

    > The biometric residence permit system in Croydon was supplied as part of the Immigration and Asylum Biometric System (IABS) contract, which involves services and technology from IBM, Fujitsu, CSC, Atos Origin and Sagem Sécurité (SAFRAN Group).

    Well, that's all right then. Just as long as the system wasn't put together by civil servants who, as commentators are always keen to tell us, would have made a complete pig's ear of things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The private sector at its finest.

      Wow, what a surprise to see Couldn't-Give-A-Toss Origin in the list of cockup artists!!!

    2. Hooksie

      Re: The private sector at its finest.

      Dude, that's the whole reason it's failed in the first place. Same situation with the MOD and the ATLAS stuff. Government policy is to not have your eggs all in one basket so they hire 6 companies who never talk to each other to the job that one company alone could do far more efficiently.

      And slightly off topic but since my wife is Mexican I have first hand experience of all this stuff. They rip off hard working foreign nationals like you wouldn't believe. We had to pay to get her over here (£650 I think) then we had to pay for an extension (£600) and then she has to do a knowledge of life in the UK test (which is a frikken joke) and pay over £1000 to get the Indefinite Leave to Remain. This despite working and paying taxes in the UK for 4 years and being married to a UK national. Shocking.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terrible journalism

    I note the 'journalist' has had to update this article to remove a load of conjecture based on half truths and dodgy research. Sounded like something a GCSE student had written it.

    Usually these articles are shown as updated when theyre later changed. Wonder why not this time?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Catch-22 Victim in 3.. 2.. 1..

    Border Agency Official:

    "Even though it's our fault, you do not have valid documents, so you must immediately leave the U.K. If you do not immediately leave the U.K., you will be jailed."

    Border Agency Guard:

    "'Ang on, there, you. You cannot leave the U.K. without valid documents. Attempting to leave the U.K. without valid documents is a crime which will land you in jail."

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aptly named Lunar House

    Still punishing the immigrant/visitor population, eh?

  17. Richrootes

    Computer says no.......

    1. MrZoolook

      Computer says....

  18. Corinne

    ISTR what usually happens in big government programmes is that part of the cost justification is that they can cut jobs and save money that way. The schedule for reducing staff goes ahead based on being able to work with the reduced numbers from day 1 of the new system going live (not allowing for things like bedding in time etc). Then the project gets delayed or even cancelled - but the staffing cuts carry on because they aren't allowed to change the already optimistically low resource forecast for the next year.

    There's also often an unshakeable faith in the ability of the systems to function correctly all the time, so no contingency plans for problems - OK they may have a DR plan for complete disasters like a plane falling on the office, but nothing for short term computer outages

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I have worked in a (fairly sizable) hospital Trust which has two hospitals. After their CPR system (computerized patient records, which doesn't actually hold any health records, just does patient admin) kept falling over, management *eventually* created a fallback plan. There had to be medical accidents due to lack of patient information before they actually created this plan though.

      They have a very impressive Major Incident Plan, but never had anything for 'small' things like this.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should've gone microsoft.

    The it would still be up.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Agencies that sit between employers and contractors are sucking the life out of the I.T. sector, they still demand too high a percentage for basically doing nothing. In some instances they receive fifty percent of their contractors wage per hour. The problem with this system is that I.T. qualifications and courses don't come cheap. Expenses are cut to the extent (if paid at all) they may only cover petrol; not wear and tear, again a cost only the contractor pays.

    We have a situation now where many of the contractors on-site aren't fit for purpose, they're skills are out of date or since agencies are paying peanuts- monkeys are turning up.

  21. Dropper


    UK Immigration has always been a fuckup. They charge outrageous fees for paperwork which they sometimes take years to process. Compared to countries like the US we charge 2-3 times the amount for people whose visas and residency should be guaranteed - such as spouses and the children of spouses. I know when I married someone from the US, it was an easy decision as to which country we should settle in. She had two kids so paying 6 times the cost with no guarantee the paperwork would be dealt with correctly meant I took the decision to leave the country permanently. It's a shame really, my wife and kids loved England, but there was no way we could take the chance that they would be thrown out of the country by the inept simpletons that work in the immigration office.

    Anyone whose had to go through the immigration process would be horrified at this story. Not because of a crashed system, but the fact these people are so fucking crap that they forced those who are already in a massive state of stress to have to go through the entire process again. It took some of them years to get to this point, finally seeing an end to the enormous stress and worry, wondering if their families will be torn apart by bureacratic cunts, only to be told, "Fuck off home and start again, our computers crashed and we didn't keep off-site backups". Because that's what I don't understand. Why do they have to start over?

    Surely we could get someone from eastern Europe to take their place for a fraction of the cost? This entire branch of government should just be sacked for gross incompetence. Wouldn't matter if the replacements can speak the language or understand the job, literally anyone would be better.

    /rant off

    1. MrZoolook

      Re: Fail

      If she came to live here with kids, and her visa ran out and the border/imigration agency started dragging their heels in renewing the paperwork... She could have just claimed asylum from political persecution, or something... that would have extended her stay by upwards of about 12 years or so.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fail

        @Mr Zoolook - I t doesn't work like that, no matter what the British press might tell us.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Atos Origin and CSC

    Well there's two reasons why the system is such a clusterf*ck.

  23. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Uk dot gov

    Yet again proving that the best place to hide the truely unemployable is in the Civil Service.

    1. LateNightLarry

      Re: Uk dot gov

      Better place... as a member of Parliament (in the UK) and Congress (in the US)... Most of them seem to be total incompetents.

      Beer, since it's Wine O'Clock somewhere... Hey El Reg, when will we get a glass of wine???

      1. James O'Brien

        Re: Uk dot gov

        Ahh yes congress. While they are inept they certainly do a lot of work writing passage that fuck over the small guys while exempting themselves from those same laws so they can continue to break them all while paying themselves rather well to do fuck all.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £1,324 for a 24-hour visa turnaround

    Better hope the VISA has enough credit for the Visa...

  25. Alan Esworthy


    "I'm from the govt and I'm here to help you. Bend over."

    Regarding privatisation, The bureaucrat vs. contractor differentiation is to a large extent bogus in cases such as this. Yes, private contractors can be just as hideously incompetent as govt workers, but remember please that the govt workers write the specs, manage (hah!) the contract, evaluate results, and control the money. Even though this system is run by employees in the private sector I still blame the bureaucrats.

  26. Ben Norris

    Why has the government never heard of distributed or batch processing? It's not exactly a new concept. Designing systems with server(s) at their heart which are too important to fail will always lead to occasional big problems.

  27. poet

    its tearful

    I have paid 3600 pounds for one day ILR service for me , my wife and 2 kids. It's been 2 months and we have heard nothing. We don't have passports as they ask original passports, we already run out of visas. After paying huge taxes for 8 years I am feeling, it was waste of time, money and social dignity. We don't want be illegal immigrants. It's tearful experience. God help us.

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