Tag Archives: stuff that scares me

Ridin’ in the Rain

I’m sure I made it clear in my post about renting a bike in Hanoi that I do NOT have much experience on a motorbike. Yet here I am, bombing around a city with insane traffic.

In spite of the traffic, I really enjoy getting around on a motorbike. It is pretty freeing, especially when the main traffic laws you must follow are 1) not driving on the sidewalk (which people still do) and 2) not going the wrong way up a street (which people still do). Other than that (and not having a bazillion people on the bike… which people still do), there isn’t much to worry about. Even the traffic lights and signs seem to be more like suggestions than laws. So I don’t have to worry about breaking laws when I am riding.

I do have a zillion other things to worry about, though.

When I rented the bike, Danny (at the shop) laughed when I said that I’ve never been so spatially aware in my life since coming to Hanoi, even when walking. He laughed because he said the opposite is generally true of the Vietnamese. But so far I haven’t had my personal bike-space invaded too badly.

Although I thought I could handle my lightweight little automatic Yamaha, even in the traffic, I still worried at first about riding in the rain. Not just because of the danger of water on the road, but also because of the reduced visibility. But I was enjoying it, especially because when I got to go a little faster (30km… whoo!!) it felt like I was wearing a cape instead of a flowery unflattering rain poncho. BATGIRL ON A BIKE. So I was enjoying it.

UNTIL TODAY.

There is rain, and then there is RAIN. You know how people say, “God is in the rain”? Well, I’m here to tell you that if that is true, God freaking loves Hanoi. A lot. Especially today.

I woke up and it was POURING rain. Buckets and buckets of rain. And I could hear thunder. Unfortunately I had a meeting at 8am, so I was going to have to go out in it. I put on all my kit and started out.

Despite the raincoat, I was already getting damp just trying to wheel the bike out of our door yard. I got it out, locked the gate, and jumped on the bike. Which then would not start. And then it did, but as soon as I gave it some gas, it would stall.

Remember I know nothing about bikes. But I tried a few more times and it finally decided to catch and go. I rode down our wee lane to the main street… which was completely flooded. I mean, when I put my foot down to navigate the corner slowly, my foot and leg disappeared to more than halfway up my calf. That was the worst flooding I came across, but there were huge, scary puddles everywhere.

My visibility was poor. My eyes were full of rain (as was my mouth half the time). There was a good litre of water pooled in between my arms on the raincoat. Water was coming up from underneath somewhere and I was soaked through.

And then the lightning and thunder caught up to me.

That was pretty terrifying, actually. The thunder would sound simultaneously with the lightning flashes overhead. It was so loud that I could barely hear all the honking horns that are perpetually sounding in Hanoi.

In the end, I made it to my appointment, just two minutes late. I was the first there though, so I suppose everyone had a struggle with the rain today. Hopefully the next ride will be a lot drier.

PS: I am adding a “rain” tag to my WordPress tags. I have a feeling it’s going to come up a lot over the next few months in Vietnam!

The Dirty Foreigner Test

Something massive that has changed since the last time I was in Korea (2005 – 2007) is that you have to get a “medical certificate” in order to get your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Also new is that you need your ARC in order to get a bank account. They’ve really got foreign teachers by the balls on this one, especially since some schools won’t pay you until you get a bank account. Yikes.

The “medical certificate” is just a form that the hospital gives you saying you are a-okay to be in the country. I suppose that they are checking for a few things, but the key things they look for is drugs (which are bad, mmmmkay?) and disease (also not cool) – especially sexually transmitted diseases (more not-coolness).

The amount of information I received from the school on how to get this done was hilariously weak. I was given a piece of paper that said this:

Where – Gang Nam Hospital in Young in
(Ask Lauren, Song TR. They know how to go there…)

Ready – 1. You must fast for 8hours
2. Photo (3.5* 4.0 size) 4
3. health diagnosis fee 61,000 Won

How – 1. When you arrive hospital, go to the hospital administration
Tell them “I want to issue medical certificate in English…”
They will help you.

You have to get 2sets.

