How Hard Can It Be?

Posted on 2011-03-20 by Chakers in United Kingdom.

I love book awards. I mean, I don't actually watch them. I tried a book review once and was amazed what category of pastel green cardigan wearing, still living with mother, what does get a life mean, I don't know why I had no friends at school, got no mates they are who frequent these events. After all, books are for everybody, but these maggoty little bookworms have stolen the show and given books such a bad rep' that generations today are required to remark that a visit to the library is archaic when in this modern day and age we have the Internet and searching takes seconds instead of having to read and research. No, what I mean is, I love the book award results. You know like the Booker prize and Costa's and Pulitzer and the 'never heard of it' Carnegie Medal.

I love seeing the results because I am always left thinking 'What?' - This years Booker went to Howard Jacobsen for 'The Finkler Question'. A novel that is Jewish. It is a good book but has as much appeal to an Anglo-Saxon as a New York Bagel. Why Bagels are in supermarkets I'll never know, or at least I won't accuse all the Jewish owned supermarkets of doing it deliberately, but I have never seen anyone buy them. And the same will go for The Finkler Question. It is not a best seller. It has a target audience with its very particular perception of society. But now that the 'experts' have decided it is a work of art it will climb the chart rapidly and maybe even hog the number one slot for 'one night only' if Mrs. Rowling's ghost writer regurgitates another 120 pages for the delight of eleven year olds the world over.

But this is what amuses me about the literary awards. Old before their time, elbow patched, school teachers reading big books and the school children reading the little books. And the chunk in the middle who read the Internet. Which one is qualified to tell me which is the best book in the shops today? So the Costa book of the year went to Jo Shapcott for 'Of Mutability', a collection of poetry. The best offering of which is:

This tea, this cup of tea, made of leaves,

made of the leaves of herbs and absolute

almond blossom, this tea, is the interpreter

of almond, liquid touchstone which lets us

scent its true taste at last and with a bump..

And poets wonder why they got no mates. Try reading it because I know you didn't bother. But that's the point about poetry, it only appeals to poets and mostly the one 'what wrote it'. I'm serious, do not go any further with this until you have read and understood that prose. Oh sorry, I misspelled prose, I meant shite. Just like the stupid shite who described the cover as shite and maybe the publishers will put a proper cover on it now it is a gong winner. Why? the poetry is shite, the book is shite, so surely the cover should be shite so that no unsuspecting soul accidentally buys it. I would congratulate the publishers on providing it with a cover that matches their cardigans.

The Pulitzer was won by Tinkers. A book surely written to assist people with sleep disorders while 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders' by Daniyal Mueenuddin, which didn't win, should be placed in school curriculum's to teach kids what life is really like for a Muslim Pakistani living in Kashmir. But these dopes also managed to miss Lore Segal's Shakespeare's Kitchen when back in the 40's they used to acknowledge literary arts like 'All the King's Men'. When the Pulitzer's started out they chose books that would stand the test of time but the sensible boards have been updated to university heads of modernity who being better educated than you and I are able to discern the real arts.

It isn't that I like the populist novels. It is that I have a pet hate for the snobbery and self indulgence that really does make these people think they are better than us mere mortals who simply want to be entertained. They are in the same category as Art critics and people who attend ballet, critics of Paul Potts and lovers of the classics telling us that Cecille B DeMille made movies, while computers do not. Twenty years ago I watched TV avidly, now I think it is mostly crap, mostly reality TV, mostly lost are the BBC short stories and 'Play for Today'. But this is personal. TV has improved not worsened. The output quality and digital flat screen HDTV, the number of channels and how quickly news can be delivered along with clever writers like Russell T Davies and David Chase with intricate fast paced story lines that entertain and answer your questions. In my childhood you shouted at the Doctor to go upstairs because the Daleks are on wheels. No, it isn't TV and music and film has depreciated, it is that I have grown out of being entertained by it. And that is the difference between us and the art world. They cannot tell a good book from a bad one. If it tests them and they have to read it twice to understand it then it is good. If they can analyse it and place what the author is really trying to tell us under the microscope then it is good. Or they pretend to understand it because they do not want their peers to know that if they watched a Guy Ritchie movie they would declare it rubbish because they couldn't follow the story line. They have not grown up. They are no better than the Nobel Peace Prize board who used to award it to people like Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, or Robert Oppenheimer for giving mankind something that would change the world forever. "And the award goes to... Liu Xiaobo" Who? And for what? Well not for anything really. It's just that after years of ordinary people standing up to the Chinese government we thought we ought to acknowledge it. Prior to that it went to Barack Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" You didn't give it to him because he is the first black president of the United States then?

So who won the Carnegie I'm sure you want to know now I have capitalised on your attention span. If you are still here that is, I fully expect this to become the least read page on my website at this rate. Well the Carnegie Medal went to Neil Gaiman for his first novel 'The Graveyard Book'. This is literary genius. A gem of an author. I don't like horror stories but this is gripping and excruciating in its ability to drag you in and make you wait in suspense for the outcome. It knocks spots off all the arti-farty 'you have to be a member of the book appreciation society to appreciate it' bullshit that should only be available on backorder. And it is a children's book.

I like to read. I get a new book every time I make the 17 hour jumbo jet journey to Thailand. The first book I read in many a year was on my second voyage. I tried to read Bill Bryson's 'The Thunderbolt Kid'. Flights are droning noise with a hard back chair in 'leave me alone' confinement. I can't sleep on a plane, and neither could anyone else on the Thunderbolt Kid flight. Funny? I could only manage half a page at a time because my ribs were genuinely hurting. Another Bryson book 'A short history about nearly everything' is a bible in American senior schools. And it should be here too. It is a marvellous reference book that broadens your horizons by answering questions you never before realised you wanted to ask. But after reading the answer you are so glad that you now understand but baffled as to why you never thought about it before. That caused me to go and buy Robert Goodmans 'How Electronic Things Work'. How can a book author know so much about electronic stuff. And how come he makes it so easy to understand?

