Accepted paper:

The Vexing Question of Visas: The role of London visa brokers in the bureaucratic lives of skilled migrants.

Authors:

Cy Elliott-Smith (Goldsmiths)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the role of brokers in the London travel visa industry who organise travel documentation. These broker's offer a degree of expertise and an understanding of the types of formal and informal negotiations that skilled migrants encounter when dealing with border bureaucracies.

Paper long abstract:

My paper discusses the work of visa brokers in London who deal with and have long-standing professional relationships with skilled migrants from different parts of the globe. These visa agencies are concerned with negotiating complex border bureaucracies, turning their clients into bureaucratically suitable visa candidates. This process relies on negotiating the hidden rules and bureaucratic idiosyncrasies at each embassy. They provide advice and bureaucratic support such as knowing what is or is not acceptable for an applicant to reveal to the embassy, even if the information is seemingly innocuous such as job descriptions or ethnic origin. The difficulties in obtaining these visas in a timely manner creates a 'grey network'. In which the set of negotiations between different parties that go into making a person's identity 'fit' for a particular visa takes place. In this regard there is a level of informally organised co-operation that exists between visa agents and embassy employees that minimises the problems and bureaucratic complexities of visa procuration. Considering the increasing cost of visas and the rise of non-refundable consular fees, paying to use a visa agents can help migrants and their employers ameliorate many issues in advance. I would like to discuss several themes. The issues of cost and support in creating different classes of migrant. The degree to with which increasing bureaucratic complexity in the visa application process has changed regarding the 'commodification' of visas. How these changes have generated strategic and tactical relationships between skilled migrants and visa-agents over a long duration.

panel P085
Engineering mobilities: exploring the infrastructures mediating transnational highly-skilled migration [ANTHROMOB] [Traditional panel]