COMMONS

Routine consular services to British citizens who live/work abroad

The forum is now closed. Thank you to all those who have posted comments and contributed to the Committee’s inquiry into FCO consular services. The Committee will draw upon the information submitted via the web forum as it continues its work. Over the next few months, the Committee will hold further evidence sessions and will conclude by producing a report with conclusions and recommendations for the FCO. Information about the inquiry will be posted regularly on the Committee’s inquiry page.

The Committee would like to hear about the FCO's provision of routine consular services to British citizens living and working abroad.

  • Based on your experience, how effective is the FCO in providing routine consular services (notarial and legal services, etc)?

  • Are you able to access services on-the-ground or online and through call centres?

  • Have there been any changes to waiting times or charging structures?

  • Were you satisfied with the consular service that is provided?

  • Do you have any suggestions to improve the service or examples of good practice from elsewhere?

64 Responses to British nationals living and working abroad

D M says:
February 17, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Regarding the Consular Services, we have had problems where so often their staff, from the highest level downwards are rarely sufficiently knowledgeable about the rights of expats when exercising their right of free movement not only in accordance with Article 21 f the Treaty (TFEU), but also the status they have as citizenship of the Union (Article 20 of the TFEU). This situation has led to a mushroom growth in expats organisations, in order to assist our fellow citizens.

Another concern I have is where our consular services succour up to our local English language tabloids in order to obtain media coverage for their service, regardless as to where we cannot rely on these tabloids to accurately disseminate and distribute correct information. Leaving those such as ourselves to challenge and correct such misinformation.

My biggest bone of contention is where our own Government regularly embarks on campaigns to brandish all expats as benefit cheats or criminals on the run. without any proper response from consular services to refute such allegations. This is especially so where the overwhelming majority of British expats elderly law abiding citizens. And in that respect the Costa Blanca News, for example, [*name removed by moderator*] , to produce attention capturing headlines, calculated to frighten our elderly in order to sell copy, rather than to challenge much of the utter rubbish fed to them. Note the current edition with the front page headline, ‘ EXPATS IN SPAIN LEAD ABROAD FRAUD’. No attempt made to put that in proper perspective where the overwhelming majority of British Expats reside elsewhere with Europe. [*name removed by moderator*] then pulls a figure out of the hat when referring to DWP investigators looked into some 7,296 cases of suspected fraud by expats in Spain. whereas no data is supplied as to the period that covers and neither does it refer to confirmed cases of fraud. There can be little doubt amongst expats that this is merely representative of an ever increasing smear campaign in order to ferment ill feeling in the UK towards expats mostly for the reason that our Government would seek to find some way of circumventing Community in order to withdraw benefits to which they are entitled to.

The bottom line here is that per capita benefit fraud in Spain pales into insignificance compared with such fraud in the UK. In his current Article [*name removed by moderator*] refers to recent agreements to share information to combat fraud in the context of the failure to notify the DWP of the death of a person receiving benefits in Spain. Whereas such a provision is not only built into the Treaty and the secondary law of the EU.

For example following a complaint reported in the Round Town News in mid 2009 where a pensioner’s old-age pension had been summarily withdrawn, leaving her high and dry for almost 2 months before it was reinstated, on the basis she had not completed a ‘Life Certificate’, which she said she had not received.Being aware that Community law makes special provision for the exchange of such information. When challenging the draconian need to harass expats. In order to justify this practice, the DWP’s manager at Madrid responded, ‘Because there is no requirement to report the death of such citizens to the Consular Services. Not content with that reason, I then sought a FOI request and yes, all deaths occurring within Spanish Territory and elsewhere within the EEA or Switzerland of British citizens and none British citizens known to be in receipt of a pension are automatically notified to Madrid by local Registrars for onward transmission to the DWP.
Brigid Cooling says:
February 13, 2014 at 12:57 PM
I had my purse stolen on a bus in Cairo and my passport was in it. I had to get an emergency passport. This took 3 visits - first visit because the website had omitted to say you had to take not just an itinerary but proof of travel in the form of your plane ticket. Second visit to take the forms and third visit to collect. At the second visit, I was informed that after obtaining the emergency passport, I would have to also go to the Egyptian authorities and get visas replaced before I would be able to leave the country. this is not a quick business and took a further several days. It would have been better if that information had been available on the website too so I could have been more prepared, not least because if my journey had been within a couple of days, then the emergency passport would have been issued for that day (I assume) but the business with the Egyptian authorities would not have been concluded in time. So I would then have to repeat all at yet more expense of a new emergency passport. Not cheap at £95 each plus all the associated travel costs of getting up to the Embassy each visit.

My main point though, is why have friends who have had passports lost or stolen in other countries eg Florida, Denmark etc, been able to get emergency passports issued the very same day during one single visit to the embassy, while in Egypt we have to come back on a second day?

