The One With The Visa Details.

I realised a few days ago, that there would be people out there who have no idea of the particular waiting game I'm going through at the moment. My blog has been fairly sporadic over the last six months, after all. This is my attempt to shed some light on the situation, and I'm warning you - there will most likely be whinging involved, and it will probably end up being a long entry.

First of all, I am still back in Sydney. Jason is at home in London, looking after Oscar and holding down the fort while I'm away. It has been over six weeks since I touched down in late January. Keep that in mind, while I rewind and fill you in on some of the specifics of my situation... and why I feel like this:

When I left for London initially in December 2007, I was on a Working Holiday Visa. This is a working Visa designed for people under 30 who wish to work and travel in the United Kingdom. The Visa itself is valid for two full years, however had a restriction that all work is limited to 12-months only. I believe the premise for this Visa was to encourage ex-pats to have a balance between working and travelling.

This brings me to my first issue: the policing of this old Visa. It is completely up to the individual as to how honest they are with their working limit. Employers should be keeping an eye on the 12-month restriction, but for contractors and casual workers, it's very easy to skate around this. My work were sensible, and ensured that I finished up with them at my 12-month limit, but there are hundreds of people who are still working over this restriction and getting away with it.

And as for enforcing this 12-month rule? There really is no enforcement, save for the random questions one might get asked by customs whilst entering the country on random occassions. As an addition to this, the Working Holiday Visa has now been made redundant, replaced by a Youth Mobility Visa which, funnily enough, allows holders to work for the full two years with no restrictions. What happens to all those people still on the old scheme? Nada. Same original ruling applies. And if you had any thoughts of changing to the Youth Mobility Scheme after your original Visa expired, you would have to think again - the ruling is that if you held the original scheme, you cannot apply for the new one.

Moving right along... let's move on and explore other current options.

For Australians wanting to work in the UK, there are a variety of Visas available. There is the new Youth Mobility Scheme, as described above, designed for young workers. There is the Ancestry Visa, which you are able to apply for if either a parent or grandparent was born in the United Kingdom. (My history? English, but a generation above that, leaving me ineligible. Lovely!) There is the Work Permit (Tier 2) scheme, where employers in the UK sponsor you to work for them - however this has recently been made tougher to obtain, due to tighter immigration laws. (British employers now need to advertise in the UK and the European Union before offering jobs to foreign nationals, to show that there is no-one suitable in closer proximity.) To top it off, only certain professions are eligible to apply for Work Permits through employers - and teaching has now been taken off the list. Again, bonus!

Another Visa option is as a dependent to any of the above categories, which is quite easy to obtain if you are either engaged or married, but extremely difficult if you are in a de facto relationship. Jason and I have been together for six and a half years, but as we have been living together for less than two years, we are not classed as a couple and therefore have no grounds to apply for this. (Just another way to kick this not-engaged girl in the proverbial backside.)

The last option is the new Tier 1 Visa, which was formerly known as the Highly Skilled Worker Category. Here's where it gets interesting! To be eligible for this unrestricted three year work Visa, you merely had to hit a certain amount of points in particular areas, including education, age, UK experience, and earnings. You also had to show that you were proficient in English and had a maintainence fund to show you could support yourself. Having hit the criteria needed to be eligible, this is the Visa I have applied for. The next few paragraphs about this Visa could get long, so I'm simplifying them into bullet points to make it easier to read.

  • You need to apply for this Visa from your home country; hence me having to fly back to Sydney.

  • The cost involved is huge - we're talking about $1600 Australian dollars, not including your flight back here. And the real killer? Even if your application if denied, you never see your dollars again.

  • The average processing time for this Visa was originally 30 working days. I'm fortunate that I have Jason at home to watch the flat and the cat (ha, flat cat) but not so lucky for singles doing it on their own - they would either have to give up their accomodation, or pay for it whilst not living in it. Ouch.

  • Your passport and original documents go to the British Embassy, leaving you pretty much stranded for the duration of your stay.

  • You cannot contact the Visa office for updates until after the 30 day mark. When you can contact them, you speak to Call Centre Operators who cannot tell you anything about your application what-so-ever, save for the fact that it is with a Case Worker. The people on the other end of the phone often don't even know how to answer simple Visa-based questions, and charge you a $10 flat rate or $2.95/minute fee for the pleasure.