I have read Simon Schama's 'History of Britain' and every word in my head was spoken in his voice and although I cannot remember most of it that doesn't matter. Because I read it and understood it and when someone tells me that Eleanor of Castile bore the child of William Wallace my recollection arises and I am able to explain that Edward II was not incapable and fathered four children by three women even though it is possible that his father shagged Eleanor because he fancied her and that Wallace was executed before Eleanor came to England. Another book I thoroughly enjoyed was 'Bad Science' by Ben Goldacre. I urge you to go and buy it and read how many times you have been conned by the media. This isn't an author, it is a government scientist who was in the know. MRSA was a con. The MMR a deliberate hoax. The newspapers have cost this country billions by shooting down projects to sell their papers and Ben Goldacre explains how and why. Oh, and he is the guy who outed Dr. Gillian McKeith PhD. She is the barmy cow who pretended to feint on 'I'm a Celebrity get me out of here'. She is actually a nobody with no qualifications at all and was forunate not to be prosecuted for pretending to be a doctor.

But if ever I was allowed to explain to the cardigans what a real book is like and why, I would suggest Jeremy Clarkson with his 'How Hard Can It Be?' A book that just gets it off his chest, but the funny thing is, it is exactly how you feel too. And it makes you feel better because you discover that actually, thousands of men have the same issues as you. I mean, why is my outside lane of the M4 reserved for 48mph top speed double decker buses? Why do I have to go through seven different departments if I want an extension on my house. Why isn't there just one department? Why when the council knows who lives at my address because I have just paid them £1,700 for planning permission to build an extension do they send red letters and summonses and bailiffs for the previous occupant. I contact them every time and keep getting the same reply "until we find the previous occupant we have to send it somewhere so it goes to you as 'care of' blah blah blah" Why do you 'have to'. She doesn't live here and I am not her carer. I live in permanent fear that they will come and take my furniture away while my non-English speaking half Thai half Chinese step-daughter is home alone. It does not surprise me when a farmer sprays 30 tons of cattle slurry over the council offices.

I would promote my own 'How Hard Can It Be' when it comes to visa applications. It should be really easy to do a visa application but it isn't. And why isn't it? Because they keep moving the goal posts. Sometimes there aren't any goal posts at all and sometimes they like the applicant to guess where the goal posts are. Dealing with your local council and dealing with immigration are exactly the same. They move slowly. You cannot contact them or ask where your application is at or tell them to hurry up. And you have no idea who will object to what or why. You see? Planning Application/Visa Application, exactly the same. This explanation won't help you with your application but it might help you understand what meerkats have to do with a price comparison site when I tell you that three times as many visitors go to www.comparethemeerkat.com than comparethemarket.com. This is genius advertising and life for Mr. Average Farang would be so much simpler if there was a www.comparethevisa.gov.uk - Simples!

Well there is of sorts but as you would expect the British Government to do they manage to write it in legal terms and jargon that you have to look up every other word until you can re-write your own version in plain English and they do this so Mike in Liverpool can get a qualification and register himself and charge you lots of money to do your visa for you. Although most of his income is from public funds that an illegal immigrant has no recourse to but because his representation can claim legal aid on his clients behalf he basically lives off us, the tax payer. It would be illegal for anyone else to do your visa application for you in exchange for financial gain. You assume Thai Legal are the experts because they are Thai, and they are half the price. But they are not, MerseyMike charged someone £750 while Visa World Consulting charges start at £1000. There is another difference. Mike will prepare your application correctly and Visa World haven't the feintest idea about UK immigration law. And neither do you so you have to decide whether you are going to learn or take the easy option and pay someone to do it for you.

Most men take that easy option because initially it looks daunting. I will tell you the truth, it is daunting. And stressful and will worry you close to heart failure. Most of the paperwork you do not have available because you shredded it, banks have gone paperless as have most utility companies, you do not have your own home, your credit cards are maxed out, and your bank is in the red. You can't find your birth certificate and your passport has expired and the immigration stamps are all mixed up. Welcome to the world of normal people. www.ukvisas.gov.uk the world of 'out of touch with reality' Home Office UKBA doesn't answer any obvious questions about everyday life for the average Mr. I Need A Visa For My Thai Girlfriend. They don't tell you which is the easiest visa to obtain. They do not tell you what your financial means must be. They don't tell you what you will have to do later on.

I have met many who do not know the visa is only for two years and that before the deadline she must know a great many facts about the UK that not only have f*** all to do with Life in the UK but that you and I would never have known. The population of Scotland is 5 million, 0.4% of the population is Chinese, 85.7% of the population is Christian, interest rates in credit unions are usually higher than banks and building societies. After the Second World War where did British textile and engineering firms send agents to find workers? When did the European Union originate? Where did the tradition of playing jokes on one another on April 1st originate? HEY, Home Office, these questions are bollocks. The whole point about April Fools day is that it is for children with their 'pinch, punch, for the first day of the month'. It is not meant to be taken seriously. Talk about 'anal', only the British Government could come up with such a ridiculous question. You wouldn't mind but most of the answers are wrong, which means your Thai wife has to learn English and about England and then has to learn a set of incorrect answers parrot fashion. She doesn't even understand, she just has to memorise them. The ambiguity in the questions alone leads you to select the wrong answer. Why do that? This is supposed to be a test about understanding life in the UK not understanding English grammar according to Microsoft. These are foreigners you're testing not 6th Form GCSE students.

But before she can do all this you have to take a deep breath and make the decision to do this application yourself. The next thing you do is go looking for a list. Lists are nice. Lists are useful. We like lists because they make seeing the bigger picture very easy, which is why the UKBA do not provide any. It also means any list you do find is only a loose guide because we are not privy to what guidelines your ECO will choose to use. There are legal guidelines and immigration lawyers will tell you they are black and white. No they're not. The law tells the ECO what the minimum requirement is. After that it is up to them to choose whether they think you are telling the truth or not. A UK TV documentary recently showed a 44 year old Welsh woman married to a 20 something Indian man and the ECO said he was not satisfied their relationship was genuine because of the age gap. Go on then, prove that it is. What did he want, maybe the chap should give his older wife a bloody good seeing to over the ECO's desk with trousers round the ankles? She met him in the UK while he was a student and he was renting a room in her house. After two years they went to India to marry. His student visa was still valid but they did the right thing and applied for a spouse visa. Four years later in Swansea they are still married and still together.