::SIDE NOTE::

I’m hoping that these stories will a) amuse people who know me – my pain and suffering seems to bring my friends and family joy (haha) and b) really help out people who are thinking about teaching in Korea. Nothing like reading about someone else’s pain and suffering to realise it’s not nearly as scary as you would think.

::END SIDE NOTE::

“Where – Gang Nam Hospital in Young in”

The “Lauren, Song Tr.” part of this sentence means that I should have spoken with fellow foreign teachers (Lauren and Song) to get more details on how to get to the hospital. Lauren isn’t even there anymore. Song Teacher was really helpful though, I definitely wouldn’t have made it there without her. It would have been so much easier if they had just included some instructions of how to get there.

Getting there wasn’t bad. I had to get up early on a Saturday (sob) to get there relatively early. It was one weird little bus for about 15 minutes and then a two minute walk. I still managed to get myself slightly turned around, but still made it there early. I was really happy I had looked up the name of Gangnam Hospital in Korean (강남병원, if you are interested) so I could show a Korean where I was trying to go. She was good enough to point me in the right direction.

“How – 1. When you arrive hospital”

Once I was going the right way, the hospital was dead easy to find. And as promised to me by Song Teacher, I just had to go in through the sliding glass doors, where there was a long information desk to my left. All I had to do next was “take a number” and wait. Unfortunately, this is what the number machine looked like:

20140114-195436.jpg

Sorry it looks like I took the picture with a potato, but I was trying to take a sneaky picture in the hospital. That machine has three buttons, all in Korean. I HAD NO CLUE. Then this nice Korean lady (who basically spoke no English except one word – “long”) helped me. She pointed at buttons and spoke to me slowly in Korean. Poor lady. Speak as slowly as you want, I won’t get it. When she pointed at the third button though she said “long”, and I figured that was going to be for people who were going to be in the hospital a long time (although it seems REALLY weird to me that you would have to take a freaking number if you were so ill that you’d be in the hospital forever). In the end, she gave me a ticket produced from the same button she had pushed, the first one. Then that cute motherly Korean lady sat down and saved the seat beside her for me. What a star.

When it was my turn – and the wait was very short – I went up to a Korean girl who looked like I was going to ruin her morning by making her speak English and handed her my number. I then said the only thing I knew to say: “medical certificate”. Yah, she didn’t know what that was. I had to type it into the dictionary on her phone. I still don’t think she got it. But she called for someone else and they knew exactly what I was after as they spoke English. Sadly, she didn’t stick around.

I had to pay 80,000won (not 61,000) but fortunately they took debit card. Once I paid, she gave me a piece of paper with further instructions. Awesome. Except the instructions looked like this:

20140114-200116.jpg

I understood that I needed to go to the second floor, but that was about it. Happily a woman on the lift spoke flawless English and once the doors opened on the correct floor, she helped me find the way to my next step – the x-ray room.

::SIDE NOTE::

She also asked if I did private lessons. Worth knowing if you are teaching in Korea that it’s not really legal here. I’m not exactly sure what the rules are, but I don’t think you are supposed to give private lessons. What I told her is that I had only been in Korea one week, and I wasn’t looking to take on extra work. Which is also true.

::END SIDE NOTE::

I walked to the x-ray/MRI counter and they seemed to know what to do (thankfully!) and even spoke a little English (thankfully!) They ushered me behind a curtain and instructed me to take off everything I was wearing on my upper body and then put on a gown. I put on the gown North America style, open to the back, and they thought that was HILARIOUS. Like I was too retarded to dress myself. Which, at that point, I suppose I was. Then it was over to “hug” the x-ray machine, and they took a chest x-ray.

::SIDE NOTE::

No one, not in the instructions nor when I asked the other foreign staff, told me what to expect in the way of “tests” for this medical certificate. I knew that they would be testing for drugs thanks to the forums, but the rest was a complete surprise. Like the chest x-ray. Like the freaking blood test (and I hate needles) coming up. Just thought y’all would like to know. And, of course, no one at the hospital could explain much to me about what was happening.