  • Applications being approved or denied are down to the Case Worker who ends up with your application on their desk. From what I've heard, the British Embassy here are notoriously bad for making simple mistakes and having no efficiency what-so-ever.

Ah, what a process. They're the basics anyway, and sort of explain what I've been doing since I got here and submitted my application back in January. Waiting. Lots of waiting. Lots of nervous anticipation and trying to keep busy, to try and stop thinking about it all. And in the process of that waiting? The British High Commission is currently suffering from 'delays' that have seen applications taken a new minumum of 40 working days to process - and from the forums I've been reading, a lot higher than that too. One friend of mine who called the Visa office hotline, was told last week that they are still processing December applications - so my January application is likely still at the bottom of a very large pile.

It's frustrating on so many levels. I expected the process to be a long one, and so didn't book a return flight until April, but it's already April in two short weeks - how did that go so quickly and so slowly at the same time? My work have been great, only hiring a replacement for me temporarily; but that time soon runs out. The biggest problem with the system is that I have NO way of knowing when the Visa will be returned to me; and even if it is approved or refused. Why they would have a system that takes over two months to tell you that you have been rejected is beyond me. It's a cruel joke.

So back to waiting it is for me. I'm not getting my hopes up to hear a response before April, but I'm staying positive and trying to enjoy this long 'vacation' while I can. I'm taking on all the positive thoughts I can get for a good outcome - and hoping that it's sooner rather than later. I'll keep you posted...

14 Comments • Labels: ,  


Michelle & the City said...

Ugh, that sucks Alynda! I hope everything works out, and SOON! Keep us posted.

Lacey Bean said...

Oh man my eyes just glossed over reading all of that! I hope that it all gets sorted out soon for you!

heidikins said...

Ah chook, I'm sorry. I'm crossing fingers and toes that this will work out soon!


Julie said...

OYE Aly!!!

Seriously that is horrible. I am wishing and hoping and praying for the best for you.
Because I am planning on being back in London in the fall... and I want to hang out more!

Candy said...

Am I the only one wondering why you and Jason just don't get married? Maybe you've said why ages ago and I missed it, but it seems you've been together a long time, intend to stay together a longer time, and why delay the inevitable??

Brea said...

DON'T WORRY ABOUT YOUR JOB! As your temporary replacement, I am taking good care of it while you're gone. :) You don't have to worry about me stealing it as I'm on the lousy WHV and I kind of like you and want you back in London, haha. Si and I were talking about it today and so far it looks like I'm just going to stick around and wait for the final verdict from you. It would make no sense for them to advertise for your job as I'm doing jus' fine and can work up until November or so, so you've got PLENTY of time to get that visa and come back to your job. At that point, let's hope I have met and married the UK passport holding man of my dreams so I don't have to pack my bags and say goodbye... :(

katelin said...

oh man that is all so complicated. i hope everything works out soon for you, you definitely deserve it after all you've been through already, oy.

Ree said...

Oh honey. I'm so sorry you're stuck in Visa limbo.

Kelly said...

Your situation totally sucks.. I feel for ya hon!
Although I love having you in the same hemisphere, I know you want to go back. And I love hearing about your British exploits! So I hope it all works out for you soon :D

(And so help me God, if Jason doesn't put a ring on you soon - as in, the day you get back to London - I'll fly over there myself and kick his ass!)

Miss Em said...

Oh my goodness. What can you do, eh? Really hoping it all works out for you, and also thinking I may need to go out and find myself an english man to trap and marry - seems like the only solution if I want to stay here after my two-year stint. Incidentally, I applied two days before the changeover to the new visa. So I'm stuck with the 50/50 work/holiday scenario.

Keep us posted!


Lara said...

gah, that's awful sweets. i will definitely send "hurry up!" thoughts toward the visa people, and keep my fingers crossed for an acceptance. :)

La Petite Chic said...

Oh my goodness, how frustrating! I hope you get word soon. The wait must be just awful.

Julz said...

oh wow, that sucks big time! i hope it all works out *fingers crossed*

Robyn said...

Wow I cannot believe the lengths you will go to to stay in the UK! Do you not prefer Australia by about a mile? Because I do. Apart from the absolutely crap television and the fact that Burger King is called Hungry Jacks.

Best of luck anyway!

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