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Keeping Your Eye On The Expat Ball

So, a couple of things I’m hearing have this expat more than a little perturbed. The first is the fact that all British passports now have to be processed in the UK, as opposed to at various British Embassies, as has been the practice heretofore.

Inevitably, we are now hearing of huge, and I mean huge, delays for Brits abroad attempting to renew British passports Apparently the addition of expat Brits to the passport renewal process in the UK has led to an astonishing 30,000 backlog in the entire system.The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has promised that Brits in the UK with “an urgent need to travel” will be given special help to do so, and expat Brits will be given a one year extension to allow them to return to Britain, although exact details remain somewhat sketchy and “urgent need” has yet to be qualified.

A quick look at my family’s passports assures me that we are good for a few years but for anyone approaching expiration, or sitting with an expired passport, I suggest you get on the case tout de suite.

More seriously, in the last few years, changes in UK immigration rules may have considerable repercussions for any expat Brits who had planned to return to Blighty at some time in the future. At the American Resident, the blog written by Expat Focus columnist Michelle Garrett, I was horrified to read:

“Under the reforms, British citizens married to non-European Economic Area nationals have to sponsor their spouse in order to bring them into the country. As part of the requirements to qualify for entry, the British national of the couple has to demonstrate that he or she has employment paying in excess of £18.600 a year, and that this position has been held for a minimum of six months prior to application. If there are any children involved, the annual income has to be even higher, with the first child adding an additional £3.800, and any others increasing the cost an additional £2.400 each.”

There is also a more detailed explanation of the whole sorry mess here.

In other words, depending on our savings, it looks like I can’t go home. While my husband (the breadwinner, for all intents and purposes) earns more than enough to meet these criteria, I don’t. His salary doesn’t seem to matter, even though we have been married for over twenty years. And if, as is always the suspicion, it was a marriage of convenience, something went decidedly awry over the years.

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Furthermore, for me to meet the earning requirement, I have to have had a job in the UK for at least six months prior to my American spouse being allowed in. How on earth are families supposed to do that?

I understand that this legislation is designed to prevent people bringing families in from abroad and then living off the state, but a) it doesn’t apply to EU people, and b) it completely ignores the proof that the family, via the breadwinner, is able to supports itself on arrival in the UK.

When I married my husband, my salary didn’t matter; for entry into the USA, my husband had to be my sponsor and prove that he had the means to support me financially. I get that.

We were newly married and, in theory, I could have been marrying him just to get my green card. But as I mentioned, we’ve been married for over twenty years and have three children- all of whom have British citizenship, by the way.

So, in short expats everywhere, keep an eye on what’s happening in your “home” country and in your host countries, as things have a habit of creeping up on you.

Toni Summers Hargis has a new book – “The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students”. (Summertime). She is also the author of “Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom” (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.

Read Toni's other Expat Focus articles here.

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