We accept that it is not easy for the ECO and fraud is especially bad in India and Pakistan. In fact they are top of the list. An estimated 20% of Pakistani's living in the UK are illegal immigrants. But we need some sort of guideline as to what would raise the ECO's suspicions so that we can provide the evidence to placate the doubts. Instead, the rules clearly state "It is the applicant's responsibility to provide all the necessary evidence to satisfy the ECO that your application is genuine" A qualified immigration lawyer can no more meet that criteria than you or I. It is guesswork. Which is why I always tell people to overdo it. They want a utility bill, give them all of your bills. They want a couple of photos of you together, give them ten photos. They want evidence of communication, print out all your emails and get a report from your mobile service provider and all of your landline statements.

1) The first thing she has to do is take the Level 1 English test and get a certificate. I have read that this must be within six weeks of your application. I cannot see why. If she passes and get her diploma it does not expire. I have also read that it expires and she will have to retake it in the UK for her next visa. News to me and I can't find anything on the web to that effect except in forums. If you are wondering what I am talking about click on Waitresses and English Tests in the menu on the right. She can take this test anytime and she can re-take it if necessary.

2) Next you apply for your visa and if you do not know how click on Visas in the menu on anachak. If you are married the visa you apply for is a spouse visa or FLR, Further Leave to Remain. You can apply for an FLR without any previous visa because you are married. This visa does not commence until it is stamped at a UK immigration arrival desk. From that date on she has two years to come and go as she pleases but if she stays away too long it will be revoked. How long is too long? I have no idea, it is discretionary, stick to annual holidays only.

3) She has to take the LiUK test. This is straightforward. She must answer 24 out of a possible 200 questions with the answer according to the Home Office and not the correct answer. This means you must buy the book and CD only £13.99 from all good booksellers because you need to know what the incorrect answers are. Which brings me back round to my point at the beginning of this blog. I wonder why the LiUK book is not a best seller? I tried reading it and it was the most laborious and tedious book possible. It is written to encourage you to give up and go home. My partner tried it because she felt her automatic approval for ILR was unjustified. I tried it so I would have some idea of what it is like for an immigrant coming to grips with a country so different. You only need to get 16 questions correct. We both failed at the first attempt. On the second she got 17 and I got 21. It is remarkably difficult if you do not study for the exam properly. Do not lose sight of the fact that you should do it as soon as possible. Do not leave it till the last minute and do not be casual about it. But most of all, concentrate on the fact that if she cannot pass, she will be refused a visa to remain in the UK. (other options are available - but it's going to cost you more money)

4) Do your application for an ILR, or Indefinite Leave to Remain. Again the rules apply that whilst she is free to come and go, she cannot go and live in Thailand for a year and then come back to the UK again. You would have to start the process all over again unless you have good reason for being away from Britain for so long. If you have a job that kept you out of Britain for an extended period. Or she had to go home to look after her dying mum for instance.

So to the book I plan to write but probably never will because getting it published is damn near impossible for even the best new authors. Back in the eighties I worked as a sheet metal worker. We were well paid and there was a camaraderie that I have never recovered in any industry since. Guys would do things because they were funny. It was a means to breaking the monotony of repetition. We were on a price and speed was crucial and one of the lads hadn't tightened his belt enough so as he was hammering down hard the impact was making his trousers fall until they were around his ankles. He didn't stop and the sight of him in his 'Y' fronts was funny. These days he would likely be admonished for indecency or not considering adequate health and safety, which brings me to another guy who was trying to cut something too thick in the 'knife'. He clipped his fly in the blade and the zip injured his manhood that bled profusely so he had to go to hospital. The next day he went to our designated first aider with his kit out and told him his bandage needed replacing. An Irish chap we nicknamed spud was arguing with me about George Michael's sexuality in the days when the ex-wham'er lived with a girlfriend and had a daughter. Spud working on the floor suddenly shouted out in ire from below his bench "That's the trouble with all these entertainers, they are either queer or homosexual". Poor old Micky Smeesters couldn't pick himself up off the bench for his uncontrollable tear inducing mirth. Then there was old Peter Smith, salt of the earth, who was the first to realise musical parody was really funny and sung classics such as 'I just called to say I love you, and I mean it from the heart of my bottom' and his own personal favourite 'I'm your private dancer, I'll dance on your privates, any old music will do'. But another Pete preferred to come up with titles for limited companies or books. He said he was going to start his own ducting company and call it Pubik Air Limited. And he wanted to write his biography and call it 'Tear Ducts - it's enough to make you cry'. He would stand near you and recite passages and you couldn't concentrate because of his hilarity.

But Jezza has stolen my book title. Or to put it another way, he thought of it first, but it still means I cannot write it because I am now without a title. My book would have been called "UK Visas - How Hard Can It Be?" though when I think about the content it wouldn't help applicants very much because it would be full of the stories that can be found everywhere. Like the chap who said to me, "It cost me a fortune to get her visa. It's a rip-off really that they charge you so much. We had to use a lawyer in Bangkok who cost £3,000 and the visa fee was another £1,500. Still, at least it's all paid for now." But what he had for his money was a two year FLR. He had been led to believe by a visa agent in Bangkok that his wife had UK residency. And this would be the theme of my book. It wouldn't be titled = 'How to do it' - It would be 'How NOT to do it'.

'How not to do it' would be written in reverse order so that you have to read to the end to find out what you have to do first. It's common sense. Something the halls of power in the UK do not have. Almost every booklet and webpage of the UKBA says "Please read all of this document before..." What's the point in that? You have no idea about immigration and you are trying to find out how to get a visa so the UKBA insist you read everything that is not applicable to you, which only serves to confuse even more. I fell for it myself and got copies of passports certified but you don't need to. It is photos you need to get certified for passport applications.

It doesn't matter and actually it enforces your application if evidence submitted is varified. Hence when a mate said he wanted a visa for a friend in Chonburi to come to his mates wedding in the UK I suggested he get a copy of the appointment signed by the registrar, copies of their passports, and photos of all of them together. That's it tied up and no doubts for the ECO. However on a forum this was responded to with "I will give the ECO what he asks for, nothing more and nothing less", which is at best described as advice for failure.

