It’s been an eventful few days. I am happy to say that on Thursday my ILR (permanent residence) visa was printed and placed in my passport. As of Saturday my previous (5-year work permit) visa expired. Sunday marked the 5 year anniversary of my arrival in the UK. And Monday (yesterday) was the day on which I was reunited with my passport containing the new visa and the stress of it all finally lifted.
In retrospect, and one can always be more calm in hindsight, I really got my undies in a bundle over something that was unlikely to be as problematic as I was imagining. I can be a tad dramatic, and somehow I had convinced myself that this was going to be a big fight. People kept telling me things like “even in the worst case scenario you’re likely to be fine” and I focussed on said worst case scenario (having the original application rejected and having to appeal) instead of concentrating on getting the paperwork right the first time. I hired a specialist, in the end, and I calculate now that this process has cost me about £2500, including the fee to get my US passport renewed in expedited fashion back in June (something I should have dealt with months earlier), the costs associated with taking the Life in the UK test, the expedited visa service fee from the UKBA (so as not to have to wait weeks to months to find out the result) and the specialist who prepared all the paperwork and provided me all the information and assistance and frankly hand-holding that I needed to make it through the entire process. And the money, at the moment, does not bother me at all as the relief I felt yesterday afternoon, as I danced up and down the corridors of my office showing my visa to anyone who happened to be around, was worth every penny/pound/whatever.
I kept saying yesterday that I was the happiest girl in all of England. I’m sure it was true. I’m still pretty darned happy today. Celebrations continue tomorrow when I have dinner with another American who recently got her similar visa, although through marriage rather than through employment. I used her books to pass the Life in the UK test and am passing them on to another friend who is getting ready to gear up for her own process.
The fact that my imagination got the better of me becomes apparent when you, gentle readers, hear that at one point in late August/early September, when I was in the US on my annual beach trip experiencing earthquakes and hurricanes, I was threatening to fly back to the UK, to quit my job and pack up my belongings and move in with my sister in Baltimore while looking for a job in the US. Anyone who has had to go through a visa process in which their life as they know it depends on the thing will understand this seemingly irrational train of thoughts. Earlier in the year I had in fact applied for a bunch of jobs back in the US, some far inferior to the one I have here in England, in the hopes that I could escape from Europe before I had to deal with this. None of this is rational. I have discovered over the years that I quite love my job and my life in England EXCEPT when I am actually back in the US, and somehow the prospect of having to deal with the visa just amplified my temporary irrationality. I have, as it happens, the sort of job that many of my colleagues would probably kill for, and as of January it’s permanent. So I needed the visa, and now I have it, and I have an amazing job for life and the ability to stay in this country and work at it and all is good. But clearly you can see from the details I am now revealing that it was a near thing for a while. My good, scientific, common-sense attitude towards life completely deserted me in the last six months whilst this visa thing was hanging over my head.
So now I sit on my couch in England with a new lease on life, a really busy time at work expected for several weeks, and my entire autumn ahead of me with very few plans. I had turned down all travel opportunities for this fall on the grounds that I would not know when I would be free to travel, so now I feel like I should jaunt off to the Continent just because I can. Totally sensible for someone who just spent nearly three months’ rent on a visa, I know. In the end, this entire process was far scarier in my head than it was in real life, and for that I am eternally grateful. England, you are winning me over.