So, I usually talk about the pleasant parts of my life because I’m generally an optimistic person but more importantly I don’t think anyone wants to listen to me whining on the internet. However, I would like to address one lovely little part of living in a foreign country.
Bureaucracy. Red tape. Endless forms, signatures, remembering to use the European date system (day/month/year, and as much as I’m loathe to admit it, it does make more sense than month/day/year).
I’m in the process of renewing my visa. Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that the red tape is there for good reason, I honestly do. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be there, and I’m not trying to disparage the system or the UKBA or anything (is this starting to sound like a disclaimer? good! it is!)
But it is difficult to try to pull things together, and to fight against time to get a big square sticker with an embossing stamp on it that is utterly routine to them and means getting to stay in my new home for me. As the results for my master’s were held longer and longer, waiting for the Board of Examiners to ratify them, my ability to tell admissions that I’d passed my master’s (the condition of my acceptance to my phd) pushed back farther and farther. Without that confirmation, admissions couldn’t apply for my CAS number (the number needed to show King’s College as my official sponsor) and I couldn’t apply to funding to make sure that my government loans arrived on time (and receive the letter in the post to include in my visa application). As I’m struggling to get updated transcripts, calling admissions, calling funding (to the point where, quite embarrassingly, I can say ‘it’s me again’ and they know who it is), and hoping everything arrives before I leave the country 20th December, I keep envisioning being denied my visa and having to defer my doctorate yet again, renege on my lease, move everything home . . . it’s terrifying.
Then the federal government decided to close on Christmas Eve, so despite my biometrics appointment (putting my fingerprints and photo into a database, for the 3rd time) being scheduled for Christmas Eve and having everything prepared, and driving an hour to Alexandria, the office was closed and we had the immense pleasure of driving an hour back with nothing to show for it.
Of course, ultimately it was fine because I just went in the 26th and the British Consulate was closed for Boxing Day ANYWAY so they still got my application the same time they would have. But I still have a flight booked 4th January, and time is a-ticking.
My point is, that this is stressful in that beyond terrifying way that you’ve done everything you can and now you just have to wait. It’s something that is completely out of my hands, and while I wish I could just let it go and see what happens that just doesn’t seem to be one of my virtues. And there are always the horror stories. Everyone knows someone who is waiting months and months for their visa, or has been kicked out of the country because they did their application wrong, despite being fine upstanding citizens who contribute to society. So it’s hard to not imagine the worst.
And of course this is yet ANOTHER situation where being an American means that you get next to no sympathy. Everyone (and I really mean everyone) can regale you with stories about how awful the American embassies are, how expensive, how time-consuming, how difficult to get visas (and if anyone is reading this and saying ‘that’s me!’, it’s not JUST you. I promise. EVERYONE). I understand that America charges premium rates and takes their sweet-ass time about everything, but that doesn’t mean that my fear means any less. That if the life that I’ve built over the last year and 3 months vanishes for reasons beyond my control, or is even delayed, I’ll be any less devastated. I know that loads and loads of people deal with this everyday. That I’m not the only one and that I’m very lucky to be from an incredibly low-risk country. But it’s still nerve-wracking.
So as ecstatic as I am to be home for the holidays and as wonderful as it’s been, I just keep hoping that I can get back on that plane January 4th.
Thanks for listening to me bitch and moan on the internet.