Yesterday was a big deal in our house. Rolando my husband got his first British passport. Rolando is from Ecuador in South America. We met while I was living and working there in my early twenties.
Getting a British passport might not seem like much of an event but it is the final step of quite a journey to become a British Citizen.
How to become a British citizen in 15 (not so) easy steps.
1. Meet a girl, fall in love decide that you want to get married and spend your lives together (this is the easiest step!)
2. Apply for a visa to study in the uk – have your visa application rejected (cost of failed application £200). Call your girl friend, cry together.
3. Girl friend flies to Ecuador. Contact a registry office in the UK to arrange your wedding and get confirmation of your booking sent to Ecuador. Go to the British embassy together and spend a day proving that you have a genuine relationship. This involves an interview and presenting evidence that you are a real couple, such as photos, copies of emails and love letters. Your girl friend is interviewed separately to verify all of the information given. We thought it might be like playing Mr. And Mrs but disappointingly it was much more formal. Have the immigration officer check that your wedding appointment is genuine. (Cost of application £200).
4. Be granted a Fiancé visa giving you 8 weeks to get married. Fly to the UK. Nearly die from cold as it is February, snowing and you don’t own any winter clothes. Immediately get man flu.
5. Sort out lots of the wedding arrangements while your fiancé is working. Explore the city and get to grips with life in the UK. Apply to do volunteer work but realise that you are not allowed to as you do not have the right to do even unpaid work in the UK.
6. Got married. This is one of the happiest days of our lives even if it was all arranged very quickly. Wonder about the Home Office’s sense of romance.
7. Spend a day with your new wife in the lovely immigration offices in Croydon, detail every aspect of your life and be granted 3 years limited leave to remain in the UK. (Cost of application £500).
8. Study for and pass the Life in the UK test. (Cost of test £50). Test your work colleagues using the practice questions, wonder how the native British people you talk to don’t know half this stuff.
9. Send details of every aspect of your life to the Home Office (bank statements, mortgage statement, employment history, marriage certificate, evidence that you still live with your wife, your wife’s bank statement, evidence of not having a criminal record etc). Wait a few months to be throughly checked out. Be granted indefinite leave to remain. (Cost of application £600).
10. Live and work in the UK, pay tax, buy a house, have 3 children, run a marathon, learn to drive, start a business, employ some British people, volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics and generally keep yourself busy. Get slightly concerned about the stereotypical, one dimensional image of immigrants that is sometimes portrayed in the UK press. Listen to lots of conversations that begin with the statement “I’m not racist but……”
11. Undertake 4 hours of English ability testing to check your written and spoken English and English comprehension. (Cost of test £80). Boast to your wife that you scored 100% of every test and point out any grammatical error she makes!
12. Send off more paper work to the Home Office, wait 4 months. Be granted British Citizenship. Get very excited! Find it funny that this happened on the same day that Scotland voted to remain part of the UK, a good day to become British. (Cost of application £950).
13. Attend a Citizenship ceremony – the campest ceremony that you can imagine. Pledge to be a good citizen in front of a portrait of the queen, sing the national anthem. Have cups of tea and cake with some local dignitaries. Get a letter included with your citizenship certificate from the Home Secretary Theresa May emphasising the importance of upholding British values.
14. Apply for your first passport. Realise that you need to have another interview, this time at the passport office (Cost of application £80). Attend the passport office in Luton and answer lots of questions to verify your identity.
15. Receive your shiny new British passport!
There you have it the many steps of Rolando’s immigration journey. Don’t get me wrong I totally understand that people need to be thoroughly vetted before they can live permanently in the UK. We are very relieved that we have been able to provide every bit of evidence the Home Office have asked for along the way. We’ll be having a glass of bubbly this evening and raising a toast to this 11 year, £2,660 process.