::END SIDE NOTE::

The x-ray people were able to tell me to move along further down the hall. I believe their exact words were “You go there. Wait.” Okey-dokey-smokey. So I head down the hall and there is another waiting room with another information desk. Happily, this time there was a sign that said “foreign patients” in front of one of the workers. So, being the only white person in there, I went straight up to her without a number. She took my receipt and some other information, then asked me to sit. Not even two minutes later, I was off to do the next test.

The nurse had me take off my coat and shoes to be weighed and have my height measured. Weighed slightly less than I thought (whoo-hoo) but strangely I’m also shorter than I thought. I always thought I was 171cm, turns out I’m 169.3cm. Whatevs. But then came one of those situations where not speaking the language can make the simplest tasks both harder and more hilarious.

I step off the scale. Nurse points at my shoes. I pick them up to take them back to the chairs to put them on. Nurse says “anniyo” (Korean for “no”) and takes my shoes and puts them on the floor again. I look at her quizzically. She points at my shoes and says something in Korean. I go to pick them up. “Anniyo, anniyo!” and she makes me leave them. Says something else in Korean. I tell her (in Korean) that I don’t understand Korean (clever that). She picks up my foot and puts it on my shoe. At this point an elderly woman patient is laughing at me. At this point I wish I could say “I’m not a retard. I know what you want me to do, but I want to sit down to put on my shoes.” At this point I give up and just put on my shoes standing there. Which is all that poor Korean nurse ever wanted. She was worried I’d put them on 5 feet away and walk off without finishing my tests, I guess.

After the Great Shoe Debacle of 2014, I had to have my blood pressure tested. Then my hearing. And then I was tested for colour blindness. And then they checked my eyesight. After that I got to wee in a cup and another nurse took some blood. She was incredibly gentle – I didn’t even feel the needle. Serious business. I want any future necessary needle action done by that chick. She was the nursebomb.

And that was that, I was all finished. Or at least, I should have been. On Monday there was a call to the school because there was “something wrong” with the urine tests. You know what you don’t want to hear when they are testing for drugs and sexually transmitted diseases? “There is something wrong with your urine test”. That. You don’t want to hear that. But fortunately for me, it was just that they (for some reason) didn’t get a clear reading because of protein something something and blood sugar something. I went back this morning bright and early to re-do the test and they came back normal. Whew!

My next adventure (which I should be undertaking tomorrow) will be to take my passport and medical certificate and apply in Suwon at the Immigration Centre for my Alien Registration Card. I’ve already been given bad instructions on how to get there and I think I may be missing a piece of information here – I may be going Friday after all. Ah, teaching in Korea. Where everything is made much harder than it needs to be.

The good news though is that I’m officially drug and disease free. And that’s a good thing.

Not My Day in Court

In another universe, yesterday would have been the day I’d be in court to fight the decision handed to me by the UKBA back in March. And with how often I get asked “So how are you doing with everything anyway” these days, I thought I’d give a quick update on how I’m feeling about things and stuffs now that the court day has come and gone.

I still feel like I made the right decision to not pursue the hearing. Although logically the “punishment” (deportation and a 12 month re-entry ban) seems to severely outweigh the “crime” (missed a tickmark) in this situation, I still believe that a judge would have been hesitant to set precedence in this case by overturning the decision of the UKBA. So had I been in court yesterday, I honestly believe today I would have been out a hefty lawyer’s fee and just getting the gears in motion to move on.

I do wish I had more information from the UKBA earlier (like back in December, when the first application was returned would have been nice). If they had sent me back everything in March I wouldn’t have ever filed for the hearing and could have gotten moving earlier. That would have meant avoiding spending the last six months as I have done: Waiting in limbo for my life to change.

I’m not happy about having to leave my friends behind. In the past six years living so far from home many in London have become like family to me. I’m grateful that keeping in touch is easier than ever, but a Skype call is not the same as a pint down at pub. I’m going to miss a lot of people an awful lot.

My career in the London tech scene, which was just progressing nicely from operations to project and product management, also gets put on hold. At best gets put on hold. With 12 months out of the country, it could very well be the end of that progression. A year is a long time in technology and if I want to return, I may have to start at the beginning again. And I’m starting to feel a bit too old for that nonsense.

