Congratulations are in order: Diary on an EU citizen in the UK (21)

Not sure how I feel about it. Ten days ago I came back home earlier from work to find a registered mail envelope waiting for me. 78 days had passed since my application for permanent residence and here they are my papers and an answer from the Home Office. I’ve been granted permanent residence. I even managed to get the Home Office to backdate a bit my status. For the Home Office I have been a permanent resident since 2013. According to my biography I became one in 2006. But I just couldn’t get together enough pieces of paper to document my early years in Oxford. Now it feels as if those years have been erased, as if I was never here. I now call them my prehistory in Britain.

So I open the envelope and I don’t know how I feel – my lips smiled, my eyes welled up. I called my wife to give her the news.  She couldn’t tell from my voice if it was good or bad news. In truth I couldn’t tell myself. Immediately I felt a sense of relief. The Facebook posts on fellow EU nationals being refused PR have become some kind of war bulletin that every day I need to look to before starting my day. Almost as immediately I felt guilty because I had secured (at least for now, ‘permanence’ is a negotiable quality in Brexit Britain) my place in Britain, while many are left in the limbo. When my wife came back from work, she brings a celebratory bottle of fizz – prosecco ‘because you are still Italian even with PR’ she wants to reassure me.  I get a hug and congratulations, and I feel awkward. ‘Congratulations for what?’, I would like to ask. I have just compiled a series of bank statements and P60s from a decade ago or so. But I didn’t say it because I know she has been worrying about our family future and is relieved for the piece of paper. But myself I feel like I have sold out. I have giving up on a piece of me, the one who was a European citizen by living in Britain. I have complied with the rules of my new identity, one that I struggle to reconcile myself with. But the prosecco did its trick, we spent a nice evening and by the end of it I had even booked my Life in the UK test.

Since then I have had a couple of pieces of good news. I’ve been awarded a new research grant for carrying out research on the impact of Brexit on EU families in the UK (you will hear much more on this soon) and a previous project has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.  So when I met a British friend of my wife at the park last Saturday and she said: ‘I hear congratulations are in order’, I assumed she had heard about my successes at work. But then she added: ‘my husband is still waiting for his PR’.

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