On being an immigrant

The calendar says that it’s mid-way through June, but I am still wearing my winter coat and knitting a pair of legwarmers. It is no wonder that I keep saying ‘winter’ instead of ‘summer’. It is a mild winter for… June.

Visas have been on my mind recently. Theresa May, the current Home Secretary for the UK, has been making changes to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and visa legislation. The two-year post-study work visa is now closed to applicants and, most recently, the rules for a non-EEA (European Economic Area) person coming to live with their British partner have been made more strict. The latter might affect a few people I know, and so I have heard a lot about it. This comes at a time when I realise that in a year’s time I will be finishing my PhD and looking for jobs. I’ve more or less accepted the fact that I will not find an academic job for the academic year of 2013/14*, simply because of timing and the long process it takes to find a job, but it also means that I am looking at the end date of my visa.

Being an ex-pat means making your home in another country. Making friends, relationships, learning a new vocabulary, where to find things in the supermarket, which way to look when crossing the road. I have invested myself in this country and in this town. As an immigrant and as an international student, I have contributed more than £20,000/year into this country’s economy through tuition, rent, working, buying groceries, paying bills. I am not a drain on the state. And yet when the end date of my visa comes up, I have to leave.

It’s a weird thing to think about: the possibility of being made to leave, rather than choosing to leave. When one is an ex-pat — which is a fancy way of saying when one is an immigrant — one is a subject of the state, not a citizen. Certain things we tend to take for granted, such as the right to work, to live with your spouse and children, become more complicated when you do not actually belong to the country in which you choose, or would like to choose, to live.

I have another 19 months before I will be made to leave, unless I am able to find a job and acquire a work visa in this country. I have spent much of the last couple of weeks worrying and a couple of days ago I chose to stop. I know what I need to do in order to keep on top of the ever-changing visa laws. I know that the most important thing right now is to finish my thesis. I cannot find a job without having my thesis finished — and so that is what I am going to do.

And in the meantime, I will continue to be British and moan about the weather, when really, we know not to expect anything less than winter for a Scottish summer.

* That isn’t going to stop me from applying to every single one I can find, however.

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