A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the home office that my application for a permanent residence card – a now necessary pre-step to naturalisation, even for EU citizens – had been unsuccessful. My first reaction was actually a loud laugh at the absurdity of it all. Not only was this form unnecessary in the first place, because EU citizens already have the right of permanent residence, but the grounds on which the application had been rejected, especially after having lived and worked in the UK for more than 18 years, seemed utterly ridiculous.
Since Brexit, EU citizens have been complaining on and offline about the ‘abuse’ they are now suffering at the hands of the British government. It is not my intention to participate in this public display of self-pity and anxiety. In fact, I am rather appalled by it. While I don’t want to diminish the experience of individual discomfort, what EU citizens in the UK are experiencing is merely a soft taste of what other immigrants, especially if non-white/poor etc, have been facing over a much longer period. I am very aware that I was able to cynically laugh at this rejection letter because I know (or feel) I have the right to be in the UK – a ‘right’ that I gained essentially through exclusionary politics and dubious economic considerations.
Moreover, xenophobic immigration regulation is not a phenomenon that came out of nowhere and is limited to the UK – it just hasn’t happen to you yet. In a way, I am relieved that EU immigrants have finally been shaken out of their carefree state that has hindered us in taking initiative on immigration matters that concern ‘others’. Even if you think you have empathy with immigrants, have donated money/signed petitions, or have, like myself, experienced the deportation of friends and colleagues on mind-blowingly absurd evidence, it is a different matter to find yourself in a similar sort of situation, or at least the (real or imagined) prospect of it.
At present, there are a number of help pages that offer both practical advice and critique from a legal perspective such as this one. Universities, and other businesses, are have also become frustrated about the amount of visa and permanent residence rejections their staff are facing, and have started to assemble legal teams, to save costs and reputation. What I am hoping, however, is that the current responses will not just entail anxious searches for pricey legal assistance – basically, those amount to individualised band aid responses that still come out of a position of privilege and could even fuel the immigration industry, thus making things worse for others. What has been needed for a long time is co-organisation with other immigrants and UK citizens against UK (and hopefully not just UK – this is a wider pattern) immigration policies and other normalisations of (white) nationalism. (My white British housemate, coincidentally, has been threatened with redundancy after refusing to instill ‘British values’ – now apparently mandatory ‘to increase job prospects in the British economy’ – in his adult education centre oil painting classes.) Please post information on initiatives, events, commentaries etc in the comments section.
In the meantime, for fellow applicants who are seeking to apply for permanent residence/naturalisation, it may be important to know that much of the information the home office supplies you with in preparation of your application is simply false or misleading. Here are some examples:
- On the website it says that your documents will be returned within 10 days. This is not true. It will take at least 6-8 months. Even if you ask for your passport to be returned, this will take at least two more weeks. Get a second passport or ID card, if you can. Try not to send in your driving licence either if you need it in the next few months.
- You will not receive an acknowledgment of the receipt of your documents until about 2 months after you have submitted your application. The processing fee, however, will be immediately deducted upon the home office receiving your application. This is the only way you can tell that your documents are safe(ish).
- In the guidance notes and in the email you will receive from the home office, it will tell you that, if they require any further information for your application, they will contact you. They will not. Instead, they reject your application straight away, if even a tiny piece of evidence is missing, no matter how long you have been living in the UK.
- There will be many cases where you have the evidence, but you don’t want to supply it. This includes documents that are hard to get hold of or need to be translated against a hefty fee (hospital reports, evidence of comprehensive health insurance while studying). There are ways around it, especially if you have been in the UK for a long time, but these are also not clear. Seek legal advice at a free local service or through your employer. Don’t fuel the immigration industry with more money!
- The evidence you need to submit is very unclear. For instance, they did not accept my work contract, which clearly states how much I will earn over the next three years, as evidence that I was in work. Apparently, there is an undisclosed list of documents that the ones you have submitted are checked against. Not even lawyers can make sense of this, so some have started calling upon the government to at least make things clearer.
- You will be able to reapply. I didn’t have the time to figure out the appeal process (deadlines!), so this is what I will be doing at some point. Looking at the amount of work it takes you to fill in the form, but also the amount of work it takes the home office to process your form, this cannot be a money-making exercise (the fee is about £65). The process is more likely designed as a means of demoralisation. If you experience anxiety, speak to as many people as possible: friends, people at your local hangout (pub, café), your MP, pressure groups. This will help relieve pressure, make the issue more public, and hopefully lead to mobilisation. Of course, there is the danger that you also help spread anxiety, but not saying anything at all seems definitely worse. At the same time, please be sensitive to people who are in a less privileged position.
For reference, here is a partially anonymised scan of my rejection letter from the home office.
Please note that this blog post may be amended as more information comes in.