My partner, we're not married as she already has her own ILR, had two kids in Thailand and she was concerned about her daughter. Her son had left school and joined a temple as siian, a sort of trainee monk. Her daughter was in her last year at state school and it was proving expensive so my partner asked if I could get a visa for her daughter to come and live with us. We didn't really have any problems and it was approved in half the normal length of time but by then we had returned to England because of work commitments and I was inevitably going to have to fly back to Bangkok to fetch her when it was approved and so I checked all the airlines rules on a 14 year old travelling. I met her in the departure lounge at Suvarnabhumi where I near had heart failure when I saw her visa had an expiry date. I was wrankled over that because it was supposed to be indefinite. We went to the check-in where the girl wasn't sure and kept looking at all the different details until she said 'I'm not sure if she can travel with you'. I explained she was my step-daughter and as her passport states she is 14 years old. She only needs to be twelve to travel alone but we would like seats next to each other. This was baffling for a mere check-in girl who still had to go and ask her supervisor. He also didn't know. I tried again with the "But she is old enough to travel alone. I do not need to be here. Just pretend I am not here.", which was replied to with 'Oh we can't pretend anything and we have to make sure she can travel with you'. I asked what they were worried about and she explained that the visa was to join her mother. In her studiousness she had unfortunately for us noticed that I was not the mother and if the mother isn't at Heathrow when we arrive the daughter will be refused entry and sent back to Thailand.

Isn't it great when the officials do not understand the rules and in Thailand they excel at it. She was coming to join her mother. Her mother doesn't have to be at the airport. And the daughter is old enough to travel alone. The 'met at the airport' rule only applies to minors who are being escorted in flight by a member of the cabin crew who on arrival can only release that child into the care of the person named on the visa. The person named cannot get access to the arrivals containment area and has to wait outside in the departure lounge by which time the minor has been granted entry into Britain but the airline is responsible for the childs welfare and must not release the child to anyone except that named person on the visa.

When you arrive, eventually, at Heathrow you can use either the immigration or the UK passport control. You can pass together. You do not have to split up and use the separate channels. The UK queue was short when I brought our daughter so we used that channel. I got my passport checked and then called the daughter to us. The immigration officer asked me to move on. You kind of have to if she says so but I remained in earshot. The daughter didn't understand what she was being asked about where she is going to live. Eventually because she was stuck with a half entered little girl, the officer called me back and asked me to fill in the arrival card. Once that is done the passport officer will stamp the visa and that validates it. It must be validated as entered the United Kingdom before the expiry date on the top right of the visa.

When you bring your Thai bride back to England you will need to keep her TB report on you because passport control will not let you enter without seeing it. A mate of mine who had made every mistake in the book commented to me that it was inevitable they would discover yet something else that no one told them about when they arrived and their TB report was in the luggage. His wife had to go and have another done in the airport hospital before she could enter. That was yet another 3 hours added to their landing time. I had told our daughter to keep it with her but the immigration officer didn't want to see it. This means I neither know if it is only required for adults or if they have changed the rules but keep it with you just in case.

An ex-soldier lost his legs to an IED in Iraq. Three years later he met the girl of his dreams in Koh Samui. The ECO refused their application because he wasn't satisfied that their relationship was genuine. I'm not sure what that meant but there was also a comment about his inability to sponsor the application. His means were questionable in that he was future pensioned awaiting compensation settlement and still being paid his army salary by the MoD. However his job was terminable and so he could not prove his job security.

But none of this is relevant to a biped so why did he single out this man's disability? The law asks that you provide evidence of the last six months, not next week. We'll probably never know because all the same documentation was sent back with an added letter from the MoD about his impending pension payout for appeal and the court returned it for re-examination by the ECO who then changed his decision.

This wasn't the first time I heard a story like this. A friend took things a little for granted over his eleven year old step-daughters application to join her mother in the UK. Mum had been here ten years. That meant she had only known her daughter for the first 12 months of her life. This application was destined to fail but he gave it a shot. It was refused and he called me saying he was going to write it off. I said why, when the appeal is free. It costs nothing to appeal so you've nothing to lose. He filled in the form and sent it back to the appeals tribunal who then returned it for re-examination. We don't know why and I said just update all the evidence to bring it up to date and show you are still working and still living at the same address etc. The ECO then changed his decision and approved the visa. Again we do not know why. His application did not meet the requirement laid down by law and was not eligible. The evidence submitted was exactly the same and yet it was approved.

Another friend met a woman in Pattaya and asked her to marry him. They wed in Si Saket with a full on traditional village wedding with no holds barred on the expense. He paid the sin sot to his future mother-in-law of 200,000 Baht. This paid for the wedding and the rest was gifted back to the newlyweds. He had no idea how to do a visa nor knew who to ask but in town was a satellite office to the great and wonderful Visa World Consulting so magnificently placed next to the shite little DSS style pits of VFS Global where you have to pitifully submit your application. They told him 70,000 Baht plus costs and as they had been given the wedding gift they sought the easy route and paid them to do the visa application. They of course made a mess of it and didn't ask for any evidence from the appellant. They rang him with a story of grandeur as to how the British Government are tightening up on visas to make it very difficult and have asked for some papers to prove he owns the house and has a job. Oh, and we need another bank transfer of 50,000 Baht because the embassy say we have to pay again for application. At this point I know they are cowboys on civil construction scale because a re-submission can be done as an appeal. You do not have to pay again if you submit the documentation within ten days. Next they came back to him again for payslips and bank statements. His entire application took just over twelve months drip feeding a continuous request for more documentation. His wife was then told it would be subject to an interview. She failed the interview because she did not know her husbands birthday nor his brothers name or how old he was and didn't know her husbands address. To put this in perspective, in a period of nearly two years she has spent six weeks with her husband. She has never met her brother-in-law. And Buddhists do not celebrate birthdays. Of course she had all this information written down in a diary and whatnot but no one told her she would be quizzed so she was caught completely unprepared.

On appeal they were told the application would have to be re-submitted so they had to pay out another 33,000 Baht and is when he realised Visa World were asking him for considerably more than the fees actually were. On her second interview she was finally approved. It was their third wedding anniversary that they were able to celebrate in England. Twenty seven months to get a visa that takes a maximum of thirteen weeks.

These agencies always tell you it is about who you know and how much you are willing to pay. They tell you they have contacts and can guarantee a successful application. Many of these companies are owned by farang and they are more than happy to rip their own kind off. A guy in the UK is starting up a new business in tattooing. He is married to a Thai and thought this would enable her brother to come and work in the UK because he is a Sak Lai traditional tattooist. He was supposed to be a business partner as well as the skills centre. They did not know about the work permits procedure or what visa the brother-in-law would need so they asked Visa World Consulting who said they can get all the permits for £3000. But this is not the case. The Thai man has to apply for a points based visa and that is based on skill sets. If in the UK there are a thousand unemployed coded welders in the Birmingham district and an immigrant in Thailand who is a coded welder applies to work in Birmingham, his application will fail. If a British business cannot find a suitable candidate for a vacancy it can apply for an overseas worker and then his application may succeed. This example is only scratching at how the system works but pretty much you have to check if your skills are currently a requirement in the UK. Then you have to have a confirmed job/sponsor in the UK. A Tattooist is not on the list of required skills in the UK and Visa World's advice to the applicant should have been, "You will not get a work permit or visa."

