Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm finally legal

I'm finally legal here. My passport came back on Friday with my Permanent Residence visa in it. To clarify, I've always been legal since I've been here, but it was a convoluted way of doing things. I will try to explain.

I came here originally under 'Rights of Access to a Child'. Pretty self-explanatory. Except the UK (and probably most countries) don't really have a category for this. It happens, but they don't know how to slot it into the visa system, and it doesn't have it's own category. So if falls under a tourist visa. Which is also different, because Americans don't need tourist visits to come to the U.K., and are only good for six months.

So, naturally, mine was for a year. Yeah, it's confusing. Try getting the paperwork done. But, even though it was a temporary tourist visa, it did allow me to work, get National Health, and generally be allowed to stay for a year. Pretty much everything except being eligible for 'Public Funds. You know, job benefits, housing benefits, welfare. All that stuff that I've never taken from any country I've ever lived in.

I don't know if that's for a trial period to make sure I really want to stay, or just because they don't know how to slot it. But that's how they do things. At 11 months in, I then had to apply for a new visit for permanent residency. That's basically a Green Card for those who aren't familiar with this, even though I don't really have a card. The fact that it cost £850 probably has something to do with having to apply for a new one.

It's a simple form, there really isn't much too, and it's pretty much a gimme. Send it in, wait a couple of months, and they send back the passport with the visa. I, however, always tend to over think things, and screwed up. I called the Home Office (Immigration) to ask them about the application, and see if there was anything I needed to do. I figured they are the experts, and could tell me what I needed to do to ensure it was done properly. So I did it exactly as I was told to by the experts.

The main thing that came from the conversation was that I needed to do a cover letter. And in that cover letter, I was told to add a sentence that stated after issuance of the visa, I would then be eligible for public funds. He told me that since my original visa said differently, I needed to add that in so that I would be eligible for all of that, if needed. So I wrote the cover letter and added that in. Also, during the hour-long conversation, he never mentioned that I needed to take an English literacy test. I figured since I am a native English speaker it wasn't needed. Yeah.

I sent the application in mid-May, and at the end of August, got a package back from immigration, and thought it would be the visa. It was my passport, but instead of a visa, it was a letter denying my visa and telling me I had to leave the country in 30 days, unless I appealed it. Needless to say, it wasn't the best day of my life. I wasn't a happy camper.

Someone sitting in a office somewhere, who processed the application, decided he didn't think I should get to stay. He stated the fact that I hadn't taken the literacy test as a reason that I shouldn't stay. But the kicker was, he stated the reason he declined the visa was because I declared that I was only there to live off of the government and use public funds. Granted, there is a big problem with benefit thieves in the country, but this one blew my mind.

He said the sentence I used in the cover letter (which I had been told to put in specifically by someone in immigration) was proof that I was only there to get benefits. He then, later in the letter, stated that since I had been perfectly happy to fly over every 3 months to visit Neeve, that I could continue to do the same after leaving the country. That was one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever encountered in my life, but he had the power, so it was all above board. In other words, I was screwed.

Of course, I could appeal it. Unfortunately, I was lost on all this and feeling like there was no hope, and wasn't sure how to go about it. Fortunately, good friend of the blog Neil had a friend who works for immigration. Neal called him and asked him for advice, which was to get with an agency that specifically handles immigration appeals. For £1000, of course. But Neal got me the number, and I called up and made an appointment.

Neal drove me up to London (Hounslow actually) for the appointment, where I sat around for hours, paid them a bunch of money, and handed them a packet of paperwork about six inches thick. They started the appeals process and told me they would get everything done, and not to worry about it. Which I most definitely was doing. They set me up another appointment for mid-September to come back to review the packet and sign it. As luck would have it, that was the same day my father flew into country, so I only had to make one trip.

The paperwork was done, and sent off to the appeals court for a date. It was scheduled for the beginning of October originally, so I made all the arrangements for it. It was in Newport, Wales, for some reason. So that was a train trip and a hotel up there to get this taken care of. I decided it was too expensive to stay in a hotel, and I didn't really have the money for it. Instead, I was going to take the early train up, get it done, and get home the same day.

Luck was with me for a change, as the day before, after I should have been on the train, I got a call telling me the court hearing had been postponed until the end of the month. Nice of them to be so prompt with the decision. At least I didn't waste a train ticket. At the end of the month, I did the same thing, and decided to go up early instead of staying overnight. To be honest, if I had stayed in a hotel, I would have spent the night drinking in the nearest pub, so it was probably a good decision.

When I got up to the court the day of the hearing and meet my lawyer, I realized the appeals service thought it was an easy case and they weren't too worried about it. Because they gave me the youngest, most-inexperienced, incompetent lawyer they had, and she did her best to lose the case. The judge basically had to lead her through and prompt her on what to say and what not to say. The immigration lawyer, to give him credit, was embarrassed by the entire thing.

He couldn't say anything for the record, because of the transcript, but let the judge and me both know that the immigration service thought the original denial was wrong and there was no basis to it. I had since taken the literacy test, and that wasn't an issue, so it was only the statement about public funds that was in question. Since (he told me later, off the record) that shouldn't have been a factor regardless, the immigration service wasn't going to fight the appeal. So the decision was in my favor. Hooray, me!!!!

By law, however the ruling goes, the other party has a right to appeal the decisions within 5 days. After 5 days, they had not done so, and sent me a letter saying I would receive a letter telling me where to send my passport for the issuance of the visa. Two months later, I still hadn't received the letter. So I called the appeals service to ask what the problem was. They informed that my appeal was finished, I was no longer a client, and if I wanted them to do anything, I would have to pay another £1000. After a brief conversation with me, they changed their mind and called the immigration service.

I then received a letter telling me to send off my passport, and that I would have it back within 10 days. Nope, didn't happen. So I called the appeals service again, had the same conversations with them, and was finally informed that I would have my visa within 10 days. The 10th day would have been last Friday. Amazingly, my passport and visa arrived. I am now legal. I am an immigrant.

By the way, one of the reasons my application was originally denied was due to the fact that I hadn't taken the literacy test to prove that I can speak, read, and write English to an acceptable level. At the court hearing for the appeal, I was offered an interpreter in case I couldn't speak English at an adequate level.

Yeah, I wanted to be a smart ass. I was just too worried about the outcome to do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good evening

Awesome post, just want to say thanks for the share