Under The Wire
Some time ago I read a Bill Bryson book where he recounts his entry into and decision to remain in Britain. This was around the time I was graduating from high school and back then, unless there is more to his story than he is telling, it seems you could decide to live in the UK simply because you happened to like it here.
I wonder, in the years that followed, as the walls went up and the bouncers appeared at the gates, if Mr. Bryson didn’t thank his lucky stars that he made it in before they pulled up the ladder.
By the time I arrived, this welcome to the UK had turned into a grudging admission but at least they let me in. And at this point, I am thanking my own lucky stars that I got here before they slammed the door and threw the latch.
When I arrive, just five years ago, you didn’t need a fiancée visa, although they were strongly recommended. I simply arrived, got married, applied for my “Further Leave to Remain” and then, a year later, was granted my “Indefinite Leave to Remain.” And that was it. I must have had to pay a fee for these visas but it couldn’t have been much because I don’t remember how much it was, and if it had been a significant amount, you can bet I’d remember it.
These days, if you attempt to sneak into the country without a fiancée visa, they’ll deport you, and the fee for that visa is currently £500 (that’s $1,000 to you Americans). “Leave to Remain” has gone up to £395 and “Indefinite Leave to Remain” is at £750. In addition to this, you have to take the Life In The UK test (£40, not counting the books). While I don’t necessarily object to the test—and I have to admire the naked disclosure of the Home Office that the primary reason for it is to make sure you can speak English—what they are essentially saying is that they only want well-heeled English speakers coming to Britain.
I’m not suggesting I wouldn’t have moved here if they had demanded $3,400 for the privilege (my wife, after all, is worth every penny) but I’m just as glad I got here on the cheap.
The next thing they are considering is mandatory community service. That’s right, if you want to settle here, you’ll have to do a set number of hours of neighbourhood charity work first. I think, coupled with the rise in entry fees and the “How Well Can You Speak English” test, there might be a backlash against this particular idea. Wealthy people are not fond of donning orange jumpsuits and picking up candy wrappers and dog poop in the local park. Community service smacks too much of the penal system for their taste and the type of people the are apparently trying to attract to Britain won’t be very good at it unless they’ve had a chance to practice while doing time on an embezzlement rap in their home country.
Personally, I used to be opposed to the Community Service requirement, but now that I’m a citizen I realize the advantage of a free workforce and how important it is to keep our standards up. If you want to live here so badly, you won’t mind getting up close and personal with the local landfill.
Besides, the place could do with a bit of tidying up.
Even with a $3,400 cover charge, it's still a bargain living here.
Where else can you walk into town to buy a latch for your bathroom
door and spontaneously run across this calibre of entertainment?
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