Well, it has finally happened. I have finally applied for settled status in the UK. And let me just say, it’s not been without a glitch or two (or twenty) along the way! This should have happened quite some time ago, but for a long list of reasons including politics [redacted rant about specific political party], it’s only happened now. But it has happened. Finally.
I have gone down the “long residence” route, which is a visa path for people who’ve lived here continuously for 10 years. Whilst it is possible that I could have made this application in 2021, the vagueness of the Home Office guidelines concerned me so I opted to wait. That was because I already had a work visa, so I knew I was free to remain until I could move beyond the government’s ambiguity*.
I want to tell you that it was a simple, stress-free process. However, as I can never have a smooth visa journey, there was stress with this one, too. (Of course!)
A few weeks before reaching the non-ambiguous 10-year mark, I began filling out my online application. It was relatively simple, all things considered, but it did require a detailed account of all the time I’ve spent outside of the UK in the last decade. Thankfully, I maintain my files nicely and it was just a matter of transcribing dates and destinations. Although I nearly forgot to include my most recent holiday to the homeland, which was a silly oversight on my part!
My initial plan was to apply on 14 November, one day after my definite 10-year mark. Of course, since I booked my Life in the UK test later than I should have, I had to delay one more day to the 15th. But then I delayed a couple more days to give myself time to reflect and review, in part because it was also a very busy week at work, and I needed to focus.
Ultimately, I sat down 4 days into my eligibility period to do my final review, pay, and submit. Only the “super premium service” wasn’t available, and I needed that so that I would have my new visa in days rather than months. (Because you can’t leave the country whilst the visa is being processed and I didn’t want to be “stuck” in the UK if something happened and I needed to get to America.)
That meant sending an email to an immigration contact I have and conducting a panicked search online. Because surely, this must be a mistake… right?
My Google search suggested that there are only a few premium slots available each day and the immigration consultant I know confirmed that – and that they were released at midnight. And so, I stayed up until midnight to start clicking refresh, which I began doing around 11.40 on Friday evening (17 November). I also made sure that I had all my payment details ready to go so that I could move quickly if I got a slot.
I refreshed the moment the clock ticked to midnight and – lo and behold! – the premium service option was there. So, I clicked the button as fast as I could and proceeded to the payment screen.
Phew, it’s all smooth sailing from here, right?
Wrong. That wasn’t the end of the bumpy road. No, that’s not how visa journeys work in my world.
After applying for my visa, I made an appointment for my biometrics. The appointment was set for 4 days later, giving me just enough time to panic but not so much time to make me crazy.
My appointment was at 8 am the day before Thanksgiving. I arrived with plenty of time to spare and all my required documentation. Everything seemed to go smoothly, although I did question the person taking my documents because whilst he scanned every single page of my current passport, he wasn’t interested in my most recent expired passport. Even when I pointed out that the entry stamps and visas in that passport were part of my suite of immigration details that were being used for my visa.
However, I was assured that this wasn’t necessary because the Home Office would already have that information. Therefore, there was no need to scan it in. And despite my querying this another time, I was told it would be fine.
So, I said thank you and made my way to work for the day with the happy knowledge that I should have my ILR by the following day.
Only later that day, after I left the office, I got an email saying they would be unable to process my application by the next day as they did not have evidence of a full 10 years in the UK. It went on to request that I email a full scan of the passport that I was told didn’t need to be scanned at my appointment – and that they would try to have a decision on my visa by 22 December, a full month away. (Which would mean no travelling home for Christmas.)
The moment I got home, I got started on scanning my most recent expired passport and emailed it, along with a bulleted list of which page to find which “key” visas and entry stamps. Only on sending the email to the address they gave me, I got an automatic reply saying that the mailbox was no longer in use and not being checked (of course!). The email went on to say that my message was to be forwarded to the “new” email address, which they supplied me.
But just to be sure, I also re-sent my message to that same email address. (I’ve had too much visa drama – belts and braces were required.)
When I woke up the following morning (Thanksgiving), I tried my best to prepare my emotions for what might be a stressful and anxiety-filled day (or days, or weeks, or more). I began to make mental plans for how I would spend the Christmas holidays if I couldn’t travel home – but I also refused to entertain thoughts about a visa refusal for more than a moment or two at a time.
But then, at 11:09 in the morning, the email came in. The message was written in large, bold text:
Your application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK has been successful.
The message continued with details about when I could expect my biometric residency permit and details about what my new status allows me to do. (Basically, I can live in the UK indefinitely. Yay!)
My day went from low-key stress, with a touch of hopefulness, to full-on joy. I really couldn’t stop myself from smiling for quite some time.
The next (minor) worry was the time it might take for my biometric card to arrive. I need that to travel, and it can take 7-10 days for delivery. But I also know that things go wrong – a lot – when I am counting on them to work out. (See above… and/or past posts about visa drama.)
However, I received a notification the day after my approval that the card had been dispatched. Even better, it was due to arrive the following day (yesterday). And it did! It arrived by priority post on Saturday 25 November.
Now that I have my Indefinite Leave to Remain visa in my possession, I can start making my plans to travel home for Christmas and New Year.
Despite the little bumps in the road, this has been my most straightforward visa application – and the fastest journey of all. (If you don’t count the years I had to put in to get to the application stage.)
I can start thinking about the next and last hurdle now: Citizenship! I will be eligible for that in 12 months and have already started planning my application. Yes, it’s more money. But it’s the last time I’ll have to pay the money and I want to do it as soon as possible so that it doesn’t cost even more money – and so that the current, hostile government doesn’t move the goalpost… again!
I am hopeful that this newfound residency security will help to alleviate some of the uncertainties I sometimes feel about where “home” is. However, I fear that I will question home for years to come – especially if I remain a solo human.
But now that I have the security of settlement, I can start to work towards creating security in other aspects of life. If all goes to plan (although in my experience, it rarely does!) I will be in full-on Big Changes mode early in 2024. So, watch this space to see what I do next…
And, as always, thank you for all your support in this chaotic journey through life after death.
* The ambiguity was around how the government would count active visas. Whilst there is legal safety if one visa expires whilst another visa is in process, I didn’t want to risk the “No Man’s Land” not counting. And so, I waited.