Getting a UK Visa: One woman’s saga

yankeebeanThis post can’t come with a big enough disclaimer, my lovely peeps – A reader asked us to write about our ‘getting a visa’ experience so I thought I’d amble over to She’s Not From Yorkshire and get started.  But this only reflects my experience, pleasepleaseplease don’t take this as advice.  Visa laws and requirements change about every fifteen minutes so make sure to check with the Big Dudes (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/).  I (unfortunately) know how stressful and heinous it is to have an application rejected for not doing everything right, so don’t take anything I write as gospel…

*deep breath* Ok… brace yourself, this is going to be a long one…

After I met Mr. Nice Guy, I went back to the US for University – we did the long distance thing for 4 seemingly endless years and then it was time to move.  So it begins…

Visa #1: BUNAC work-abroad programme = Accepted

Cost: 300.00 USD (ish…)
My location when I applied: USA
Valid for: 6 months
Received: September 2004
My age: 22

Bunac were the people that allowed me to first set-foot and work in England for 6 months as part of a work-abroad programme.  The exact programme I came across for doesn’t exist anymore (I imagine I wasn’t the only one that used it as a blatant weasel-in-to-England scheme).  Basically, they got me in the country and guaranteed me an English bank account – then they left me to it to find a job and a place to stay (which was the easy part).

I had two choices for my next visa.  One, find a job that would hire me and go through the visa application process on my behalf.  Two, marry my guy (I know, it doesn’t sound very romantic.  But I already knew I wanted to marry him, so I thought why not now?).

Visa #2: Work Permit = Rejected

Cost: Blissfully unaware
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: However long I was employed by a specific employer
Received Notification: Early 2005
My age: still 22

I found a job in a standard beige office with the hopes that they would go through the second round of visa applications that needed to begin almost immediately.  They agreed (I still can’t believe they agreed) AND they said they’d pay for it (best news ever).  I was put in charge of all the research, paperwork and evidence required to get the Queen to let me stay.

Applications completed – One.  Evidence supplied – substantial.  Time spent researching – infinity.

Application status – rejected.  Ugh…

My application was rejected because it would only have been valid if it was for a job that no other person in the European Union was capable of doing.  I must’ve known deep down that there was no way it could work…

Visa #3: Fianceé Visa = Accepted

Cost: 350.00 GBP
My location when I applied: USA
Valid for: 6 months during which I was not allowed to work
Received Notification: April 2005
My age: 23

SO, me and Mr Nice Guy hadn’t decided to get hitched yet because we needed to make sure we were doing it for the right reasons.  To buy time I went back to the States and applied for a Fianceé Visa.  I had to bring evidence of our relationship for the past 2 years including stuff like letters, pictures, plane ticket stubbs – you get the idea – in addition to filling out yet another giant form of doom.  I went back home for 5 weeks during which I paid a little extra to apply in person, went to the UK Embassy in the big-bad-city, thumped my paperwork on the desk of some lady, left it there and went and had a coffee/panicked/waited, and then received a call from the UK Embassay informing me that I was successfully engaged to Mr Nice Guy.  :)

Not exactly a romantic proposal, but I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of refief that washed over me when I heard those lovely words of acceptance.

Visa #4: Temporary Marriage Visa (take 1) = Rejected

Cost: 750.00 GBP
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: 2 years
Received Notification: October 2005
My age: 23

Fastforward past all the wedding excitement (Best Day Ever! :) ) and we arrive at the next visa.  Technically I was applying for Temporary Leave to Remain.  The rules for this Visa were that I had to 1) be married to a UK-type and 2) stay married for 2 years.

When I began this application process, I did everything I was supposed to (or so I thought).  All the evidence was in place, I’d even called the UK Visa Office to make sure I was using the right form for what I was trying to do.  But (I kid you not) between the time that I received what WAS the correct form, and completed and posted said-form…

They changed the form… so I sent in the wrong form.