1) Do not use Visa World Consulting or any other visa agent in Thailand.

I cannot say if Visa World Consulting are so lacking in knowledge that they keep taking on visa applications not knowing the rules that apply or if they are deliberately taking them on knowing it will fail. Either way is pretty bad and it is disgraceful that the British Government allow this to go on. In a forum someone argued that the UKBA cannot control Thai business. No, but they could close the hated and absolutely rubbish VFS Global and bring the applications back into the Embassy where it belongs. There is collusion and fraud going on between the two offices of Visa World and VFS that are side by side in Regent House. Both are private businesses and something as important as immigration should not be contracted out to a company profitting from the application procedure. There is no reason why the Embassy cannot have a satellite office outside the Embassy grounds.

A Thai couple who I consider myself fortunate to be friends with are restaurateurs. When they first started out they needed someone to look after the two little ones while they work silly hours and the natural choice was their teenage daughter who was living with an aunt in Rayong, Thailand. A friend of theirs in the UK who I am not familiar with is married to a British property developer. She wanted to start her own business as a visa agent in the UK and so her husband registered another company as SMK, 41 London Road, Coventry. This address is the shop next door to the Thai Dusit Restaurant, not that there is any connection that I am aware of. This so called friend said she could obtain a visa for £600 plus costs. Not a big figure but the applicant needed someone who could speak and translate English. As the application went on it became apparent to SMK that her age and time without her parents control would be a factor and likely the application was going to fail. SMK then became complicit in concocting a story that the 16 year old daughter was still in full time education. It should not have surprised them when the application was successful subject to an interview. The alarm bells were now ringing that they may get found out so the girl was given the story of what to say at the interview. The aunt in her infinite wisdom accompanied the daughter to Bangkok and when the ECO got confused about conflicting answers that did not match the application they asked the aunt to come to another booth. On questioning her they got different answers again because she didn't know what to say.

Inevitably the application was refused on the grounds that the ECO was unable to obtain definitive answers to any of the most basic of questions such as where the daughter lives, what school she attends, and what she does for money. The owner of SMK then suggests they appeal and they are given a tribunal. This friend of ours now decides to tell me about this appeal and can I help. As the debacle unfolds to me she continues to evade the truth probably out of embarrassment but after many days of discussion I get to a point where I am forced to be blunt with her and say, "When we go to the court you must tell the truth. Do not say anything that is not true. Your only hope of success is to tell the truth."

Off we go to the tribunal where she promptly throws the rule book that I have written for her out the window and tells a whole new story that is also a pack of lies. Each time she said something that was not true I kept quiet. I had no intention of being held in contempt. If that wasn't bad enough our prearranged court translator was also telling a different story to what the mother was telling. I felt relatively safe in that the only members of the court who could understand Thai were me, the translator, and the appellant, but I did not care for being there. Although my input was limited the Judge occasionally asked me questions to which I now had to answer with great diplomacy, something I am not usually known for.

"Can you explain to me what Mrs. **** means by her daughter works all the time but not full time?", he asked.

"Sir," I replied, "It is the summer holidays in Thailand and the daughter is working in her aunts Hotel, the position is not intended to be permanent."

Remarkably the judge decided to reserve judgement and re-evaluate whether the law had been applied correctly. A week later he upheld the ECO's decision and advised my friend to appeal again to the upper court. I told her to get a lawyer but when she found it would cost around two thousand pounds she decided to employ a Thai friend already in the UK and pay her to babysit the kids.

I checked whether SMK Immigration Services was registered with the OISC. This is a legal requirement if you charge a fee in the UK for advocacy or providing advice on immigration. I also checked whether any of the owners were legally qualified. The answer is no to both and as such they are committing a criminal offence and that includes her husband for being a party to commit a crime. The reason I checked was because I intended to complain about advising their client to lie in their application. Attempting to falsely obtain a visa to the UK can lead to two years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. I felt SMK should have been prosecuted for placing their client in such a precarious position but on reflection I was also worried that my friend could also be fined and she could ill afford it. I was hoping SMK had some sort of legal qualification so I could complain to the SRA or the Law Society and they would have received a warning about their behaviour. Everything with this company is a dead end and shows how easy it is to operate 'under the radar' in the UK. No wonder the MerseyMikes get their hand up their arses about it.

2) Do not use SMK or any other visa agent in Britain.

3) Do not tell lies on your application or at an interview.

I have never heard of anyone applying for a UK visa being prosecuted for fraud even though they can be. The immigration services are very lenient from UKBA to ECO to Tribunal Courts and Circuit Judges, they all genuinely want to show you compassion and hope. But as soon as you start lying you have lost your visa application. You are not legally entitled to a visa so it doesn't take much to fail. You must prove that your application merits approval and you won't do that by lying.

A guy in the UK applied for his girlfriend to come and visit on a six month multiple entry general purpose visa. He waited a couple of weeks before thinking something may be wrong and he went to check his application status which had still not changed from 'being processed'. He waited a while longer before asking someone on a forum. I happened to read the post but didn't reply. He had applied online at the UKBA website and had given all the relevant information but he hadn't bothered to check the supported countries list because his mate whose wife was Thai had told him you can apply online nowadays. One of the forum members had confirmed that you could indeed apply online but you have to select the country of origin not the destination. The applicant posted again that he couldn't find Thailand listed and another member said he wasn't looking properly and on the first page of your application you drop the list down and select Thailand. I commented that Thailand isn't one of the supported countries, which was met with derision. Well I'm not the most popular member of this forum because I tend to be a bit obnoxious and straight talking while this particular forum expects decorum and political correctness. Politically correct and Thailand do not belong in the same sentence and I tend to contribute to the old addage of 'when in Bangkok, do as the kok's do'. The highly confused OP (opening poster) then PM'd (privately messaged) me and I explained where he needed to go to apply, which was also met with derision in the forum because PM's do not benefit others looking for answers. On this particular forum privacy only applies to the favourites.

