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 :)

Dating a British man–perhaps lacking in romance, but at least still buying you that raunchy lingerie…

yahooavatar15Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Oh, but we did, darlings, we did! Perhaps your British man will only order kinky lingerie for you over the internet, didn’t go bonkers for you on Valentine’s Day, and rarely writes you sappy poems or a song… and its not just us 3 Shes not From Yorkshire lasses that have noticed. Its just that some British blokes (the ones with a stiff upper lip, I think) might not be as cuddly wuddly and over the top as you hoped (well, when compared to your last American lovah). It is just the way it could be for you here in Brittania. What? You thought all English men were like Mr. Darcy and Hugh Grant? Ummm…..

It seems that British men might not be as romantic as you want them to be says a new study. As an American women who is used to a different style of wooing, this could come as a shocker for an uninformed new woman abroad not- in-the-know.  British romance from those silly movies you’ve seen? Sorry, honey. This little fact is one that you might discover as an American women coming to the UK. Roughly, it is in the same category that a) attempting sex at an English B&B is debatable b)you really should descale your tea-kettle every so often, c ) you could think that English radio is a dictatorship, and d) that public toilets in England will generally have no loo roll.

The Times just published a little blurb about British men and their um… deficiencies last month (19/7/09):

British men are among the least romantic in the world. In a study of 6,500 men and women from across the world, psychologist Richard Weisman found that British men were 10% less likely to make romantic gestures then men from other countries. Only 32% of Brit men have written a song or poem for their loved one, compared with 41% of non-British men, and only 44% had taken their other halves on a surprise holiday compared with 51% elsewhere. The study also found that British men mistakenly  believe that buying sexy lingerie is the key to a woman’s heart, when what really want are little gestures and a cup of tea in bed. (I say Oh the ecstasy!!! The rapture!!)

But wait! Before you despair over the lack of recieving impromptu holidays to Torremelinos and Lindt semi-dark, take heart as this seems to be the average British male behaviour.

ps. Funnily enough, the most romantic British man I’ve come across would be Mr. Chavtastic.

How do the British celebrate Valentine’s Day? Very Quietly.

yahooavatar15Valentine’s Day in England. What could be done to celebrate and cheer up the atmosphere? Tonight at ASDA I was looking for some of those small Valentine’s Day Cards to give out to the kids I teach. An unidentified English informant said “OH NO. You cant do that. They are only for lovers. Child Safety will be all over you if you give kids Valentines!”

I typed into Google… “How do the British celebrate Valentine’s Day?”.

What came up first? Nudists can celebrate Valentine’s Day nude in pub

It didn’t take me too long to realize that a lack of definitive findings about what anyone in Britain really does on Valentine’s day seems to say that Brits celebrate it more quietly than America.

Well, unless you were alive sometime ago. According to this a website I found, in Great Britain on Valentine’s Day Eve, women used to pin four bay leaves to the corners of their pillow and eat eggs with salt replacing the removed yokes. They believed they would then dream of their future husbands.

Ok, that’s like, not what women do here anymore,  so where can I find out some more info?

So I decided to go right to the source: Mr. Chill, my English boyfriend. An interview:

Tell our readers a bit about you before we begin.

I am a Cumbrian in my late thirties, drive a Honda Civic and support Everton FC. I enjoy a fine single-malt whiskey on the night time.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

I do now having had my eyes widened and opened by an American lady who celebrates EVERYTHING! I think that Valentine’s day is something that Brits reluctantly do , something that HAS to be done as opposed to something that British men feel fantastic and wonderful about. In fact this is how Valentine’s day IS  in Britain, we just don’t do big heart-felt speeches like you Americans do. British people are so reserved and held back that it is an understated event. People keep most of what they feel hidden deep down and then let 10% go free for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day gifts sold online in the UK are HUGE.

Why?

Because British people feel strange going out and buying gifts– and if they are seen at Tesco’s it is embarrassing. You will see everyone looking left and right at the cards to see if anyone is looking at them. They want to get in and out FAST.

Does this mean my gift will be bought online?

That’s for me to know and you to wonder.

Anything else you want to tell people about Valentine’s Day in Britain?

That’s it. Oh and that everyone breathes a sigh of relief once the 15th arrives.