And leaving London stinks. I love this silly old city so much and I feel like although I’ve been so fortunate to have explored so much of it, I’ve definitely not seen enough. I could live a thousand years I think and not see enough of it.

But on to happier thoughts. There are some positives on the other side of all this bureaucratic governmental idiocy.

I am very excited about teaching again. I really enjoyed my time as a teacher before and looking forward to working with the kids again. I’ve actually had a student from when I was there previously get in touch and it’s made me realise how much I missed working with the little monsters.

I’m happy to be heading back to Asia. South Korea is an amazing country and I highly recommend checking it out. Of course, from there it is also easy and affordable to visit other countries in Southeast Asia… something else I’m really looking forward to. With any luck, this Christmas you’ll find me on a Malaysian island beach instead of sitting about in my pants in a cold London flat, eating leftover pizza and playing Civilisation.

So how am I feeling?  

I’m alright. I have a lot to do in the next few weeks – like move out of my flat this week, hassle the UKBA for my passport (oh yah, those dirty birds still have it), find a teaching job in Korea and finish my Korean paperwork for my Korean visa. And do all that without a job or a home.

It’s a scary time. But it is also an exciting time. At least you shouldn’t hear me complain about being bored for the next few weeks.

Dance of the Paperwork (Part 1 of Most Likely 1 Billion)

As people find out that I’m having to leave the UK, I generally get asked two things:

  1. Are you okay?
  2. What’s next?

I am okay.

Google "I'm okay" in images and this is what comes up.

Google “I’m okay” in images and this is what comes up.

Some days are totally fine, I feel good about having some ideas about what to do next and taking steps towards getting there. So I have to go; I get to go on another adventure.

Then other days I think about how none of this was my choice and how much I’m being forced to give up. Those days suck.

But mostly… I’m okay.

My next steps are to wrap up life here and to start getting stuff together for the next part of the journey

Right now that means trying to get my paperwork together to go back to Korea to teach. I’m also (thanks to Heather) going to make some enquiries into teaching in Istanbul. Korea is much more likely at this point, I don’t think I’ll be able to make enough money in Turkey to cover my loan payments in the UK as well as, you know, live and eat and stuff. But it is still worth looking into.

Which means it is time for the Dance of the Paperwork. Again.

I’ve got a lot to get together in order to apply for my E-2 visa to teach in K-town. And it is made much more difficult as there are bits that need to happen in Canada and Korea and England. Yarg! Paperwork everywhere! Thank goodness my mother is in Canada and can help at that end (best mommies ever).

The only other real complication is that I don’t know how much time I have. I’ve been moving on leaving the UK… but I haven’t heard from the UKBA. I don’t know how long it will take to get my passport back nor have I been told how long I have to get my shit together and get out of here. I am going to draft them a letter and try to get some answers.

Side Note: How fucking stupid is it that there is no direct line of communication with the people handling your ‘case’? There’s a useless email address for complaints (they responded well beyond the timeframe they gave for my first complaint, they’ve never responded to the second) and a phone number you can call if you a) want to spend 10 minutes on the phone trying to navigate a labyrinth of options so complex that you only finally get through to a person once you start quietly sobbing to yourself and b) want to speak to someone who can’t actually help you AT ALL but will be friendly and somewhat sympathetic. Your only real option is to write them a letter and post it. And wait. While you are trying to get your life sorted. You wait.

Hopefully I’ll find out soon enough what my actual timeframes are. In the meantime, I’m pushing hard to get my documentation sorted for Korea, getting rid of everything that won’t fit in one of two suitcases, and saying good-bye to everyone.

My life, pending.

After getting over the initial shock of receiving my get out letter last Friday (just five days ago – this has been the longest five days ever), it has been hard to pinpoint how I am feeling about everything.

