Alright, if you’ve been following along with my story, you’ll know I was attempting to transition to a full work visa after my youth visa ends, in order to stay in the UK.
When it fell through, and I announced I wouldn’t be staying, I wasn’t intending on commenting any further. The process is incredibly complicated, immigration is an emotional issue that everyone has opinions on, and frankly, my devastation and stress was (is) hard to deal with.
But it turns out it’s not something I can be quiet about. Because of my situation I do pay very close attention to articles about immigration, and I obsess over other people’s stories as if they were a TV show, laid out for my consumption. So I’ve seen and learnt just how unfair the whole situation can be. For people who’ve never tried to live anywhere else (or for people with EU passports who haven’t really had to think about it), I want you to know that immigration is dehumanising. You’re reduced to a number, and you’re expected to prove your worth over and over. It’s easy to see immigration as a political issue (which it is, fine), but then forget that we’re talking about real people. When you talk about immigrant quotas and about people not being welcome here, and people “stealing your jobs and using your healthcare”, these are still real people. Sure, you’re struggling. So are they. Why is it a “them or me” mentality?
The Issue is Bigger Than Me
Right now, I personally know of at least four people in my wider social and blogging circles who are currently facing homelessness and countrylessness (I made that word up) because of visa issues. If not that, then facing having their family split up, and being separated from their partners. Some of them have children, one has a baby under a year old.
Believe me when I say, I got off easy. I’m childless, and my boyfriend is the same nationality as me. Worst case scenario, we end up back in Australia; a wealthy country that has good healthcare, is free from civil war and has an endless supply of Vitamin D. We aren’t facing being separated from each other. We aren’t facing returning to a country we haven’t been to since we fled war. We aren’t facing racial or religious persecution because of who we are and where we come from.
And please don’t think the blame here lies solely on the shoulders of the UK. Australia (and Ireland, and the US, let me go on!) has a hell of a lot to answer for as well.
For my boyfriend and I to stay here, if we could afford to fight it, if we had the energy to fight it, if we had to because the alternative was too horrible not to, we would be forking out a minimum £2000 ($AU3500) every 2-3 years EACH on top of taxes, not including lawyer fees. Meanwhile, the Home Office will also be charging fees to my employer for the privilege of keeping me. And we could be in limbo, separated, unable to work, and haemorrhaging money for months in between waiting for an answer. And we could be declined at any time.
Over the last 3 months, every month, the UK Home Office has reached their cap for Tier 2 visas (the visa I was trying to move to), and thousands of people are stuck. Stuck here, without a right to work, or stuck in their home countries, separated from their loved ones, still paying rent and with no end in sight for when they may get to return. These are people you do need (nurses, teachers, doctors) and people you don’t need (me) but none of them are worth more than others or you. All of them have job offers for this country, and employers who are willing to pay what it takes to bring them over, because they need workers. And yet? We’re stuck.
Every year, the fee for this visa (and all of them) increases. Every year, the fee immigrants have to pay for the NHS increases – even though we’re still paying contributions out of our pay every month, just like you.
That’s why I can’t appeal. We don’t see it as viable, likely or worth it anymore. There’s no point. There’s no money. There’s no time.
Comedian, writer and Aussie in London Brydie Lee-Kennedy has one of my most favourite, evergreen, and relatable tweets, summing up her battle to stay in this country, despite being married to a Brit. Read the entire thread if you haven’t had enough of the ranting, or you haven’t got the picture yet.
“Carry Yourself With The Confidence Of The Home Office Who Keep Putting Up Visa Fees Despite The Country Getting Demonstrably Worse” – Brydie Lee-Kennedy
Like me, Brydie acknowledges that she’s coming from a place of privilege. And it’s still this hard.
The Wider Issue of Immigration
What has bothered me the most since finding out about my visa is the casual racism both me and my boyfriend have witnessed as a result. It’s not aimed at us, but it has to do with us, and it has to do with immigration. And for some reason (hint: the reason is racism), even though we’re technically immigrants, these people think it’s OK to say this shit in front of us – especially now that they think we have a gripe with immigration.
“If your name was Abdul and you were from Syria, you’d be able to stay. Ridiculous.”
“I voted for Brexit because Germany is trying to finish what they started in the War, just with the EU as support.”
“It’s ridiculous that you speak English and are contributing to our economy but you have to leave. Meanwhile all these other people get to stay.”
“When you think about it though, all the drunks on the street are Polish – and yet they’re still here, causing trouble!”
Legit and real comments we’ve received since January and even earlier. It’s disgusting. It’s like they don’t even care that they’re being racist, and prejudicial against immigrants. If we weren’t white / native English speakers, they wouldn’t be saying that shit in front of us, because they know it’s racist. Of course they do.
One For All But Not For You Unless You Tell Me Why
You see, we’re seen as “acceptable” immigrants. We’re white, we’re educated and we have “good jobs” – as if our level of employment has anything to do with our worth. This country needs Doctors, but they also need Farmhands and Bar Staff. Simple as that. I recently read an article about the idea that immigrants have to be “worth” something, as if human life isn’t worth enough as it is. There’s this idea that unless an immigrant is exceptional they don’t deserve to seek to settle outside of their country. They don’t deserve to try and make a better life for themselves, the life they want. They brought this on themselves for daring to fall in love outside of their nationality, their race, their creed. We should all just go back to where we came from unless we can demonstrate to you exactly how our presence is going to benefit you.
Skills shortages in this country are growing, and even the unskilled jobs can’t be filled. Your food is rotting in the fields, and this country is fast becoming an island unto itself.