I was going to post a tweet about this, but I need a big canvas to illustrate the entirety of the mess. I’m struggling to find an up-to-date list of which countries people can visit the UK from as a tourist without a visa on GOV.UK.
User story #1: As a person living in the United Kingdom who occasionally helps to organise travel for friends and family members, I want to be able to see who is allowed to enter the UK without a visa.
I went to Google and I typed in “countries who can visit uk visa free”. Mostly it brought back news articles about how as a UK citizen, I can visit 175+ countries with a British passport. Which is awesome. Being a UK citizen has some great advantages. I’d recommend it, along with Amazon Prime and an Amex Gold Card. Oh, wait, citizenship, it’s not just a consumer product. Fealty to sovereign powers and all that jazz.
The only GOV.UK result I could find on Google was this: Standard Visitor Visa. Now I’m pretty sure that this isn’t what I want, but it is close. So I start clicking through the pagination (sigh, my scroll bar works…) looking for a list of countries that are visa-exempt. You know, like, the US has the Visa Waiver Program, and on the US State Department website, it lists all the countries that can visit the US on the VWP. Can I find such a list? No.
Then I clicked the link on there to the Visas and immigration section of GOV.UK because the list must be there, surely.
Nope. Nada. Sigh.
Then I go back to the visitor visa page and hidden away on the second page, there’s a link titled “Check if you need a visa to enter the UK.”
I click that and it takes me to a page called Check if you need a UK visa.
Well, I mean, I don’t need a UK visa. I’m not checking for myself. I’m just curious now which countries need visas and which don’t. Government websites are there to inform all sorts of decisions, not just the person directly using that service.
Anyway, this “Check if you need a UK visa” thing doesn’t have anything as simple as a list of countries which visa exemptions. No. Instead, you have to click a big green button that says “Start now”, then it asks me what type of passport or travel document I have, and I’m asked to select from a big list. Then I’m asked to choose the purpose of my hypothetical visit. Tourism, say.
Then it shows me for the one country I’ve asked about.
That kind of solves the problem, albeit it requires about three more clicks than just having a list. Over-engineering.
User story #2: As a UK-based organiser of an international youth sporting tournament, I need to be able to check the visa requirements of 500 people who will be visiting the UK from around the world on scholarships.
Oh god, if you resemble the second user story, you are so screwed if you use the existing GOV.UK system. Instead of a simple list, you have to sort the list of students by country, then check each country by hand. Be sure to send the Cabinet Office the bill for the RSI you get from clicking through that form a couple hundred times.
Fortunately Wikipedia exists and has the list in readable HTML form rather than an interactive clicky thing that’ll make you want to stab someone. You better hope that someone hasn’t vandalised Wikipedia. Of course, if the government published a simple list of countries on a website with a stable URL, then Wikipedia could use that as a source and the editorial community on Wikipedia could use this to check that their copy is accurate.
I bet you someone spent a lot of time and effort making this interactive wizard thing. But it’s actually significantly less useful than a simple list on a webpage (like the one the US State Department or Wikipedia publish) for pretty much any use case that involves more than one person, which is pretty much everybody in the travel industry or anyone who has to organise travel for other people (so, schools, universities, businesses in almost all sectors, the government, charities, etc.).
This is an impressively strange case of over-engineering. I really hope someone fixes it.
Here’s the code for it, by the way.