Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Applying for PR

I doubt many of you will have even heard of PR (permanent residency in the UK) but if you have a close friend or family member that have led to your joining the Facebook groups: Forum for eu citizens (the3million) or UK citizenship eu nationals CEN, then you will probably have heard of nothing else since last July.

It used to be that no EU nationals applied for this piece of paper as they were allowed under EU law to work and live here indefinitely without it. It is a document aimed at migrants from places like the US or similar. Technically, until the UK leaves the EU it is still not required, and ironically, given it comes under EU law, it may not even be valid after Brexit. But the important fact is that you cannot apply for UK citizenship unless you already have Permanent Residency status, so many of the 3 million EU citizens who have been living here for decades are desperately clambering to get it and thereafter citizenship to stop the government being able to deport them in 2019 when the Brexit negotiations are due to be completed.

The process seems to be that you apply after being in the country for five years for Permanent Residency which seems to cost just under a hundred pounds, then you need to sit a language test (even if you have lived here for the whole of your life (which is the case for some EU passport holders, even if you have a degree in English from a non-UK uni, even if you work as an English translator or interpreter or you happen to lecture in say English Lit at Oxford - yes it is that absurd!) To put it in perspective, if you know me - Thomas is obliged to sit it! After knowing him fifteen years I can actually tell you every mistake he's made in English in my presence as they number fewer than the fingers on one hand. Even as a dictionary consultant who wrote his Masters thesis in English before moving here, Thomas is not exempt!

Of course, you get to pay for the privilege of sitting that too and finally you then have to take the Life in the UK test. Without beating about the bush, it is also a piece of nonsense... I am no more likely to be able to pass it than Thomas is as it is full of obscure historical facts and quotes from poems that may well be part of the ordinary English school curriculum but definitely are not part of the Scottish one! They ask questions about health and schooling and law - all of which are different up here, so if you are bright, you simply have to memorize a long list of meaningless facts to jump through a ridiculous hoop.

If you have been living here since the turn of the millennium, always working and sending your kids to the local school, you should probably be given a bye into the next round but that's been ruled out for two reasons as far as I can see - it would reduce the stress levels of the foreigner who has to sit it (and we can't be having them feel secure and comfortable in the place they used to consider as home - that just wouldn't do at all) and it would mean less money for the treasury, because these two obligatory but meaningless hoops cost the EU citizen another £150.

So already you are up at £250 before you can apply for citizenship which can set you back more than a thousand pounds itself. (In our family that is bad enough but in some families everyone, including the kids, is having to apply so we're talking £1000+ per person!) It's not a bad little money spinner for the government to suddenly require 3 million people take these tests, but I'm sure that's not why they aren't clarifying people's statuses...

Of course, back to PR - if you fill the (up-to-recently 85 page form, that wants details of every trip home to a wedding or stag weekend since the year dot, payslips and utility bills (God forbid they're in your wife's name) till you're drowning in them etc incorrectly), if you omit a p60 from 5 years ago, if you didn't take out CSI - that's private health insurance to you and I - during the week you were off on paternity leave seven years ago (and that no one knew was mandatory till they started applying for PR!) then your application is rejected, your qualifying five years reset to zero and your £70 not refunded. You are simply sent a rejection with no explanation. I have seen some applications rejected because they were sent in with a legally signed and certified photocopy of the bearer's passport giving the reason that they were unable to furnish them with the original as they needed to commute back and forth to say France on business or to visit a sick relative and couldn't be without their passport for four to six months. Thomas would certainly not feel comfortable handing his passport in indefinitely - it is only three years since his mum's stroke meant he'd to fly to Italy with less than two days warning. But nope - there are no excuses - all passports must be surrendered for as long as they want to look at them. The form itself is cumbersome, contradictory and woolly to say the least. The paperwork weighs up to 5kg in some cases. Only originals of everything - because let's  face it - who doesn't keep that ferry receipt from a shopping weekend in France twelve years ago in case some nutjobs vote you out the EU based on a bucket-load of lies a decade down the line AND the government implements some new rules retrospectively?

And that's for the lucky ones who actually might qualify. If you haven't worked five years, you can't even apply. Last week I read about a Frenchwoman who'd come 15 years ago, worked 4.5 years before going on maternity leave, her baby (a UK citizen born here with an English dad) was born disabled so she gave up work to be the carer of a disabled UK citizen. Not eligible - because the 4.5 years is all that counts! It makes you want to scream at the computer on a daily basis as each new member recounts their own nightmare scenario!

On a daily basis I am seeing people who've been here 20, even 30 years having their applications rejected on technicalities. They moan to their friends who assure them that everything will be just fine as long as your married to a UK citizen - well it won't. Having a UK partner, husband, wife or even UK citizen kids counts for nothing at all in this country thanks to May's delightful rules. You just have to read the non-EU rules this week to see what we're talking about. It does not matter at all what your spouse's earning potential is, if you are under-employed because of redundancy or similar - tough! This ruling prices 40% of the UK out of being able to marry a non-EU partner and let's face it - two years from now, all those EU spouses are potentially in exactly the same boat.

So Thomas and I looked into PR at first but we've both concluded individually and together that we see no reason to pander to their nonsense. He came here, exercising his EU citizen rights, not as a migrant, not as an immigrant but as an EU citizen working in an EU country. If that country decides to impose £1500+ bills on every EU citizen who has come here in good faith and settled many years ago, then let them seek us out, let them deal with three million 85-page application forms and 15 million kilos of paperwork. I think they are forgetting that the very people who made that move are the outward-looking, internationalists who cannot reasonably see a future in a closed, xenophobic, peripheral and pitiful state. Many people seem relieved at last when they've jumped through the last hoop and emptied their hard-earned pockets into the coffers of the treasury, but to be honest PR doesn't interest us because if this isolationist, hard-line Brexit becomes a reality and Scotland doesn't manage to find an escape route, then I can see no future for our kind of family here.

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