Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Securing permanent residency

WP_20150114_002 (732x1300)Beyond the Netherlands, I work in the UK under a Tier 1 work/residence permit, obtained in January 2010 when I decided to adopt a ‘2-foot’ solution to running two businesses in two countries.   While the attempt to bridge two lives was insane, since corrected, the permit gave me some practical flexibility over the Dutch Verblijfstitel.  It can convert to Indefinite Leave to Remain, or to a full UK passport (the Dutch don’t permit loyalty to more than one country).

The difficulty began a couple of years ago.  The new Conservative government pledged to make immigration harder to obtain, but cutting net inward migration fell onto the backs of non-EU citizens.  In my year, for example, the British granted less than 500 Tier 1 permits to Americans.

In 2012, when I went for renewal of my 3-year permit, I was warned that only one more extension could be granted.  This time around that option (and the Tier 1 permit altogether) was gone.

It was convert-it-or-leave time.

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I began to lay track over the summer, matching payslips to bank transfers, saving original bank statements, and passing my Life in the UK test.  Last week, I made an emergency run to the Netherlands to secure the last few stamped documents: the Accountant's Letter arrived on Monday afternoon.

Today was the day.

I had a several-inch stack of original documents showing that I met the points-based criteria necessary to stay in the UK forever.

Or, failing, to be literally escorted out of the country, forever.

WP_20150114_010 (1300x704)It didn’t start out well: I had trouble finding Lunar House in Croyden where the Home Office maintains the Visa Services.  The security folks turned me around and out of the building twice, asking that I wait outside in low-single-digit cold until my entry time arrived.  I passed the shivering time posting pictures on Instagram.

WP_20150114_006 (1300x732)My escort met me at 11, and we were off into the process.  Security, wait, Registration, wait, Biometrics, wait.  My fingers don’t quite uncurl over the scanner glass.

Better than Jury Duty ambience, the waiting room has improved substantially over the bus-station chic of two years ago.  A snack bar and tables have been installed and the rows of chairs upgraded.  ‘still no WiFi, but they are more lenient about phones.  Monitors glowed along every wall to indicate progress through the system: I could follow my packet 174 from Verification through Awaiting Consideration to Under Consideration as the hours passed. 

I’d brought work but was too nervous to complete it, opting for a sipped milky tea and nibbled chicken sandwich.

WP_20150114_009 (1300x687)My numbers flashed up, report to Counter 42.  Questions: never a good thing.  But the clerk only needed to know what original documents I wanted back, and which they could keep.  We sorted the pile across the counters.  More waiting

Finally my indicator moved to Collect Documents and my escort came back to congratulate me.   I really didn’t accept it, though, until the confirming letter from the Home Office was in my hand.

WP_20150114_014 (1300x732)But I’m there: Officially British.  The status converts to a full Dual Passport next year, and I never, ever, have to go through the process again. 

The passport gives me the right to live anywhere in Europe, subject to Britain staying in the EU.

It gives me the right to keep working on my business.

It gives me a path forward.

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