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There are a lot of posts about people's PEO experiences, especially for Croydon. At first I thought that they already covered everything I could say. I think I was right about that, they do. But by adding my post to the others, hopefully this will help convince people that this is the new normal for the Croydon PEO, and they dark days of March to July 2012 are firmly in the past.

Yesterday was my PEO appointment for ILR at Croydon. My appointment was for 8:20 AM, and I live about an hour away. I do a fair amount of travel for my job, and with morning traffic it's taken me over two hours to get into Croydon by car, so we left at 6:00 AM. We got there at 7:10 AM, and parked in the Whitgift shopping centre car park and chilled for about half an hour.

(Whilst there, we saw a Land Rover park up with two people who also waited. Sure enough, we saw them in line later on.)

As soon as we got out of the car, I saw a group of about twenty people milling around a door across the street, so I figured that's where I was supposed to go. It was, and we walked through the subway near the traffic light to get over there.

Though according to the details of the Croydon PEO we're not supposed to be admitted until thirty minutes prior to our appointment time, we were admitted as soon as I showed our appointment sheet to the security guard, around 7:35. We went through the security checkpoint (much easier than the US Embassy checkpoint or airport checkpoints, just a standard x-ray belt and metal detector). My wife's handbag was searched, because it's the hand-held equivelant of a TARDIS and the x-ray machine seemed alarmed at seeing an entire pocket universe inside it.

After the security check, we lined up to have our payment checked. For reference, now that all PEOs are pre-paid, I left the payment section of our SET(M) blank. There were two people at the payment checking desk. They stamped our payment page, stamped the unfilled payment section of the SET(M) form, checked my passport information (but not my wife's), printed out our application number and barcode (ours was 110, and the first one of the day was 100, so we were the eleventh of the day), and directed us off toward our right.

To the right was the bank of lifts. A lot of people seem miffed that there's no common access to the lifts, but they were being very liberal about letting people with legitimate need to use it. Small children, elderly, anybody who basically had the temerity to ask was being let up the lift. We went through the bank of lifts, and were directed immediately to our right again, up the stairs to the third floor.

Directly at the top of the stairs is the mid-section of the Croydon PEO. To the left is the waiting room, the cafeteria area, and the Costa Coffee. (About half the space is for the many waiting seats, and half for the cafeteria/Costa.) There are also male and female multi-faith rooms beyond the Costa, which appear to be appropriate for all standard faiths. We were directed this direction when we reached the top of the stairs. To the right are all the windows where agents register your application, do your biometrics, and return your package. In the hallway between the two are the toilets.

My wife and I sat at one of the tables in the cafeteria, as I had to put section tabs on my documents to make them easier to find. I was disgustingly organised. I had a cover letter that included details of when I applied for my visa, indicated this put the submission under the old rules (which is ridiculous, because I'm pretty sure all ILR applications will be under the old rules for several more years), stated that I had the KOL REQ'd endorsement on my visa, which was why I was applying before my 24 month provisional period was past, and then a table of contents of each document I'd included, divided up into: Application, Passport/Photos, Financials, KOL Certificate, Cohabitation, and Marriage License.

The many monitors surrounding the waiting area flip between multiple screens, each showing the application numbers of those at a particular stage of the application process. If there's nobody at a particular stage, that screen is skipped. (For instance, if there are no applications ready to be picked up, it skips to missed pick-ups, and if there's nobody with a missed pick-up it skips back to the beginning.) The stages are Application Received (only saw this one for a few seconds during the whole day, and only one number was on it), Application Registration, Awaiting Biometric Verification, IDecide (no idea what this was, we never saw anybody with one of the numbers on here on the third floor), Awaiting Consideration, Under Consideration, Ready for Pick-Up, and Missed Pick-up.

As soon as we'd finished putting the tabs on my application documentation, our number was called. We went to the other half of the floor. On the far side of the very long room, there were about twenty five to thirty cubicles with agents on one side with nice monitors and keyboards, and two chairs for applicants on the other side. On the near side there were another ten or so similar cubicles, with numbers 40 through 50, I think. Beyond those was a smaller waiting section.

We went to the cubicle window we'd been called to, and were asked for our application, photos and passports. The agent typed a bunch of information in, then gave us a clear folder to put our documentation into. It didn't fit. The size of my document evidence was about eight times as thick as the next thickest one we saw all day. The agent made the comment, "You really don't need all this, since you're already settled. Go ahead and take the clips off." I realized that the thickest part was the copies, particulary the copy of the application. As they were going to keep the original application, they didn't need the application copy, so I took this out and everything mostly fit. He stretched a giant elastic band around it, wrote our ticket number on it, and told us to go wait in the smaller waiting area. (Then he called us back and asked for my wife's passport again, because he'd forgotten to take her information.)