(So there you have it folks, words  straight from a British man– and of course, Happy Valentine’s Day!!)

"I hate eating turkey" says English boyfriend to American girlfriend on Thanksgiving

yahooavatar15Yawning, Stretching, and wishing the alarm wasn’t so early, 200,000 Americans will wake up in Britain today. (Gosh, can you believe there are so many of us here?)

Today, we will have one thing in common, because its Thanksgiving back home!

An interview:

“What is Thanksgiving again?” says Mr. Chill, my loved-up Northerner.

“Is it a festival of  Thanks or something? I remember seeing it in John Candy films. It sounds like a sneaky marketing opportunity. Am I going to be quoted on your blog about this?”

“Oh honey”, I say, “We’ve had this conversation last year– its where people celebrate what they are thankful for, remember?”

“Well, I hate eating turkey”, he says. “Its one of the ugliest creatures on the planet. Its so ugly it makes me sick to think of eating it. Its head is too small for its body and it has a bingo wing for a chin. If someone has said that all turkeys on this planet were going to be extinct, I wouldn’t be sad, I would even rather see rattlesnakes survive. Actually this is not a bad idea. Who were the pilgrims again? Is it a celebration about when they landed or something?”

So thus I start to explain why us Americans celebrate thanksgiving.

“When the pilgrims first landed upon our shores they encountered the first native people, who shared with them their harvest so … wait, look, here is a picture from google images!”

first-thanksgiving

“Hang on” he says, “What went wrong? I thought the pilgrims shot them all and became your gun-crazy Americans?”

“Never mind…”, I say, and give up trying to explain the logic of it.

This will be the first conversation of many that I will have trying to explain our Thanksgiving celebrations today.

No sex at this Bed and Breakfast, honey!

yahooavatar15

I once read a quote that said:

“Bed and Breakfasts are for people who want to pretend they have fun friends in cool places”

Oh the bed and breakfasts of Britain!

When I arrived on this little North Sea island I used to love going to a bed and breakfast. “Aren’t they quaint?” I would sigh with contentment. Oh, and the owners sooooooo friendly!! I would look forward to long weekends of bed and breakfast-wholesome goodness. I would chat, smile, get up early and act amused at the owner’s dog/collectible teapots/field of sheep.

Fast Forward 8 years on—-

Give me a cheap hotel chain any day!

What I have learned is that usually a stay in a Bed and Breakfast goes like this:

Upon arrival the old lady (always after several buzzer rings) manages to greet Mr. Chill and I and needs to know:

a) my entire life story from birth, “oh where is that accent from?” type hoopla

and b) “what are your plans for tomorrow?”What she really means is “what is your social class/are you going to rob me?” and “when are you leaving so I can get my tax-free cash?”

I walk to my room lugging all my crap up those old Victorian steps–usually a teenager’s room that has been converted since they have left.

I am usually apprehensive of what my room is going to look like… (should I have paid for the upgrade for the en-suite?) But no surprise —it usually it looks like all the fabrics that Laura Ashley sold circa 1980 have been shook up in a blender, and then vomited on the walls, carpets, duvet and lampshade. Oh and don’t forget the nasty tea kettle that was bought around the same time as the Laura Ashely fabrics.

We come in at night and we feel like naughty teenagers who have been out too late. After all, no one else’s lights are on. I always imagine the owners tut-tutting in their own Laura Ashley hell and and thinking “that couple, right party fools they are!”

Then, of course there is no sex on tap because its usually way to cold (gotta pinch those pennies says the old lady owner who refuses to heat the place properly) and again you feel like your parents are listening in. I try to make a cuppa but the never been descaled kettle is scary. Plus who likes UHT milk anyway?

Fast forward to breakfast. I feel guilty because I refused to have sex with Mr. Chill, and we’re even on holiday so double guilt!! Then I get annoyed because why did I choose to stay at a place to only get a full breakfast between 8 and 8:30? So we arrive at 8:29… not good. The other guests stare with their plates already cleaned.

The old Lady looks annoyed and says “tea or coffee?” with a sigh.

I can’t wait to get home already. Then at least I can have sex  with Mr. Chill and sleep in to my hearts content.