I’ll cut to the chase, I received my Indefinite Leave to Remain visa just a little over a week ago and I am now permanently settled in the United Kingdom!
The final process of filling out all the paperwork was by far the easiest part, the hardest part for me was parting with £840, especially since we are living on my husband’s income alone and have to live on a pretty tight budget. The Life in the UK test wasn’t exactly difficult, just very time consuming but still more difficult than filling out the application .
The Form SET(M) that I had to fill out was only 18 pages, including notes and definitions and the cover page. After all was said and done, in total I only filled out about 10 pages, and some of those were just ticking boxes and making declarations. As I mentioned in Part II, we had to provide 6 pieces of correspondence that were addressed to both my husband and me from 3 different sources. We sent two council tax bills, two utility bills and two letters from our bank for our joint account so it was quite easy for us since my name was added to all our utility bills while my husband was deployed a year ago. We also had to include the previous three months of bank statements, I didn’t have all of these in my records but it was quite easy to just go to the bank and get them to print me out what I needed. We also had to send in photos of both of us, two of me and one of my spouse. There are machines all over where you can get passport photos taken, so this part was also just a matter of going out and getting them done. From start to finish it only took my husband and me a few hours to fill out the form.
After I sent out the application form I’ve never been so nervous about anything in my life. There was just so much at stake and it was totally out of my hands. First I was worried that if I made a mistake and they rejected my application, the application fee was non-refundable. I was also worried about what I would do if my application was rejected. All of the far-fetched worst case scenarios ran through my head as I waited for my application to be processed. In the back of my mind I knew that I was a shoe-in and the Border Agency had absolutely no reason at all to reject my application, but when so much rides on getting that sticker on my passport its easy to let your imagination run wild and consider the possibility of something going horribly wrong.
To make the waiting all the more stressful, in the days before I filed my application a job opportunity opened up. The employer didn’t want to move forward until I had my visa in hand. The entire time I was hoping that the turn around time for my visa would be miraculously fast but in the back of my mind I also knew they wouldn’t wait for me. While I did get my visa back incredibly quickly, within less than two weeks of when I filed my application, it wasn’t fast enough and the opportunity came and went as I sat waiting for my visa. I have to believe it wasn’t meant to be, the job was just a temporary contract so its nothing to get upset over, and I’ve already had new possibilities opening up for me. Still, the possibility of employment hanging over my head as I sat waiting made it seem like the longest two weeks of my life.
Now that its over and I have my visa, it seems like everything has changed. I’m hoping that this will open some doors for me and I’ll be a more attractive candidate to potential employers. Its something that I can’t explain, its kind of like when people tell you that everything changes when you get married and it changes your relationship. It is almost as if the two year temporary residence visa was like an engagement, a time for me to plan for my life together with Britain, and getting my permanent settlement and indefinite leave to remain is like being married to Britain. My whole attitude has changed, and I think its even noticeable to people I meet. There aren’t many Americans up here, so when I meet people they are always curious and ask the same questions. Before I got my ILR visa, people would ask me all the time if I was planning to move back to the US. Now, in only the past few weeks, people ask me if/when I think my accent will change. I don’t know why, but people seem to accept more that I’m here to stay without even knowing anything about my immigration status and only that I’ve been here for two years. Maybe its a “vibe” that I’m putting out that is different, but it does feel like this little sticker on my passport has changed so much in my life.
The next step is of course to become a British citizen. I’ve looked into it and I am eligible for citizenship at this time next year. However, the application fee for that is another £735 and I can think of more important things we could spend that money on over the next year. Really the only difference between an ILR visa and a British passport is that I can’t vote or freely go to Cuba, so at this point its not really worth it to get citizenship right away when I could live on this visa for the rest of my life with very little difference. I know we’ll make that extra step eventually, but unlike getting this visa, when I go for that scarlet passport it will be on my timeline and when we can afford it. Its good to know that after next year it will be something we can do when we are ready for it.