Sure enough, 6 weeks later almost to the day I received my letter of rejection because I’d sent in the wrong form.  Enter drama from stage left – I criiiiiiied when I got that one.  Blah…

Visa #5: Temporary Marriage Visa (take 2) = Accepted

Cost: They rolled-over my first payment of 750.00 GBP (thank God)
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: 2 years
Received Notification: Late 2005
My age: 23

I re-confirmed which form I was supposed to use, re-filled out every last detail, re-posted it to the appropriate red-tape-central address, and received my acceptance letter with a complimentary truck-load of relief…

Visa #6: Permanent Marriage Visa = Accepted

Cost: 750.00 GBP
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: Ever (yay!!)
Received Notification: Late 2007
My age: 25

Technically what I was applying for is called Indefinite Leave to Remain – this was the one I had been waiting for.  This was the Visa that meant I could stay and never have to apply for another Visa unless I wanted to.  I had to supply evidence the me and Mr Nice Guy had been living in the same place for the past 2 years in terms of bank statments and things.  They had some rule that, if your bills were in a joint name, you need evidence spanning 2 years from 5 different sources.  However, if you didn’t have your bills and stuff in joint names, then you needed evidence spanning 2 years from 5 different sources EACH.  We (of course) didn’t have our bills in our joint name, so we scraped together about a foot of paper between the two of us.

Another giant form was filled in.

Another wad was posted off.

Acceptance arrived around Elevenses one morning while I was in the middle of a First Aid training course.  Mr Nice Guy called me on my cell to tell me the stellar news.  It was a good good good good day…

Visa #7: British Citizenship = Pending

I haven’t actually applied for this yet, but I will one day.  I was worried that becoming British would mean I wasn’t allowed to be American anymore, but for now I don’t believe that’s true.  I’ve been to many an Expat forum where people have said that America will not force you to solely be an American citizen.

However, I’ve also heard people say that America doesn’t really want to know if you’re a citizen somewhere else.  It would be a ‘use your American passport to get into the States’ and ‘use your UK passport to get into the UK’ situation.  The one warning I have heard is that you should never let your US passport expire if you’re also a British citizen because the US are unlikely to renew your passport if this happens.  Again, this all just stuff I’ve read on forums, but it’s good enough for me for now…

Bloody hell, I need a cuppa tea… I apologise if I bored the bejeezus out of you, but don’t worry, it’s over now :)

Builders in Britain, the facts

yahooavatar15We’ve all been there. Walking down the street minding our own damn business when it happens. “Hi-ya Love, Cheer up!” or “Phwaaaa!” or “Nice legs!” or the worst: “Fancy a climb?” If you are like me, you avoid walking within 1o89 feet of a building site if possible. And you still probably get something shouted down from the scaffolding. No matter what the  hell you’re wearing, where you focus your eyes, well– any resemblance of having any female-ness you will be harassed. Who are these people, you ask? Oh darlings, they are the stereotypical British builder.

Builders enjoying yet another break in an ad to attract more builders to the trade.

Builders enjoying yet another break in an ad to attract more builders to the trade.

Frequently seen driving a white van, always running behind and over budget on your Ikea kitchen remodel, with The Sun‘s latest titty gal (always page 3) opened on his dash, shaven head, earring in the left (or is it right?) ear, generally in tatty old blue jeans.

There is something so ironic about those big burly builders in Britain. And it makes no sense to me. What is it? Its that builders here  take “tea breaks”. yes. You read correctly. TEA BREAKS.  They dutifully bring their little flasks to the jobsite everyday to sneak in their civilized cuppa. This generally occurs every hour, especially if its your house they are redoing. A strong cup with milk and two sugars makes the standard “builders brew” so I’ve learned.

This leads me to inform you that Builders have their own special tea here made especially for them called Make Mine a Builders.You can only buy it at Morrisons, (notice that Waitrose hasn’t decided to stock it, snobby little chain). And wait for it.. now there are even some Walker’s Crisps called “Builder’s Breakfast”. (No, you can’t buy those at Waitrose either). Despite food and tea catered for them… whatever, Builders in Britain generally tend to have bad reputations. Now, now, now… don’t think that I am prejudiced against builders. No way, my father is a builder-so I know all about those builders. But only American ones. British ones are a different breed that leave me confused, annoyed and wary.