4) Do not listen to your mates or people who have never done it.

On one of the many occasions of sitting in the airport departure lounge a conversation struck up about the application procedure and paperwork checks. The chap explained that his application had failed the first time because the Police check had come back with a report about the wrong person. I asked how he knew that and he said it was on the refusal notice. I asked if I could read it because I was astounded to discover that they do a CRB check. Unfortunately he didn't have the refusal with him as his Thai wife had it and while the mistake was being sorted out he was taking the opportunity to pop back to Blighty and pick up some other papers that may come in useful. It seemed to me an awful long way to travel as well as expensive just to pick up some papers that 'might be useful'. So in curiosity I asked what other sort of papers. He was going back to get some bank statements because the bank won't post them out to him at his Thailand address. I furthered 'how do you know your wife doesn't have a criminal record and she doesn't want to tell you'. From that point on he started changing the story and you know what? I really didn't care. Why would I when he clearly felt embarrassed and was trying to blame the system for his application refusal. Seemed to me he had a massive journey in front of him because he hadn't prepared his application properly.

I was talking to this chap in the waiting area inside Regent House one time who was having massive problems with his application and was in Thailand doing it a second time. He had a reliable source for procedure of a mate in England who had a Thai wife and she had an ILR. His mate had tried to do his own visa many years before and his was refused the first time as well. I don't know why it was refused but his mate went to an immigration adviser who cost a fortune and he didn't know what she did to get the visa but she had also had problems and had to apply twice before it was approved and his wife had to have two interviews. But because his mate had difficulties getting it approved, he wasn't perturbed that he also was having problems, and half expected it. After all, it was the system to blame. It is crooked and if you don't know anyone at the Embassy it is very difficult to get it approved, apparently.

5) Do not take the advice of people who failed. They can only help you to fail.

Demonstrating how many times I have had the misfortune of visiting Regent House, a place that is despicable, a place that depresses rather than excites as it should. Because it is a Thai business, managed by Thai, and staffed by Thai, a model of how Thai do things, it has that bookstore silence and aromatic presence of a DSS waiting area where you take a ticket and sit on a hard plastic rigid chair with the apprehension and appreciation of Bangkok Bank where you await the inevitable cashiers 'No'. There are security guards on the entrance who check you for weapons. I am reliably informed that is to stop you from getting so depressed that you commit suicide. I was waiting for a woman to submit her application so I could take her back to the bus station. I struck up the often conversation with the farang also waiting outside because you are not allowed in, it is for Thai only, and every farang outside will start with 'I hate this place' and the other farang will reply 'why aren't you allowed to go in there'. This farang was an Irishman who was married to a Thai and the owner of a building contract company that did work all over the EU. He was applying for a tourist visa to transit through England. I said you do not need a visa to transit but I stood corrected. If you check the UKBA rules you will find you do need one if for any reason you will remain in the airport for an extended period of time. This guy was a Eire citizen and his Thai wife had indefinite leave to remain in Ireland.

Previously he'd had a contract to finish up in Newcastle in the north of England and his wife went home to visit her family while he was away. The plan was to meet up again in Thailand and travel home together. His pickup truck was at Newcastle airport and he wanted to retrieve it and drive across to Liverpool for the ferry back to Ireland. But his wife, despite having an ILR for an EU country needed a visa to land in England. As you'd expect with our rules, even though she met the criterea of the law and was entitled to visit the UK and indeed had before but from Ireland, the ECO refused the application on the grounds she would not be returning to Thailand.

They applied again, which incidentally meant they had to pay the visa fee again, and provided a hand written explanation of what was written in the extra information box of the application form that they both would not be returning to Thailand and would be going on to Eire. The ECO refused again on the grounds that no evidence of onward travel had been supplied to prove the claim and therefore the ECO could not be satisfied on the balance of the evidence before him that she would in fact leave the United Kingdom. Get used to that phrase, it gets written as a reply quite often. The Irishman had given consideration to them travelling seperately and she just go home but why should they. I enquired as to just going back to Ireland and then he fly to Newcastle to retrieve his pickup but he explained that he had another contract to attend to and would not have enough time besides the fact that he had a pair of one way tickets to Newcastle. I spoke to him since and asked what the outcome was and they were refused again and they tried to fly to Newcastle where she would catch the next available to Dublin and he would drive alone but they were not allowed to board at the airport because she didn't have a transit visa. Because they missed their flights they lost the fare and had to sit in Suvarnabhumi for 36 hours until a flight could take them home to Dublin. He then had to fly to Newcastle anyway and lost the contract that he had lined up, which also meant the blokes who work for him had no work. The next job he secured was on the Olympic Stadium in the east end and both he and his wife are currently in digs in London and she travelled from Ireland on a tourist visa and without proof of onward or return travel.

A friend wrote on her application for her daughter to join her in the UK that the grandparents who were looking after her daughter, her mother and father, were both frail and infirm. The ECO asked for the medical reports or a letter from the doctor. What she meant was, both grandma and grandpa were old, unable to work full time, not so steady on their feet as they used to be, you know what I mean? They're old. In reply to the ECO request for more evidence she explained that her mother was 64 and her father 68 years of age with supporting letters from her parents that they no longer wanted the responsibility and having led a peasant life as rice farmers they were not ablebodied enough to suitably look after a 15 year old and ensure an adequate upbringing. The ECO refused the application because her parents were not too old to look after a teenager.

6) Do not mention something that you do not have evidence of.

The same friend also put on the application that her daughter was still at school. The ECO asked for her school report for that year. Now she was bollocks'd because her daughter had left school and was waiting to go to college and being holiday time the school was closed. She was not going to be able to get her reports back until the start of the new year. She was asking me what she might be able to do about it and I suggested she try contacting the school teacher for her daughters class directly. It isn't uncommon in Thailand for teachers to give out their mobile phone number to pupils who may need support and this girl was certainly that. She asked the teacher for a letter explaining the situation but he was not exactly supportive. In fact his concern was that he may get into trouble and would only put his name to something if the headmaster agreed to it. The teachers may give out mobile numbers, the headmaster doesn't.