Mostly I have been feeling like I need a grown-up. Sort of like when you would get bullied as a kid and got a parent to step in for you. I’ve been wanting someone smarter and stronger than me to hold my hand and assuredly walk me through all of this. Someone with all the answers. Someone with authority. Having a lawyer and my MP on my side is helping alleviate this feeling, but I still wish I could have my dad (or my moms – even more powerful, she is) beat up the UKBA’s dad.

The other feeling is harder to pinpoint. I think it can best be summed up like this though: When I was showering this morning I looked at my half-empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner and wondered if it would be worth it to buy more. If my life in the UK will even carry on long enough to warrant buying another set. 

That’s a gross feeling. Walking around my lovely little flat, looking at all the bits and pieces I’ve gathered over the last five years, and wondering the best way of getting rid of it all if I have to.

My life, pending. It’ll be good to get living it again, no matter what the outcome.

How do you fight the UKBA when they’re wrong?

After my plea yesterday on Facebook for any advice or help regarding the recent devastating UKBA (UK Border Agency) decision to remove me from the UK based on what I see as a technicality, many people have requested more thorough details regarding my situation so they can offer further suggestions and pass along the details to others who may be able to help.

After posting these details online, I am going to respond to the UKBA “case worker” who sent the rejection letter (as I was advised by the UKBA) with these details and copies of everything I have. Unfortunately, because this should have been a simple case, I did not take thorough copies of everything. I am hoping against hope that what I do have will be enough.

I am also going to reach out to my MP (Rushanara Ali), the local Citizens Advice Bureau and the local Law Centre. Additionally, I’m going to try reaching out to Ben Hammersley to see if he is able to help – a long shot but one I have been urged to take. What I will not be able to do is hire a lawyer; sadly that is beyond my means. Any other suggestions or advice would be wonderful; this really feels like being the littlest guy having to take on the biggest, scariest guy in the room in a fight.

Thanks, everyone. For reading, for the support, for the help. You’ve been amazing and I will keep you informed on how things are going.

TL;DR version: I applied for the renewal before the expiration of a UK visa I am still absolutely eligible for, but due to UKBA not being able to process payment – I believe their errors, not mine – I have had to send in a total of four applications. The first three were ignored by the most recent case worker, and they are rejecting my renewal because the most recent application was submitted more than 28 days after the expiry of my visa. I’m being told to leave the UK with “no right to appeal”.

My application to stay in the UK, a process which began on 30 October 2012, has been rejected as invalid because I am being considered an “overstayer” and in violation of 189(iii) of UK Immigration Law. The letter outlining the reasons for the refusal clearly shows that the case worker completely disregarded any of the circumstances leading up to the most current application, as outlined in this reasoning in the letter:

“Your leave to remain expired on 1 November 2012. A valid application was received on the 1 February 2013, therefore your leave had expired for a period greater than 28 days and therefore your application falls for refusal under Paragraph 191 with reference to 189(iii) of the Immigration Rules as you did not have leave to remain at the time of your application.”

Here is the background story.

I arrived in the UK in November 2007 with a valid UK Ancestry Visa and have continuously resided in London since that time. For those who are not aware, there are essentially two criteria that need to be met (other than the obvious ones that you would expect) to be eligible for an Ancestry visa: You have to be a national of a Commonwealth country and you have to have a grandparent born in the UK. I am a Canadian with a paternal grandmother born in Scotland. As neither of those circumstances had changed, I expected the renewal process to be simple. I was wrong.

That visa was due to expire on 01 November 2012. Having been warned countless times that the UKBA punishes people for applying early, I waited until just before the expiration to submit my application by registered post on 30 October 2012. I received a letter dated 01 November 2012 confirming the receipt of my application. There is no doubt that it was submitted well within the 28 day window the UKBA affords applicants.

In December 2012 I received a package containing all my documentation and my application with a letter dated 18 December 2012 stating that my application was invalid as I had “not made any payment and have not completed the payment page of the application form”. It then stated that I should ensure “the payment page is completed before returning” the application. (emphasis mine)

I am absolutely certain that the payment page had been filled in both completely and correctly. Anyone who has been through a similar process will understand how meticulous you are to ensure there will be no issues whatsoever with such an important piece of paperwork. However, I did not take a copy of my completed application at the time before submitting it and the payment page was never returned to me so I am unable to prove beyond any doubt that this was indeed the situation.