Graeme Smith says:
February 13, 2014 at 03:31 AM
A very elderly British Citizen who was clearly confused and disorientated was stopped by concerned passersby. The British Embassy in Bangkok was telephoned, despite there being a Honorary British Consul 2 minutes away (The Embassy has banned British Citizens contacting directly all their Honorary consuls in Thailand with 1 exception “so as to provide a better service”). Would you expect the British Embassy Consular Official on receiving this call to say. Can you look after him we will try and get the Honorary Consul out to you, give us your mobile number? . OR This has nothing to do with us. There is nothing we can do or are obliged to do. And if you take him to hospital you must have the funds to pay out of your own pocket. You can perhaps guess which response the Embassy in Bangkok gave. Now I have no doubt that in the past the Embassy would have done something. But the FCO has introduced so many detailed rules and regulations that there is no longer any discretion given to Embassy officials. You have to give back some discretion and compassion to people in the Embassies.
Further the FCO and Home Office states that their costs for passports, certificates etc, which are high in comparison to other countries, are said to be set so as to recover the provision of consular services. So given the FCO huge tax payer funded budget how much of this is actually given towards consular services, particularly for dealing with British citizens in “emergency circumstance” ? And if low then why is more not allocated to serving British citizens needs. And it was not gratifying to read that whilst the elderly British citizen above was being told in plain terms he was on his own a Minister announced strong financial support to highlight Gay Rights at the Sochi Games. [*Comment removed by moderator*]
Kieron Heath says:
February 12, 2014 at 03:35 PM
I have been visiting Arequipa, Peru a number of times during the last 5 years. The Hon. British Consul in the City - Francis Rainsford - has been a considerable help in many ways during my half a dozeen visits. As more British people visit South Peru, it's good to know that the UK has such an excellent Hon. Consul who is very visible in the community as a fine representative of our country and our government!
Jane Cheeney says:
February 12, 2014 at 11:50 AM
I am deaf and cannot use the telephone.
My only options are email, so far I have had ZERO response via email and this has caused much distress.
Via facebook, the British Embassy have NOT been helpful telling me to seek my answers with a Dutch National Ombudsman when I am not a Dutch citizen, clearly I will get nowhere. The Dutch organisation tell me to contact the British Embassy.
Secondly, when applying for renewal of British passport, I will have to send my current passport away and therefore I have no photo ID at all. I would like an answer on this - does the British Embassy provide a temporary ID for the 4 weeks that I will have none? It is illegal to live in the Netherlands with no ID. I cannot apply for a Dutch ID as I am not a Dutch citizen.
Committee staff says:
February 11, 2014 at 06:47 PM
Thank you to all those who have submitted comments already on this forum. In light of the interest that this has received so far, the Committee has decided to extend the forum for a further week. We very much appreciate you sharing your experiences. The Committee will consider the comments carefully as it goes forward in its inquiry, and we will keep you updated with progress.
James gardner says:
February 11, 2014 at 01:42 PM
yes for 3years I have been in the Turkish Courts With a very bad Lawyer given to me by the Antalya Consulate [*name removed by moderator*] I have not been able to have a Translator nor ask a question ,say one word The Ambassador never even acknowledge one if my letters?They only assist Turkish Citizens
James gardner says:
February 11, 2014 at 01:30 PM
I am in Turkey and for 3years been in the Courts Not allowed to say one word nor ask a question The Ambassador did not answer my letters cry for help and the Consular in Antalya passed me onto a Lawyer who charged but did nothing [*name removed by moderator*]. Why have Embassy and Consular offices some of which are only open 4 mornings a week and run by people that know nothing and basically only deal with Turkish Visa Applications.why are not the list reviewed ! [*Personal information removed by moderator*]
Elizabeth Watson says:
February 11, 2014 at 12:21 PM
Recently I phoned the consular section at the embassy in Oman to inquire about renewing a right of abode visa application.
Bearing in mind I phoned the last time I did this I renewed at the embassy.
They had no idea what I was talking about nor helpful in finding out who I go to.
The only thing the girl repeated was that I should go to the website.
I asked if I could speak to someone else and she informed me that she could not transfer me to another person as they too would not know.
Very frustrating
I have renewed the right of abode 3 times at the embassy.......so how come nobody knows about it .?
Richard Monteith says:
February 11, 2014 at 08:47 AM
Given the professional/business interests of Consuls (they may practice in law, property, accountancy ..... and have an established local client base) there is a significant risk that a British national's interests may come into conflict with the interests of the Consul's affairs or those of his/her clients. If that occurs, it is probable that the resolution of the conflict of interest will be in favour of the Consul and his established clients.
I have seen a case of this [*removed by moderator*] where a British national was victim of fraud relating to property. The advice/interest of the Consul was curtailed, without explanation, when the investigative path started to lead to the door of one of his clients.
Is there a code of conduct to cover this sort of thing? Is there a complaints procedure?

Oral evidence

The Foreign Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into consular services provided to British citizens overseas. You can read transcripts of the evidence sessions on our inquiry page.