Forth bridges

Bridges! Those are good metaphors for getting citizenship, right? Right.

My plan, for a while now, has been to sort out my British citizenship as a Christmas present to myself this year. That’s a very shiny present, considering the cost. I would have loved to have done it earlier, so I could have cast a real vote in the Referendum, but Indefinite Leave to Remain put a hit on my bank account, and I’m still paying for Africa, so in the interest of financially sound decision making, citizenship had to maintain its later position on the List Of Things To Do Next.

This is important to do before heading off on any big adventure, for logistical reasons, and also because dammit, it’s been a long time coming and I want to make my home as official as it possibly can be. I am COMMITTED.

The logistics bit is mainly about time. When you apply for citizenship, you can only have been out of the country for a certain number of days in the year leading up to your application (and a larger number covering the 5 leading years). Any multi-month gallivanting I may want to do will probably scream past that number, so for me, it’s out of the question to take any such trip without a British passport firmly in hand.

I think it’s really weird, by the way, that I’m going to be the kind of person who has two passports in the very near future. It’s so fancy.

Getting that passport and the status that comes with it is about more than convenience though. For one thing, it allows me to vote. I vote in major US elections, but I’ve always done it by absentee ballot. And obviously I’ve never voted HERE. It’s kind of weird to make it to 30 without ever voting IN the country that claims you. So that’s pretty important to me. Citizenship also means I have the full rights of, well, a citizen, which means access to public funds should I ever need them and the full protection of the state in general. I’ll also be a citizen of the European Union, which means I can live and work anywhere in it. I don’t intend to move to the continent, but permission to do so is a nice thing to have in your arsenal.

Outside of all the practical stuff, it is actually important to me that I’m a citizen of my own home. I’ve been here 8 years now and I feel like I’ve proven my dedication to this place. I’ve lived in Edinburgh longer than any other place I’ve ever lived, and for all my post-college life. If I had to move back to the US, I’d be lost. It’s a different world. Not a bad one, but a little foreign to me in the bizarre way that only expats probably experience.

I’m also ready to be done with the visa process. I am WELL acquainted with the UKBA (now UK Visas and Immigration, actually). I’ve had many, many different visas. Some that don’t even exist anymore because of how often the rules change. I’ve done mountains of paperwork, spent tons of money, and had an awful lot of stress on my plate. And I’m just a white girl from America so it’s been relatively straightforward for me.

It’s easy for me to forget that most people don’t have to think about these things. When someone asks me how I got to stay or what one has to do to get a particular flavour of visa, I start reeling of info like it’s the most common of knowledge. Like my brain can’t compute that this is not just how everyone experiences the world. Lucky for them, it’s not. It does prove though, that you’ll pretty much do anything for something important to you. The visa stuff over the years has been a hassle, but I never once considered giving up on it, even in the most grim moments. (I even had a lawyer for the most recent round! A great one at that. Helping me learn that, no, you can’t ALWAYS do everything on your own, and you don’t have to. Experts exist for a reason.)

Anyway. Fighting for my place here has never been an option. And it’s not something I’d let go of easily.

My current visa is Indefinite Leave to Remain (One Visa To Rule Them All), so I don’t really need to get another one. I could stay on it forever. But I’m not interested in that kind of limbo. I’ve taken my Life in the UK test, I’ve poured a significant chunk of money into the system, and I’m ready to make it official. All that’s left is one more form, a few character references, some new (bad) passport photos, and about £1000. (And let’s be honest, probably a fairly significant waiting period. My ILR took 3 months.)

Once I’ve got it, I’ll do a bit of searching through my records and try to figure out exactly how much money I’ve spent on the process in the past decade. Facts and figures! I’ve not kept track so it’ll be an enlightening exercise. But whatever the number is, I will feel it was worth it.