Praise Jesus! The miracle has happened, the unbelievable has become a reality: the long-awaited second coming of the passport has occurred! After seven (7) months in immigration limbo, I am an official, unrestricted resident of the United Kingdom—I am free!
And the first thing I intend to do with my new UK residency is get the hell out of this country. So on Monday morning, Jeremy and I are taking the Eurostar to Paris, where I will have five days of international fun. This isn’t a spontaneous romantic getaway; Jeremy is speaking at the XTech conference in Paris, and this trip has been planned for months. But the closer the departure date came, the less likely it seemed that my passport would be back in time for me to go. By the start of this week, I had written the trip off entirely because I figured it would take a miracle for the thing to show up by that point. And then on Wednesday morning the doorbell rang, and there was the postman with a special delivery envelope for me…
Now that it’s all over and done with, relief has largely superseded all the anger and frustration I felt—but let me tell you, I felt a lot of anger and frustration over the past few weeks in particular. I’m a control freak under the best of circumstances, and being completely at the mercy of a faceless government institution made me feel a bitter helplessness worthy of Kafka.
When you apply for permanent residence like I did, you send your passport and lots of “supporting evidence” (bank statements, tax returns) to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office. They send you a letter of confirmation once they’ve received it—and then you wait. And wait. And wait. You can’t go to the processing office itself. You can’t call up and ask them about the progress of your application because they won’t tell you. You can’t get your passport back unless 1) it’s a medical emergency or 2) you want to withdraw your application. They won’t even tell you roughly how long it will take to process, though the initial confirmation letter they send says they “aim” to have applications processed within six months.
The most detailed information you can get is from a little table on the Home Office website showing the submission month of the applications they’re currently processing. When I submitted my application in October, they were working on applications submitted in August. I thought, “Okay, they’re two months behind, but that means I should have my passport by December.” Well…no. They were still working on those August applications at the start of December (hence the whole not going to Ireland for Christmas thing).
It took all of my willpower not to compulsively check that little table every day. It was bad enough checking it every few weeks and seeing no change whatsoever. When it finally did tick over to October, I was initially overjoyed. Of course, then the real frustration began, because every day I thought, “This could be the day!”…but it never was the day.
And it’s kind of funny that the passport should show up this week, because by the start of this week, I had almost reached the breaking point. On Tuesday, I was a hair’s breadth away from calling up the Home Office (despite their admonition not to) and just crying or begging or shouting or something, because I mean, how is it acceptable to leave someone sitting in a foreign country with no passport, no realistic means of travel, and no information whatsoever—for seven months? It’s outrageous, particularly as this was no complicated immigration case. It was very straightforward: I’m married to a European citizen, we’ve both lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for six years and have full documentation to prove it, and I wanted a permanent residence card so I didn’t have to keep reapplying for this or that visa every few years just to stay in the country. How long can it realistically take to process an application like that? Surely not over half a year.
Maybe they don’t have enough people working at the beleaguered Home Office, or maybe they need to introduce a system for vetting applications as they come in and dealing with the easy ones promptly, or maybe they figure if you’re applying for permanent residence you won’t mind being stuck in the country for as long as it takes them to sort out your application. Whatever the case, I hope they sort themselves out soon for the sake of other people in my position. It’s horrible to be in complete limbo like that for so long for no apparent reason.
So, thank you, Home Office, for letting me stay in your country. But you didn’t make it easy.
P.S. After writing this, I looked over some old WordRidden entries and came across this post written in 2000 (ignore the date on the post itself: a database migration in 2002 caused all entries posted before then to be dated 2002). It was the post I wrote the day I found out I had gotten my entry visa to move to the UK in the first place. I find it quite funny that I reached a breaking point back then as well: the day I finally gave in and called the consulate was the day my visa had been sent out. I’m very glad I didn’t wind up calling the Home Office this Tuesday—I would have felt a right fool getting all hysterical on the phone only to be told, “We sent your passport out this morning…”