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Home Office passport and visa chief Mark Thomson set to resign | UK news

The head of two of the Home Office sections at the centre of the Windrush scandal has told staff he will be stepping down next year.

Mark Thomson, the director general of HM Passport Office (HMPO) and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), will be replaced in March and then take on a number of advisory roles and non-executive directorships.

Both departments will have key roles issuing passports and visas post-Brexit, particularly if the UK leaves without a deal.

His departure is a fourth blow to the government’s Brexit planning. It comes after Sir Jon Thompson quit as the head of HMRC, Karen Wheeler, who was in charge of Brexit border delivery at HMRC, retired, and Tom Shinner left his job in charge of no-deal planning at the Department for Exiting the European Union for a role in the private sector.

Thomson’s sections of the Home Office have been under pressure since they were criticised by a home affairs select committee report last year.

UKVI in particular was criticised for demanding a standard of proof from applicants which could not be met.

Thomson became the head of the passport office in 2015, shortly after it was stripped of its executive agency status and instead made a division within the Home Office. He was made head of UKVI the following year.

When he was initially appointed, his salary of £164,000 was criticised for being paid 60% more than his predecessor. He had previously worked for the Royal Mail for nearly 30 years.

Thomson, in a leaked email sent to staff, disclosed that his job is now being advertised.

“The sharp eyed amongst you may notice that my job has been advertised today. I wanted to let you all know that after five years in the Home Office I have decided the time has come for me to move on and leave my position as director general of UKVI and HMPO,” he wrote.

He said that he planned to take up “a small portfolio of advisory roles and non-executive roles”.

It has also recently emerged that Home Office profits on UK visas had surged by millions of pounds a week since visa operations were outsourced.

An investigation by Finance Uncovered and the Independent revealed that the UK government made £1.6bn from visa applicants in the five years since it outsourced the bulk of its overseas visa services to the Dubai-based firm VFS – a ninefold increase on the five years before.

The company, which has its headquarters in the United Arab Emirates but is owned through holding companies in Jersey, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, has been accused of “gross maladministration” and “aggressive” selling of optional services since taking the contract in 2014.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Mark Thomson has made the decision to leave his post in March 2020 for personal reasons. His departure will be phased to ensure minimal
disruption to both HM Passport Office and UK Visas and Immigration.”

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