June 28, 2013

Rachel in Limbo

This is a short diversion from the normally scheduled posts.

Rachel in Wales was not always Rachel in Wales.  I moved here in 2009.  I tried hard to get a visa to move to the UK and could only get one by becoming a student - so I got a masters degree.  I worked really hard for 18  months and graduated with a MA in History, I also took out a lot of student loans from America that I'll be paying back for the next 10 years.

Before my visa expired I was able to apply for a Post Study Working Visa - a 2 year visa granted to graduates that allows them to work in the UK with no minimum salary and no job requirements.  The visa cost £550 and took 3 months to process.  In that time I was in limbo - I couldn't find a permanent job but I couldn't leave the UK either (when in the process the border agency takes away your passport and ID documents).  Luckily it was issued in March 2011 and I found a good job by June.

That visa expired in February of 2013, and in January of 2013 I was again lucky enough to have an employer that liked me enough to sponsor me.  Sponsorship is a faff for UK employers that requires loads of paperwork, but they did their side and on January 25th 2013 I applied for my new visa.

On April 14th I received a letter from the home office telling me my visa had been denied and that I had 28 days to leave the country. After a lot of panic and some tears, I hired a lawyer to advise me. Apparently there was a typo on my application which said I was a government worker instead of a private sector worker - but as the UKBA does not have any administrative review proceedings the visa was denied and my passport was retained, ready for collection at my point of UK departure.
The lawyer filed my appeal paperwork on 19th April, and I again waited to hear back.  Still no passport.  In May 2013 I was scheduled to go back to America to visit my family - I had already purchased the tickets.  Without my passport I was unable to travel, and I did not get to go home.  In April 2013 I was meant to go to Italy to see my Sister, but I lost those flights as well.
On June 5th I heard back from the home office advising that my case would go to trial on 19th September, 2013.  My work had written many letters on my behalf, advising that the application had a typo and that they would do what they could to rectify the situation.  I had written letters explaining the same.  But I still did not have a passport, and it was beginning to look like I wouldn't have one until October.

On June 21st my lawyer called to let me know that the border agency had decided not to take my case to trial, and had redacted their immigration decision.  Now I just had to wait for my "case worker" to review my documents, and hopefully issue the visa.

Today, 28th June 2013, I received my new visa and got my passport back.  In total, the process took 5 months and cost almost £700 in Border agency fees plus £500 in lawyer costs.  I'm excited to not be in Limbo anymore - but I also want everyone to know that the decision to move to the UK is not easy, and it's not cheap, and it stays difficult even if you've been here for years.

So I'm not in limbo anymore, and guess what I'm going to do?

I'm celebrating having my passport back by driving to Belgium tomorrow.

Here's to more awesome years of being Rachel in Wales!!! Yahoo!!

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