Trying to emigrate to the UK? Student visas might not be the answer any more…

» Student immigration levels unsustainable – BBC News

According to immigration minister, Damien Green, the current UK immigration system is ‘largely out of control’.

Translate: Getting in to the UK might be about to get harder. AGAIN.

The article focuses mostly on student visas and throws around some craaaaazy statistics.  For example:

  • In 2004, 21% of students were still in the UK 5 years on
  • In 2009, net migration increased by 33,000
  • In 2009 the number of student visas issued went up by 35%

Also interestingly – Sally Hunt (General secretary of the University and College Union) was quoted as saying,

“Damian Green is making his speech today after returning from a trip to India where he encouraged students to come to the UK.”

Looks like dandy D. Green is a little turned around :) .  I have my opinions about immigration just like the next Shamerican, but this blog isn’t about you guys having to put up with my policital ranting.

Nope, it’s about being an EXPAT, and this article makes my stomach a little quesy.  Why?  Because in 2004, I walked into the UK because of my student visa.  And in 2010 I’m still here…

I’m hitched with my tent pitched now, so I’m not worried about me getting the boot.  But my heart squeezes for anyone looking for their red-tape-loop-hole right now.  Googling ideas non stop and stressing about it every time it floats to the front of their mind.

I’ve been there… I’ve been RIGHT there.  Wondering how I was going to get in.  And once I was in, wondering how in the Bo-Jangles I was going to stay.

What do you lovely ladies think?  Is anyone out there filling out the student paperwork even as we speak?  And what I’m really interested in knowing is – How many of you got in to the UK on a student visa like I did?

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 :)

Letterman Style Top 10 Ways Attending US Immigration Interview Is Like Being On A Game Show

avt_kapyork_large114Hi Ladies – here is a list of things I learned with Mr. Charismatic at our immigration visa interview at the US Embassy in London on Monday.  Meant to be read by David Letterman for his next top 10 list.

1o. You have to arrive early to wait in line even though you have a ticket/invitation letter.

9. There is a warm-up guy to get the audience laughing and relaxed before the main event.  In my case the security guard made me declare my allegience to one of two state university rivals before he would let me go through security.

8. They tell you it is your turn by announcing your number via loudspeaker – after announcing thousands of others before you.  By this point you are so excited that you flail and whoop as if they have just told you to “COME ON DOWN!”

7. Your interviewer bears an uncanny resemblance to Ann Robinson from weakest link – in looks and personallity.  Charming.

6. When it is finally your turn you freeze with fear even though you know your expert topic so thoroughly.

5. Round 1 is the idiot’s round where they give you easy questions to make you really confident before they eliminate you with the first question in Round 2 and inform you that the Lifelines explained on your form (sush as Phone for Help) don’t actually exisit.

4. You start answering questions Jeopardy style: “Who is “Alien Nonimmigrant Resident Joint Sponsor Income Representative? Alex”

3. The suprise bonus round consists of the Super Secret Wheel of Visa decisions that the consular spins in her back office after hurling Ann Robinson inspired insults about your form filling out skills.

2. Losers get a special consolation prize of free tissues for the miserable coach ride home.

1. You finish your game with an inevitable round of “what would have happened if you had made different choices” ala Deal or No Deal.  Both painful and pointless but an absolute requirement after you get your decision.