It feels as if nothing is “normal” in the world today, and that includes the process for my latest visa. Yes, my new work visa is a very COVID visa, indeed! But, much like my hope for COVID’s outcome, my visa outcome ended on a positive note with the potential for more positive things to follow.
The entire process was impacted by COVID19 in some way. Well, I say the entire process, but I’m not completely sure if the job offer bit was related to the global pandemic or not*. But everything to follow certainly was. And that meant different processes and longer wait times. Although being in isolation in the countryside meant that I had the time!
When I began my new job, my then-current visa was still valid and allowed me to take up the new job. At the same time, both the university’s Human Resources department and the Home Office were triaging visa applications and other processes as they figured out how to manage things with most people working from home.
Because I still had a valid visa, the HR department put me on the back burner for visa paperwork on their end (fair enough). That meant that instead of making my application straight away, I didn’t apply until 11 May 2020.
On making the application I would have also booked an appointment to have my biometrics taken, after which I would have expected my visa a couple of weeks. However, as part of the initial COVID19 lockdowns, no appointments were being offered. Instead, I received an email about a week later letting me know that things were moving slowly and that they would be in touch… eventually. And then, in early June, I was asked to email through a couple of documents (passport, degree certificate, and the like). Then I waited again.
Note: By this time, my other visa had expired but as I had an active application in progress, I was covered by the rules and allowances of the expired visa (until the new visa was approved or declined).
A month after that (3 July) I received another email from the Home Office letting me know that they were changing the processes for applications in response to COVID19. This would include reusing biometrics from previous applications for new applicants that met certain criteria. The email noted that I met those criteria, but that they were still working out exactly how things would work.
So, more waiting was required. (By this time, my old visa had been expired for one month.)
On 1 August 2020, I received yet another email from the Home Office. This time it was telling me that they had developed an app to manage the new biometrics process for people (like me) who wouldn’t need to go in person for an appointment. That email basically said: “We’re working on it, and you are on the list of people to use the service. We will send you another email sometime later in the month.”
And by 25 August, they finally sent the information for downloading and using the app. I then went through the process the following morning and waited for a confirmation email of some sort telling me that I had completed that step. But that email never came.
However, about three weeks later I received an email letting me know that my application was successful and that my new visa (biometrics card) would be sent to me shortly. The following day, I received another email letting me know the visa was on the way, providing me with a tracking number. I was also informed that I would have to show my photo ID to the delivery person to take possession of the card.
In the end, in a very COVID kind of way, the card (in an envelope) was simply shoved through my letterbox without so much as a knock on the door.
But, ultimately, I have my new visa now and that is what’s important! It took about 4.5 months from the date of my application, but I didn’t have to leave my cottage even once to get it all taken care of. And as it is valid until early 2022, I am quite hopeful that I will be able to travel home (and maybe other places in the world) and return to the UK with my visa in hand.
And that brings me back to my hopes for positive things as we move forward post-COVID (whenever that may be): We have proven that technology can be used to manage “Big Important Things” that used to be done in person. And I hope that entities such as the Home Office use these tools in a post-COVID world. Whilst there are some real issues to tackle about digital access and digital literacy (see some of my professional work on the topic here) technology use can also make “The World” more accessible to people who can’t easily travel for meetings and appointments – especially when those meetings or appointments are in locations that require a large time or monetary commitment. But I digress…
So, there you have it. Yet another story of yet another visa over the course of 19 years (my first visa was for my year of study abroad that started in September 2001). Here’s hoping that it’s not too much longer before I have dual citizenship and I don’t have to worry about visas any longer!!
* I interviewed for the post in February and was told that I was unsuccessful the following week. But two weeks later, on the day I was heading home to start my COVID isolation, I received a phone call explaining that they wanted to offer me the job after all. I don’t know what happened to make them change their mind, but I was more than happy to be the second choice if it meant a job in such a turbulent time!