During this chat I had with her, she mentioned a friend who had problems earlier that year when there had been a national holiday and the Embassy had closed along with it. As a result they were a week late getting their tourist visas approved, which meant their son had to miss a weeks school and her husband had to take a weeks unpaid leave. It crossed my mind then that the riots in Bangkok last year also closed the Embassy and for quite a while. I would imagine there must have been quite a few disappointments and a considerable backlog of applications to go through for the ECO's team when they returned to work. I asked someone who knows one of the staff why the Embassy has to close when it is a fortress so well secured it would be impossible for the unruly mob to cause any realistic endangerment to the staff. He replied without asking his friend, "How are the staff supposed to get in and out. You surely don't want them to live in." Which is when it occurred to me that if they did lock down, they would have their logistics cut off, if you'll pardon the expression.

7) Timing is everything. Check for national holidays and demonstrations and plan your application.

What visa is best for you would be easy if there was a list that actually made sense at the UKBA. There is a link called 'Do I need a Visa' that takes you to www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/doineedvisa/ and then it asks you some very sensible questions like why do you want to visit, what nationality are you and where do you live. You select 'to join partner in the UK', Thailand, and Thailand and then it asks you to 'Please Read'; A link 'settlement' takes you to a page with an index of what pages questions are answered on in the guidance book, Tier1 General Migrant, which isn't what you need, and EEA, which is also wrong. Then there is 'How to Apply' that gives you a link to the online application, which you cannot use for Thailand, and a link to the visa application centres where when you click on Thailand it takes you to the VFS Global site where there is a link for 'Apply Online', which again you cannot do. There is a link to vfs-uk-th hidden in the relentless text that you have read before on several previous UKBA pages that is not relevant to you that if you follow that link you can click the link to 'Do I need a Visa' where you can link to 'How to Apply' where there is a link to the online application system where there is another link that reads "Before you apply, please check our Supported Countries page where you can find out if the country you are applying from accepts on-line applications". When you check the list you discover that Thailand does not subscribe to the online application system.

I kid you not, as Jezza would say, you are now on the VFS Global Thailand only application page where you can make an online application that will never be processed because Thailand isn't a member. And it is up to you to check that. If you have any doubts about what I am saying do please go and try it and make a bogus application. Nothing will ever come of it.

Now I understand that the pages are aspx, that is the server assembles the page in a container according to your activity, hence the acronym is 'active server page framework', but where you end up is at a page with a list of links to pdf files that are the different forms depending on which visa you wish to apply for. Quite simply what everyone who searches this award winning worst ever website designed by dickheads really wants is to input your purpose of visit, what nationality you are and what country you are in and that should tell you what form you need and what visa type you are applying for. Probably the most common question I get is 'Which form do I need'.

There should also be a list of difficulty or maybe a chart with percentages of failure. By far the hardest visa to get is to work in the UK. A Chinese man who works in Beijing for a UK based company needed to visit the UK based offices. His income is 35k, he owns a 350k house in Beijing, is married with kids who would not be travelling with him and the ECO's decision was that he did not possess the necessary income to support his visit without recourse to public funds. But second to that would surely be the tourist visa. I always defend the UKBA and tell people success is down to you. But not when it is tourism.

A friend of a friend, a UK passport holder, unemployed, living in Thailand, no savings, married, no assets in the UK, needed to travel back to England to try and find a job and raise some funds. He applied for a tourist visa for his wife and it was approved. On a forum I read that a British national living in the UK, working full time, his Thai wife of 20 years or so also working and with savings, their own home, a home in Thailand, applied for her brother to visit as a sponsored tourist and was refused on the grounds there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the visit was for the purpose of tourism. I would call that fifty, fifty. You pay your money and take your chances.

By far the easiest visa to obtain is the Fiancée visa. Travelling to the UK for the purpose of marriage. You do not have to prove that she will return to Thailand, nor that the visit could be for other reasons. Because it is not family or spouse it only takes 10 days instead of 10 weeks. You then get married at a registry office and your FLR application becomes the only set of circumstances when you can apply from within the UK and you do not have to return to Thailand. Failing to be approved is impossible though I have no doubt some visa agent will have managed it and to cap it all you are allowed to overstay whilst it is processed. Being armed with this sort of information can be highly influential on your decision of how and what visa you may wish to apply for.

I am going to be cruelly blunt. If you have met the girl of your dreams in a bar in Thailand she will not object to such a proposition. And take it as fact, when you present a Thai girl with only one option she will accept your offer because it is an improvement on being a bargirl. Don't marry her first chance you get or because she says mama will expect that. The moment you do you have reduced your options. You still need all the same evidence for both types of application except you now have to prove you are legally married. If you have known the girl two weeks and you apply for a Fiancée visa you will succeed. If you apply for a spouse visa for a woman you married after knowing her two weeks the ECO will start hopping from one foot to the other with uncertainties.

Of course, some are different, and Thai family name at stake and tradition that is expected to be upheld can mean you have no choice. A young man I am familiar with in the Midlands met a very pretty Thai girl, a good girl, from a good family, whilst holidaying in Thailand. She was well educated and her family mass produce chickens for export. They are not short of money although the lad is Mr. Average Income. If he wanted this girl he was going to have to marry in the traditional way and they did. He had no choice about which visa to apply for. It would have to be a spouse visa. They used a lawyer in Bangkok to sort the visa and inevitably it was refused the first time. He incidentally suggested the same lawyer to his friend, who is a friend of mine, and his was refused too. Refer to point number 5 above. His mother-in-law has visited in the UK since and was not pleased when she saw their second hand not immaculate Ford Mondeo and went down to the local BMW dealership and bought them a brand new 525. Still can't complain, my mother-in-law said England is too cold and too far away to visit and gave us a huge plot of land with planning permission pre-approved in Kok Vichai. Can't help thinking I would have preferred the Beamer.

1) Plan your application.

2) You must apply online. You must use VFS Global's offices to submit documents.

3) Every time you answer a question consider how you are going to prove it.

You will read everywhere 'Plan your application' but if you have never done it before you don't know what it means and all you want is a list. The problem is that you have to make your own list because everybody's life is different. But it can be broken down into chunks.

1) You need to finance the girl, send her money. You could open an account and send the ATM card to her which will cost £3.00 per withdrawal. With HSBC you can transfer money to her account online for £10.00. The Post Office will do transfers for £25.00. Do not use Western Union. Yes it is instant and the moneygram is secure but there is a massive 'but' that I discovered to my cost. I sent £645.00 to someone in Moscow. I took several precautions such as the recipient must have their passport before releasing the funds and it must only be handed over to the person with this particular name and must only be paid out at the specified branch. All of these options are on the transfer form. I made a mistake with the phone number and someone else received the text message. They then went with the passcode to a Western Union office in Kiev and were paid out. I complained to Western Union who told me to read the small print that says you only get a refund if the money wasn't collected. Their small print also says they are not responsible for mistakes made by the paying office. So, which service will you choose?

