Dispatches from the North: Path to Settlement in the UK – Part III

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.

Comments

  1. avatar says

    You might want to change your mind about the naturalising thing because they are changing the rules in July 2011. They are putting in place probationary citizenship…you might, just might have until 2013…but it’s not certain right now. I know that I will be saving a lot for this fee and getting it by the July date. (I found about this on talk.ukyankee.com)

    • avatar says

      I won’t be eligible until August 2011 anyway, so I’ll miss the deadline. If I have to wait until 2013 it doesn’t really make any difference to me. I’ve also heard they are making some changes to the rules regarding the spouses of military personell, so this may work in my favor as well. I guess we’ll see but for now I know we won’t be looking to move forward until at least August 2012 at the very earliest.

  2. avatar says

    That’s so awesome, LIsa. Jackie and I are really happy and excited for you. Good luck finding a job – I’m sure that now you’re settles, something will come along.

  3. avatarLeslie says

    Hi Lisa,
    I am an American ( New Yorker) who has been married for 11 years with an Englishman. We have a 4 year old daughter. We were living in France for the past 10 years so I applied for my Perm. Settlement visa. Put my application in at the VAC in PAris on August 9th. My husband and Daughter have been in Durham since the 17th of August. i have heard nothing as of yet. My husband was sent an email 2 days ago askinghim if he supported my application. Strange since his letter and the 200 other pages of ducuments said that was the case! Is it true that I need to be escorted into the Country by him> If that is so, he will be back in France on the 17th of September and I can go back with him but I must have received my visa by then. Do you think it will come by then? What are your thoughts? I am going crazy as I still have another 24 days til then!!!!
    REgards,
    Leslie

    • avatarLisa says

      I am not sure, I do know the process is different to apply for settlement if you and your husband haven’t been “present” in the UK within the past two years. I think since we’ve both been living here together for the duration of my two year temporary visa my application was much more straighforward and it only took two weeks for mine. I don’t know anything about whether he will need to “escort you” for this particular visa but I know for my first two year Spouse Visa I did not have to accompanied by my husband when I entered the country. I actually arrived several hours before him as he had been deployed and we arrived in the UK the same day but my flight came in first.

      When I received my ILR visa there was a very extensive and clearly written leaflet explaining the terms of my visa very specifically. When you receive your visa (hopefully soon!) it should include a leaflet explaining the conditions of your visa and if you need to be accompanied by your husband to enter the country.

      I can’t really say when you should expect your visa since our applications are quite different, sadly its one of those things you just have to wait for and its out of your hands and they won’t accept any phone calls inquiring about the progress of your application. Hang in there and I hope you get some answers soon!

  4. avatarPeter Bond says

    Hi

    I just wanted to wish you all the best. I have lived in the UK for 21 years and been a British Citizen (dual UK/US for 25).

    Sadly it seems that as years goes by there are just more and more bureaucratic hoops to jump through. It really was so much easier in the past.

    Peter