I returned my application with a new payment page included on or around 20 December 2012 with a covering letter explaining why I was returning my application. Yes, this was beyond the 28 day window, but a) they had not notified me until beyond the 28 day period and b) because of the wording on the letter (to wit “returning your application”) I was lead to believe that I was still within the rights of my original visa as the application was still in progress.

I received notification on 31 December 2012 that my application had been received by UKBA. In a letter dated 12 January 2013, which was included with the return of all my documentation once again, I was informed that “the fee transaction accompanied with the application has been declined”. No such transaction is recorded against my bank account and no proof of such an attempt exists. Again, the payment page was not returned with my documentation.

I submitted my application – this time an entirely fresh copy as the form had changed since the previous resubmission – yet again which was received on 21 January 2013, confirmed in a letter of receipt dated 22 January 2013. This application was returned with a letter dated 29 January 2013, stating once again that I had “not made any payment and have not completed the payment page of the application form”. As with the first return letter, this also stated that I should ensure “the payment page is completed before returning” the application. (emphasis again mine)

So I returned the application yet again, which was received on 01 February 2013, as confirmed in a letter dated 02 February 2013.  This time when I submitted the application, I took photos of myself including the payment page (I was getting very paranoid by this time) and included yet another cover letter referencing all the case and reference numbers I had been given as well as a full outline of the situation to date. On 18 February 2013 I sent a complaint email to ukbacustomercomplaints@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk outlining the issues and poor service I had experienced. Other than the automated response stating that I would have a reply from them “within 20 working days”, I still have heard nothing from that department.

You can imagine my relief when I saw that £561 had been charged to my MasterCard by “The Home Office UK” on 07 February 2013. As payment had been the only obstacle in obtaining my visa renewal, I expected I was finally reaching the end of this ordeal. When I received a letter dated 05 March 2013 instructing me to have my biometrics taken, I was certain that the next correspondence from the UKBA would be my passport with my renewed visa.

Instead, on 22 March 2013 I received a letter dated 15 March 2013 which outlined why I was refused leave to remain, the reason stated referred to Paragraph 191 with reference to 189(iii) of HC 395 (as amended) which reads, “189.(iii) he is not in the UK in breach of immigration laws except that any period of overstaying for a period of 28 days or less will be disregarded.”  In brief, because my first three applications had not been considered one continuous process dragged on because of internal payment issues, the letter stated that I had now “overstayed”, a violation of the UK Immigration Law.

But have I “overstayed”?

Paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules defines “Overstayed” and “Overstaying”. It reads:

6. In these Rules the following interpretations apply:

“Overstayed” or “Overstaying” means the applicant has stayed in the UK beyond the latest of:

(i) the time limit attached to the last period of leave granted, or
(ii) beyond the period that his leave was extended under sections 3C or 3D of the Immigration Act 1971, or
(iii) the date that an applicant receives the notice of invalidity declaring that an application for leave to remain is not a valid application, provided the application was submitted before the time limit attached to the last period of leave expired.

Emphasis is mine to illustrate that the 28 days in this situation should be calculated from the date of the notice of invalidity; in my case the three notices of invalidity. In each case, I responded as requested immediately and with all the details requested. At no point have I had an application submitted for processing beyond 28 days from the receipt of most recent notice of invalidity, and my original application was submitted before the visa expired. Further, paragraph 6 does not state that should there be multiple re-applications and notices of invalidity that the date considered as the start of the 28 day period will be reverted to the expiry of the visa.

Additionally, it should be clear that there are exceptional circumstances surrounding my application process. That there were issues with the payment process three times before I sent a covering letter stating that I had flagged the payment page and took pictures of its submission on the fourth application suggests that there are internal processing errors. That the “incomplete” payment page was never returned for review also suggests that the UKBA may have marked the page as “incomplete” in error. Especially telling is the return of the second application for a declined payment of which there is no record; a story that you can find told again and again online. My research has uncovered that legal advisors are telling applicants to send in cheques or bank orders, despite the larger costs, because of the high volume of applications returned due to UKBA payment retrieval errors.