2) Tell your girlfriend to study English and take the level1 test.

3) You need to prove who she is. She needs a passport, a birth certificate, and the book in which she is registered as a Thai resident. This is called the Tabian Bahn or ทะเบียนบ้าน

4) Prove who you are. Photocopy all the pages in your passport and sign them and your birth certificate.

5) Prove you can house her and draw a floor plan. I know someone who got an Estate Agent to do it. Prove the property is yours or you have the right to live there. Include utility bills and especially the council tax with your name on it.

6) Show you can provide for her with bank statements, payslips, and a letter from your employer.

7) Write a letter explaining your story. Not 'war and peace', half a page will suffice. Provide evidence of your story with photos, receipts, credit card statements, anything. But do not expect the ECO to accept your letter on its own.

8) Start filling in the form and set yourself a deadline that you want to submit your application by and make sure you can do it on that particular date. As you answer the questions, make notes of things you might want evidence for. If her mum looks after the children then get her to write a letter and a photo of them. If you cannot get that evidence then do not mention it on the form. But the stronger your story is and the proof you have of it such as, she has no income and is reliant on you for money, then you point out the money transfers or bank withdrawals in thailand, will both speed up your application and ensure its success. Filling in the form is not difficult though sometimes you may hit a point where you will need to refer to the guidance notes. Expect to be disappointed. The guidance notes are fantastically useless and explain what the question means. ie: Your Name, this is the name you were given at birth and should be the same as in your passport.

9) Label your evidence and write an index of where to find which bit of proof. I use post it notes and leave it sticking up like a flag with it numbered and what is in that section. Staple relevant things together such as all your payslips. Then put it in a folder or if it is very thick, a box file, do not put it in a ring binder. Also keep your phone bills and bank statements separate to the rest of the evidence because it will be filed in another document wallet by the VFS. It isn't supposed to be according to the Embassy but that is what happens when you hand over administration to Thai. If they do it this way for this application, they will do it for all of them.

10) Book your flight to Bangkok.

Page one How Hard Can It Be - the backwards book

Chapter One

Who is she?

A guy new to holidaying in Thailand who was not without resources emailed me with a request for advice because his newfound girlfriend had several problems the content of which is very private but was for me causing mild suspicion. I give everyone in Thailand the benefit of the doubt and I always consider that I do not know the person, nor the girl, nor may his story be entirely accurate so I try not to read between the lines and be forever critical. I am harshly critical of ex-pats and 'time for my christmas shag' retirees because they have not endeared themselves to Thailand. They merely take advantage of the nation's hospitality, then complain persistently about it because they do not understand it.

A retired fat, bristly, bad breath, toothless, smelly old fart can go to Thailand and sleep with very young and agile as well as pretty and strikingly fit dancing showgirls because of hospitality. He doesn't need to understand it or why she does it but neither does he care. He just takes advantage of it and then complains about it. We think of these girls as no more than prostitutes and Thai people do not take pride in the profession but it exists not only out of need, but out of hospitality. If you befriend one of these girls and show her some kindness she will respond with love and affection because they are not attracted to looks. This often makes western men fall either to the extreme right or the extreme left. Men will treat them like a street dog or they will fall for the enamour.

The chap who emailed me had travelled outward to see the real Thailand and had been fortunate to meet a woman who spoke English fairly well. She befriended him and toured the country as his companion and guide. She began to tell him her story and they became more than just travel companions. He then related the story to me because he had read up about UK visa's but could see many problems the biggest of which was that she was an illegal immigrant in Thailand. She had no birth certificate and didn't know how she could get a passport even though she had a Thai ID card. I told him that if she was serious she was going to have to go home and find her records. Ahh but she came from Cambodia as an orphan of the civil war when she was only ten years old and she couldn't remember where from.

To me, something was wrong and as he had already mentioned her age of 38 I read up about the war. She was not old enough to have come to Thailand as a refugee. Maybe she was older than she thought but no, she could remember where she came to and the family who took her in and she knew she was ten years old. She could recall going to school before it was closed by the soldiers and the books burning in the play area. It was possible she came during Pol Pots genocide regime in the mid seventies and the children of that holocaust were so severely traumatised she would have easily lost her memory. I was trying to find anything for this chap that might entitle her to register as a Thai national but she always had a reason why she could not. Her speaking English could only have come one of two ways. It was either from American soldiers which would make her nearer 50 years old or she has been working illegally as a bar girl in a city such as Pattaya.

Either way she was not who she said she was. He never met any of her family nor her Thai family. Everyone dead. All alone now. She wouldn't take him to her own home either and she went by taxi to get clothes and make up and whatnot. She didn't take her new boyfriend to work to show off, something that all Thai girls do, nor did he meet any of her friends.

I gave in and suggested her ID was more likely to be fake or stolen or maybe she is making her story up to cover up something else. She is likely just a straightforward illegal immigrant wanted in Cambodia and she doesn't want to go back. Applying for a passport would get her found out because Thai have to provide fingerprints and she knows that. He wrote back with a thank you and broke any further contact with her.

Personally I think he gave up too easily but he said "If she can't tell me the truth then she is not the sort of woman I want to be with". I don't know if he felt silly for being gullible or if he was hurt. I hope not because when you meet a woman in Thailand it doesn't occur to you that she might be lying. There is a golden rule, if she is not Thai, she is probably lying. But when any girl in Thailand doesn't insist you go some place with her and then bore you to tears by chattering away in Thai to her sister or mum then something is wrong. She will at the very least borrow your mobile to call home and then ask you to say hello to her mum and I'll tell you why. Because the first person in all Thai girls lives is their mum.

The lesson for all of us is 'Do not believe their sob stories' and I don't mean a hard life, they all have one of those, I mean sob stories and especially when they sound like individual facts that probably they have heard from someone else who it really happened to.

Two weeks in a hotel room does not mean you know the girl. Get to know her before you start sending money overseas and sorting out visa's.

The beginning.

Addendum: if you have a question you can email me at www.anachak.co.uk

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