Oh Bother

Because of a bureaucratic glitch, I’m going to have to leave the UK at the end of this month. One is required to have £800 in the bank at all times for the three months prior to making an application for a visa. That first month of working, when I was transitioning from “student” to “full-time worker, taxpayer, and general contributor to society”, I dipped slightly below that. I realised this three months ago (after if was already too late) and called the Home Office; they said the rule was absolute but, of course, someone sits down and reviews my specific situation (e.g. that I have a full-time permanent job and a regular income). However, I called the international student advisor at my school earlier this week to get the necessary documentation from him for my application—and he said not to even bother. Apparently the government is finding any excuse to deny visas (he just had 120 denied because there was a date presented incorrectly on the graduation letter from Strathclyde). He said that, a year ago, in my situation, they would not have even blinked. “Oh, this fellow already has a job…here is the visa”. Now they are absolutely hard-line, black and white.

We are looking into what my options are; my (terrifically supportive) company is keen on keeping me. The most sensible thing is going to be to end my contract here and send me to another one of the offices abroad (France seems the likely contender at the moment, we are checking on the procedure for a French visa [which, though the French have their own reputation for red tape, seems much more at ease than the British system. The Home Office has all these guidelines and forms regarding visas; the French Consulate General website basically says, “call us up for an appointment and we’ll talk about your needs”—perhaps with a glass of wine and some cheese]). The bizarre thing is that the government is shooting itself in the foot with stuff like this; my company is not going to hire someone else in my place, they will just send me to another country…and my tax and social revenue will go there with me. I want to be here! I have a good job, plus I do NGO work on the side and want to bring in folk from the organisations I work with do training and programs here. I’m not leaching off the government or just floundering about. Grrrrrr (to use an exact expression).

It’s a sudden upheaval; just as I am getting settled in, I must leave because of a relatively minor technicality. I will try to come back (as I have till next September to apply for a post-graduate study visa). However, once the visa I have expires (this month), I will have to apply from abroad; applicants from a third country must have £2800 in the bank at all times for the three months prior to application. So wherever I go, it will be for at least three months plus the processing time.

This is all a huge bother and I feel like I’m not dealing with people; just up before a big machine. It is an education though; as an American, it’s easy to fall into an slightly rosy understanding of what one’s rights are to travel and live abroad since my passport opens so many doors. However, my country is famous (now at least) for not reciprocating that openness (e.g. the citizens of many of the places I have been can not travel to the US as readily as I can to their countries). I understand the reasons for all these things on paper; but, when one is dealing with a system that defines people’s lives by an unwavering observation of a set of rules, it’s difficult to maintain an un-biased view.