Recently I went to a workshop on the status of EU nationals in the UK organised by my university. As many small and large employers, universities are concerned for the status of a sizeable portion of their employees and are trying to help. Given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its impact of UK-based EU nationals, the general advice is to get some kind of legal certification of residence as soon as possible. The workshop I went for was about naturalisation. I have applied for Permanent Residence (PR) a few months ago and am waiting to hear back from the Home Office. I leave for another time the discussion of how it feels to sit and wait for someone to go through a very detailed record of your life. Finding out a bit more about how to apply for British citizenship seemed the right thing to do, so I booked a place for the afternoon session. The morning was about PR. I avoided it because I didn’t want my anxiety level to raise further in case I was to find out I had committed a vital mistake in my PR application. The afternoon session had a more pro-active feel to it. It started and it soon became clear that the lawyer leading the session was not a great supporter of us applying for naturalisation. He repeatedly said that, despite all the uncertainty surrounding the negotiation process, applying for PR for EU nationals was likely to be enough. How could he be so certain? I asked myself. At the core of his argument there was the assumption that PR will be automatically converted into Indefinite Leave to Remain, which to him meant that we could happily live in Britain ever after as normal immigrants. Wasn’t he right?
There are a number of things I disliked in that line of thought, but three in particular. First, had he not read the news in the last few months? Had he not noticed that the meaning of ‘Indefinite’ in British migration law is getting more and more finite? Here one from today: A woman who has been married to a British man for 27 years is being held in a Scottish detention centre prior to deportation. There is nothing normal – and we should really make everything we can not to normalise this state of affairs – in a wife and grandmother being separated by her British family because she went back to her country to look after an elderly parent. Why didn’t she look after them here? I can hear someone saying. Well, there may be many reasons why an old and ill person may not want to travel thousand kilometers, but even if this was the case, the Home Office would have never allowed it.
Second, hello! we are both EU citizens, this is why I came hear and didn’t go to the US or Canada. The lawyer seemed to totally miss the point that for someone abruptly deprived of their EU citizenship and the right to live and work in the UK on equal footing with their fellow EU citizens with a British passport, there is nothing normal in having to share with the Home Office bank statements, utilities bills, letters proving we are good people, the list of countries we have visited years and years back, and beg a faceless bureaucrat to accept us.
Three, following from the above, did he realise how it feels to live in a country for many years under the impression of being equal to your British friends, wife, in-laws, etc and suddenly realise that you are not? You didn’t have a say in one of the most important decisions concerning your life. It was for others to decide if you could remain or leave, like a parcel.
So, if the faceless bureaucrat approves my PR (hopefully he/she doesn’t read this blog), I will definitely apply for naturalisation and beg once again for another bureaucrat to find me of good character and knowledgeable enough about life in the UK. You can be sure that, as a good citizen, I won’t miss to vote to any elections and probably guess who I will never vote for ever after.