Growing up, as an American, we had to pledge allegiance to the flag every morning in school. It’s just what was done. Now, grown up and a permanent resident in the United Kingdom, despite not being able to claim citizenship yet, I also, in my own way, pledge allegiance to the Queen. I am proud to live in, work in and raise my family in the United Kingdom. I have never had to defend myself or my right to reside in this country until this year but now it seems that I do. So let me tell you how I’ve come to live in this great United Kingdom and what it means to me.
6 years ago I started my very long, arduous and rather expensive path to becoming a permanent resident. After entering the UK in June of 2005 (on a 6 month, no-Visa-required-because-I-am-an-American stay) I began to research what Mark and I would need to do to get married legally in the UK and for me to continue to reside here. The first step on our path was for me to apply for a Fiancee Visa as Mark and I were engaged and planned to marry in March of 2006. In order for me to do that I had to get OUT of the UK and apply in my home country (USA). I sent off the necessary paperwork, secured an appointment at the British Embassy in Chicago, Illinois and then headed back to the US in the middle of September 2005. I was advised (by Expat websites and Government data) that all paperwork that supported the evidence of our relationship was to be provided. I went through phone bills, postcards, emails and compiled a neat and tidy dossier showing that Mark and I intended to be wed in a normal fashion and weren’t just trying to fool the government.
I spent a long weekend in Chicago with my Mom and 2 other friends and visited the British Embassy for my appointment. The clerk assigned to my “case” went over all of my documents and asked questions while I nervously fidgeted in my seat. Ultimately, I was granted a Fiancee Visa with Temporary Leave to Remain. A sticker was placed in my US passport and I would be permitted to enter the UK and remain until the end of March 2006, after we were married. We would have to apply for a Marriage Visa and Limited Leave to Remain status after the marriage. I wouldn’t be able to apply for Permanent Resident Status and Unlimited Leave to Remain until we had been married for 2 years (March 2008).
All of these stages of visas, leave to remain and appointments were stressful, paper-heavy and EXPENSIVE. If memory serves me, each step was around £500 in costs not including transport to interviews and postage costs. Prior to being granted Permanent Resident Status/Unlimited Leave to Remain in March 2008, the government changed the protocol for application and required all applicants to take the UK Citizenship Test in addition to the paperwork and £500+ fee. I studied and studied. Heavily pregnant and full of inane knowledge about the UK I took the exam in a room where I appeared to be the only native English speaker. Approximately 5 minutes later, I left the room, having passed the test with flying colours (25/25) and would eventually be granted my Permanent Resident status.
Thankfully, after Mark and I were married and we were granted our Marriage Visa and Limited Leave to Remain status, I was allowed to seek employment. As of 2006, I became the proud bearer of a National Insurance Number and began paying taxes through my work. I was allowed to benefit from the NHS as any other citizen/leave-holder would be. England was now my official home and despite not being able to vote (as I am not, technically, a citizen) I have always been proud to live and reside here. I do fully intend to become a citizen of the UK (I would retain my American citizenship & officially be a dual citizen) as I plan to reside here for the forseeable future and am proudly raising my half-English/half-American daughter with my ever so wonderful English husband in this country. The cost of becoming a citizen is the prohibitive factor for the time being but one day, I will indeed pledge allegiance to the Queen and look forward to doing so.
Why am I relating all of this
perhaps boring scintilating information to you? Well, in the last year, I have had people question my right to benefit from the UK and even point out to me that I perhaps don’t have a right to criticise the country in which I live. I know I have been critical of the NHS and have whinged from time to time about other annoying situations when I perhaps shouldn’t have. But guess what? When I was a full-time resident of the US, you can bet your sweet bippy that I was critical of government decisions that affected me. I whinged about annoying situations from time to time. It’s what people do. But is that only permissable when you are a citizen of the country about which you are whinging? NO! There are plenty of British Citizens who complain about America and other countries. And there are plenty of British Citizens who are critical of the British Government and all that comes with it. So why is it OK for them and not for me? I contribute to the UK through National Insurance, taxes and my presence. I have birthed another citizen of the empire and am cooking up another so am I not permitted to shout when something is wrong?
I have fully adopted life in the UK. I pronounce words the way they are meant to be pronounced, I spell the way the English do, I drive (fully licensed) on the left side of the road and obey all rules of the road. I make tea and enjoy drinking it, I use my food utensils properly and am quite fond of the Royal Family (well, most of them anyway). I do my part and say “we” when referring to my adopted homeland. I even support England Football when the chips are down (as they usually seem to be these days). So what more do I have to do to be accepted? Shell out £600+ to participate in a ceremony where I officially pledge allegiance to the Queen and get a certificate and UK passport to take away? Well, I’m working on that. But will that make a difference? Does that suddenly grant me the permission and acceptance to whinge about the UK? You tell me!
I have also been told that writing critically requires skill in order to NOT incite backlash. Apparently I don’t have it. I can say that I have really tried to be respectful of my adopted home and curtail my whinging since events occurred earlier this year as it’s never been my desire to offend or upset. I’m simply a wife/mother/woman who has become frustrated from time to time and has used her blog to vent those frustrations. I’m going to go make a cuppa now, have some scones and keep calm while carrying on. Oh, and sing “God Save the Queen” while doing so…feel free to join me…pip pip!