Dispatches from the North: Path to Settlement in the UK- Part I

I can’t believe I’ve been here for nearly 2 years. Now that my UK Spouse Visa which gave me temporary residency is running out, the next step  to permanently settle in the UK is to apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) Visa. The process for this visa requires another hefty application fee as well as passing a Life in the UK Test. I’ve now booked my Life in the UK Test at a nearby test centre and will be sitting the exam in three weeks on Tuesday, July 6th.

A few months ago when I first started gathering the information I needed I got pretty overwhelmed. I’ve been out of full time work since moving here and my husband and I are on a fairly tight budget since we survive on his Navy income alone. I also found the description of the test very daunting, the website says that about 1 in 3 fail, and most British people couldn’t pass it. Also the application process falls within a tight window, you have to submit your application within 28 days of the expiration date of your temporary residence visa but applications filed prior to the 28 day window won’t be accepted. Also it is important to note that the application fee (currently £840) is not a fee to pay for the visa but to apply for it meaning that if the application is rejected the £840 is non-refundable and if I wish to apply again its another £840.

It sounds pretty serious and scary, but now that I’ve set up a timeline for studying and completing all the necessary steps it seems much more manageable. Also the process here is fairly straightforward and relatively affordable as any average person can complete the process without needing to hire an immigration lawyer. Immigrants in the US can’t tackle the American Immigration system without the aid of a lawyer and the process is extremely complicated, expensive and easy to make a mistake and be penalized, so in comparison I suppose I’ve got it pretty good. It also helps that I have a friend nearby who came to the UK just a couple months before me and she has just gone through the process successfully and received her visa and also passed on her study materials to me so I don’t have to go out and buy the books myself.

I began delving into the study materials for the Life in the UK Test earlier this week and have developed my own study strategy. Some of the information is fairly basic and relates to things that are either standard on both sides of the pond or much to my delight things I have learned within the past couple years through my personal experience of “life in the UK”. Then there are other questions that aren’t quite so easy, questions like “How many people in the UK are Muslims” or even as obscure as “In the 1950s in which country were centres set up to recruit bus drivers to come to the UK.” There is a wide variety of very specific information that I have to cram into my brain, so much that I am creating a set of flashcards for myself for all of the statistics that I can use to study the week before my test.

I also half expect this test to be like the driving theory test which I studied for intensely only to show up and find that none of the very difficult questions from the study materials were on the actual test and I felt I wasted my time learning specific following distances in different conditions and what the legal tread depth for a tire was. At least this time around I know that its possible none of the complicated questions will be on the test, so I’ll learn them anyway and just be satisfied to know that if I went on some Life in the UK version of QI, I would be racking up lots of points.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress over the coming months and hopefully in my final installment of this “Path to Settlement in the UK” series I’ll be reporting that my ILR Visa is in my hand!

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  1. avatar says

    What an exciting time for you! I cannot wait to hear about how it all goes. I’m sure you’ll do fine. Are you going to go through the citizenship ceremony and get the scarlet passport as well?

    • avatarLisa says

      I had never looked into it before, but just saw this on the UK Border Agency website:

      “If you are over 18 and have been living in the United Kingdom for the last five years (or three years if you are married to or a civil partner of a British citizen) you may be able to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.”

      I had always thought it would be another 3 years, but this looks like just one more until I can get my hands on a scarlet passport! That is exciting. The good thing about this visa is there aren’t restrictions on it like the temporary residence visa and I’ll have completed the citizenship test, so I can go for the passport whenever I’m eligible and ready!

  2. avatar says

    I took the test in Feb. It’s definitely worth studying for! I hated having to learn all those little bits and bobs but they did come up on the test. Luckily, you get your results within a few minutes of finishing! Best of luck to you…and make sure you get your citizenship ASAP as they are changing it all on July 2011 (from what I’ve read).

  3. avatarJem says

    840 quid !!!! whats the paper made of gold leaf ? I wish you all the best and have a great life.

  4. avatarJen says

    Hi there, been following your posts on my google reader :) I am a Canadian in a 3yr long distance relationship with a Brit and working on getting a working holiday visa. At this time he is ill and not working so we can’t apply for a marriage visa but we want to be together.. While I have loads of work experience etc I don’t have a degree so I can’t apply for the general work visa either… But I always find it encouraging to hear success stories. Hope all goes well for you :) Congrats for passing the test!