by Genevieve Rogis
Over the next few months, I will be applying for an unmarried partner visa in the UK. You can start from part one of my Visa Diaries series here.My visa arrived yesterday! I’m now in the throes of packing and sorting, arranging farewell catch ups, and consoling my mother. She’s pleased for me, but she’s still my mum, so my inevitable departure is still a wrench.
When I last left off, I was demoralised, frustrated, and fuming at the inadequate communication and poor service provided by UK Visas and Immigration.
The good news is that I am no longer demoralised or frustrated. But it’s going to take a while for me to stop fuming.
I did end up calling the hotline. I wasn’t impressed that the charges incurred on the user-pay line included the time it took to take my credit card details.
That said, the woman I spoke to was as helpful as she could be, given the limited resources at her disposal. I was not comforted, however, when she was surprised my application hadn’t been processed yet, and even less pleased when she couldn’t find any information about my application at all.
The result was more waiting as she ‘escalated’ my case. The final response was a terse email a week later informing me that as my application was still within ‘service standard’, and no update would be provided.
A week later, I tried the email service again, and this time the results were far more positive. I was informed that a decision had been made, but not what that decision was.
A day later, my passport turned up in my letterbox. It wasn’t sent registered post. No one had to sign for it. They didn’t even put it in anyone’s hand. They just left it, in an unsecured letterbox on a busy street.
I want to emphasise, here, the absolutely deplorable level of communication from the UK Visa and Immigration service (UKVI). At no point did I receive any correspondence letting me know that my application had been successful. I wouldn’t have even been aware that my passport was on the way if I hadn’t taken the time to contact them myself.
If it had been stolen out of the mail, I would never have known.
It goes without saying that I’ve been pretty upset by my dealings with UKVI every step of the way. But at least in my case the outcome has finally been a positive one, and I’ll be back in the UK next week.
For the record, as happy as I am to finally start shifting into action again and restart the life I’ve put on hold, there is always some sadness. As I shake off the apathy of uncertainty, I can regret the things I didn’t do with the time I had here. And I can think again what it means to live on the other side of the world to my family.
Don’t misunderstand me. My life is in the UK right now, and that is where I want it to be. Like many expats and migrants, however, there is always a part of me that is split between my two homes.
Even as I jubilantly tell my London family and friends that I am returning home, I feel the distance it puts between me and the home of my earlier life, and the family and friends that still make me feel like I belong in Australia.
I have spent much of my time here on this visit going through the belongings that I dumped on my parents six years ago when I left for what I thought would be a short hurrah. Boxes filled with memories bring to mind relationships and places I thought I’d forgotten. I’ve had to think hard about what to hold on to, and what to let go.
So, even as I begin applying for work in London and making plans to reconnect with my life there, I am properly packing away my life in Australia. Some of it will come back with me. Some of it will stay, tucked away in a corner of my parents’ house, a link with my Australian homeland that I’m not yet willing to sever.
And that’s the end of this part of my story. Until next time, in late 2019, when I’ll have to do it all over again.