We'd barely sat down before we were called into the next room for my biometrics. There's only one seat for applicants at the biometrics cubicle windows. My wife was invited to wait at another window, but on a busy day it'd be easier to wait in the smaller waiting area. I handed over my package, had my fingerprints taken (digital device, four fingers together for right hand, four fingers together for left hand, two thumbs together), signed a signature card (sign in a box, don't touch the sides. It was a thick marker, though, and it was impossible for me to sign without touching the walls, she said it wasn't a curved piece of my name, so it was fine), then had my picture taken. Then she took my package away, and invited me to go sit back in the big waiting area. She said we'd have a decision in about 90 minutes.

By the time we got out of there, it was exactly 8:20. The Costa opened shortly, and my wife got me a nice latte. There was only one person working there, so she had a constant queue of about a dozen people. There are also vending machines.

Contrary to what people had mentioned, there were no signs telling us not to use our phones or electronics devices in the waiting area/Costa. It was only when we went to the other side of the building where the windows were that we saw those signs.

Our number was on the Awaiting Biometric Verification screen for about twenty minutes. If you've heard nightmares about the Croydon office, it's typically because the IT system that aids them in verifying biometrics has gone down. So that's the bad screen to be stuck on. The moment you pass that screen, you can be pretty sure you'll have your decision that day.

The number then went onto the Awaiting Consideration screen, then pretty instantly onto the Under Consideration screen. We were the seventh number that got to that stage yesterday. One interesting thing to note about the Under Consideration screen is that it's the only screen that shows numeric order, rather than the order you got to that stage in. That's because once you're Under Consideration, you're no longer in a queue ahead of or behind anybody else, you'll be done when your case has been decided.

The Croydon PEO is clean, modern, and comfortable. It was miles ahead of any waiting room I've ever been in, especially immigration (I've visited immigration offices in four countries). It was not too noisy, the interview windows were not too public, it was actually a rather enjoyable place to be if you're going to be forced to spend half a day in the same room.

Pretty much exactly 90 minutes later, our number was called to the pick-up window. We went to it, handed our bar-coded application number over, it was crumpled and thrown away, and my document originals were handed back. We were told my application was a success, and my BRP would appear in the mail in 7 to 10 days, and I was free to leave. Nothing else. No questions other than asking to see my appointment letter, payment, passport, pictures, and application. Nobody even asked my name. There were no problems with my KOL REQ'd endorsement. We didn't bring my son as he was ill, and we were glad we didn't, as nobody would have seen him, and he would have been miserable.

In addition to all the documents we did turn in, we had dozens of others. Additional cohabitation, print-outs of potentially confusing immigration regulations and guidance, employment and accomidation evidence, etc., and it was all for naught.

All that said, even if my application had failed, I would not have been angry at the Croydon office. It was exceptionally professional, the people kind, and the setting comfortable. We were out before 10 AM, and on our way home to talk to estate agents about a new house.
 

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Nice long story! but how come they didn't give your ILR the same day?
Mine was given after 2 hours in year 2011 as I am British now.

Upon submissions, I brought enough documents with me and let the nice lady chose which documents she need in my application. And when she asked how many years I've been married to my husband, I responded 15 years and she just smile at us and asked, if we have any children? I said they are teenagers now, and show her their British passport and she said it's not necessary to include their passport in my application and that's pretty much how my interview went.
She sent us to the cashier to pay and we only waited half an hour and when were called, she told me that my application is granted so I asked her if she can repeat it again as. I couldn't believe it! and she smile sweetly and say "Your application is granted Madame" and she told us to come back after 2 hours so we went to George bar along George street where trams passes by, had a couple of pints and went back after 2 hours and it's ready for collection, but they made a mistake with my birth month instead of JUN they typed JAN. Just as we'll I've noticed it, so they had to reprint it which only took them 15 minutes as the details is already in their computer. :lalala:
 

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In part of 2011 they didn't issue biometric residence permit but just stuck ILR label into your passport so you could have it there and then. Now all new status details are only given on BRP which has to be specifically produced and posted (couriered) to you.
 

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Yay! Thanks for letting me know! I was puzzled about these biometric ID!
You just solved the puzzle! :clap2:
 
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