I feel I am a victim of a broken process. To illustrate, I have received three barcode numbers, four case IDs and six reference numbers. Despite being told to “return” applications, each reapplication was treated by the UKBA as though we were starting again. It is clear that not one person referenced early barcode numbers, case IDs or reference numbers, even though I had included these each and every time I had corresponded with the UKBA.

That twice my application, containing my passport, birth certificate, banking information and other personal details was pushed through a shared letterbox into an unsecured hallway is also indicative that the UK immigration process is not functioning to a standard that one should be able to expect from the Home Office.

And finally, the lack of clarity around the visa renewal process and the extreme difficulty in trying to reach anyone within the UKBA also hinders the process; and I am an educated, native English speaker. I can only imagine the difficulty others must face in trying to effectively navigate their way through this jargon-ladened and frightening process. There is no help to be had directly from the UKBA; I never received a “case worker” name until my application had been already been rejected each time and even then there was no direct contact details offered. My email to the complaints department has gone unanswered.

I understand why there is a need to maintain a firm yet fair immigration system to deter and prohibit those who would try to enter and remain in the United Kingdom under false pretences or without entry clearance. However, there is no question in my case that I came to this country entire legally and with entry clearance. I have been in the UK for more than five years and at this point the only reason why my continued presence here is being deemed ‘not lawful’ is the fact that the UKBA was incapable of processing payment. It is one thing to have a firm immigration system, it is another thing entirely to have an immigration policy that is utterly inflexible and does not take into the slightest consideration the particular circumstances of the individual situation.

What has happened here is sadly a classic example of a thoroughly unreasonable, disproportionate, and inflexible application of policy without the slightest regard for the facts burdened by a system which encourages a lack of any common sense or humanity. We have case workers “just doing their jobs”; forced into making decisions which have immeasurable impact on people’s lives without being allowed the space for compassion or intelligence to fully consider the circumstances; driven instead by the policy makers, managers and others who expect them to reach and/or maintain specific numbers.

I believe I am due to be given a discretion based on the circumstances of my application, and that this decision be reviewed and a discretion granted on the basis that it will be exercised with a modicum of intelligence, common sense and humanity. We must ask what possible reason there could have been for not already exercising discretion in my favour by the case worker who reviewed my file.  Certainly it is apparent from the letter of 15 March 2013 that no consideration whatsoever was given to the impact of forcing me to leave a country in which I have made my home for more than five years now.

Because my application was simply not logically regarded as one continuous process and because the UKBA returns applications as invalid instead of more reasonably requesting the submission of just the allegedly “incomplete” payment details, I am the one now looking to pay the ultimate price if this cannot be rectified: I am being asked to forfeit my life in the UK.

Disclaimer

I’m going to try to write this before I lose my nerve.

No big confessions… but I am going to publicly announce a goal, which I’m not a big fan of doing.

Why? Because then I will feel like an absolute asshole if I don’t stick with it.

I have made public announcements on resolutions/goals before, with mixed results.

While still in university, I called off eating McDonald’s for a year. Doing that now would be so easy… I don’t even remember the last time I ate it. It’s been ages. But during uni? Easily twice or more a week. It was cheap and it was fast and I swear it is addictive.

So I called it off and announced that I was doing so. And I did it for the entire year. I had nightmares during the year, now and again, about breaking the resolution, but I never actually broke it. I did have a Big Mac on the first of January as soon as the year was up, but I made the year.

But last year I publicly announced that I wasn’t going to drink for the year. And I made it until April before I decided to completely eschew from drinking was ridiculous. Somewhat hilariously, when I started again no one said a word. It was strange that I stopped… no one thought twice when I started again.

But this year… this is a big one (no pun intended) that I’ve tried and failed again and again. I’ve never shared about these struggles… I mean, people can *see* that I struggle with it, but they don’t know how much. Okay. This was the disclaimer post about my fears around sharing this. The next one will be the share.

raR. Here’s hoping being public will help me stick with it this time.