Making teas for 10 and getting them all right!

avt_kapyork_large115 Have you had your cup of tea yet this morning? I love having English Breakfast in the morning with plenty of milk and one sugar (sometimes just half a sugar). A few years ago I didn’t even know what it meant to ask how many sugars. Are we talking individual crystals here? Once I was told (jokingly by a half American) that as an American I am genetically unable to make a cup of tea.

I think I am pretty good at it these days. I even worked out how to make a less disgusting cup of instant coffee. But at work, or in someone’s home if you go to put the kettle on you must ask each individual person in the room if they want a cuppa.

My work office is fairly small. It is enough to stand near the kitchen and ask “Does anyone want a hot drink?” but in our office the culture is to then address everyone by name and ask them if they want a cup.  And then if say 6 people say yes you must go through the routine.
Step 1: Would you like tea, coffee, herbal tea or hot water?
Step 2: Milk or sugar or sweetener?
Step 3: How weak/strong?
Step 4: How many sugars?
Step 5: Repeat for every person in the room.
Step 6: Remember what everyone said and make drinks accordingly.

AAAGGGGHHHHH! It makes me crazy. So usually I just don’t have drinks at the office. An American employer might view this as a big waste of your work time. And the minute you have a drink, people start taking note of how often you do the dishes.

It is the little things….

Dear Mr. British Music Director at Posh British Academic Institution….

yahooavatar15Dear Music Director of a Posh Academic Institution in Yorkshire,

My name is Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire, and I write to see if you have any availability to teach harp in your music department. I hold a Masters Degree in harp performance from a Royal School and have numerous experiences in teaching at higher institutions worldwide.  As well as a dedicated teacher, I am an experienced harp performer as you can see by the numerous recitals and masterclasses listed on my CV, which I have attached for your perusal.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Kindest Regards,

Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire, Mmus

———————

SILENCE . Waiting. SILENCE. More SILENCE.

So. I. called. The new American gal freshly moved to Yorkshire needs to work, you know?

3 weeks after letter was sent.

ring ring

HIM: (In posh Queen’s English) Hello?

Me: (With American Accent) Hi, I am just calling to follow up on a letter I sent 3 weeks ago. You see, I am a harpist that has just moved to your area and have heard such great things about your music department. Would you needing any harp teaching this year?

Him: No. We are not interested. Then SLAMS DOWN PHONE.

Yes, readers, that was the conversation.

Me: Big sad Crying ensued… how dare he be so rude and hang up on me like I am some sort of annoyance! I am not some bum looking to clean the loos! Not even a chance to have a decent conversation!

Note to self… don’t ever deal with him or his music department again!

——————–

Fast forward to last week, which is 2 and a half years later:

Dear Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire,

We have never spoken before which is why I wanted to be in touch and introduce myself. My name is the posh music director at the poshest school in town. As you can see from our website, we are leaders in music education and are a progressive institution. Would you be interested in doing some teaching at my posh academic institution in Yorkshire? If so, please let me know, we will work around your schedule. We have heard so much about you, and your reputation is well-known. I do hope you would consider working with us, and can’t wait to meet you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Warmest Regards,

The Music director at posh, Academic institution

—————-

Dear Music School Director at  posh Academic institution,
Thank you for your email.
I must say I was most surprised to receive it, as we had spoken briefly on the phone when I arrived in Yorkshire 2 and a half years ago– you do remember that we have spoke before? I sent you my CV and then phoned you as well. At that time you made it very clear you were not interested in my services. You actually hung up on me.

Since our last conversation I have taken up the post as principal instructor at another posh academic school (a rival) and I cannot help you at this moment.

With Regards,
Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire,  Mmus

———————

SILENCE (possibly forever from him!)

This incident just happened last week, fellow readers… and writing and then sending that letter never felt better.The rule of karma is active and alive in England… do share with us your British karmic experiences  too!