Well, this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me! I have officially received my UK visa, and I’m moving to England! I fly out on Wednesday, October 12th. All the pictures in this post are from York, where I’ll be moving to. I have so many feelings about this—I am feeling ALL the feels. I am excited, I am scared shitless, I am nervous, I am ecstatic, I am happy, I am relieved. I have a new to-do list to do in the next 23 days, and there are a million things on it. I already feel like I’m running out of time! There are so many things I want to say about my visa and moving and England and York and all of it, so here we go.
I AM SO RELIEVED I GOT THE VISA
Applying for this visa has to be one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I have been planning this visa for nearly a year, and actively compiling paperwork since June. I plan to write a more detailed post about my application process at a later point, but let’s just say I have never been more anxious/stressed/nervous for anything. The total costs for my visa came to about $3300, so I pretty much only had this one shot. I couldn’t afford to apply again if I didn’t get it. But just about 2 months since I started the application, my visa was in front of me. While I am (obviously) eligible for this visa, and I ticked all the boxes, I was still so worried. What if I missed something? What if the paperwork was wrong? What if they decided to change the rules halfway through my application? I gave so many sleepless nights and so many tears to UK Visas & Immigration. I am so, so, SO relieved that I got my visa. I’m so glad to also have my passport back—it is the most valuable possession I own, and I felt seriously naked without it.
FAQ about my visa
The visa I have is a settlement visa through my partner (husband/spouse/best friend/travel buddy/favorite person) Adam. My visa is valid for 2.5 years (30 months), when I will then apply to extend it for another 2.5 years/30 months (which means I get to do all this stressful paperwork all over again—YAY!). Once I have lived in the UK for 5 years, I will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain, a really fancy way of saying England can never kick me out. Once I have Indefinite Leave to Remain, I can then apply for citizenship if I want to (still undecided on this one). My visa makes me fully eligible to live and work in the UK, any job, any city, anywhere in the country. This flexibility makes me feel so much less stressed—unlike a work visa, I’m not limited to certain high-paying jobs. I can work any job, even in a coffee shop (which I will honestly probably end up doing since I don’t know if I can find a job from abroad in 23 days). So for now, I don’t have to worry about my visa until June 2019! But…
The visa/entry process is completely different since my year abroad in 2013/2014
Everything is different from my first (student) UK visa. This time, the actual visa in my passport (“travel vignette”) gives me entry clearance for 30 days. I have to enter the UK within those 30 days, otherwise I have to pay $257 and do more paperwork, which I just can’t deal with. Once I enter the UK, I have 10 days to go collect my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which is my actual visa that lets me live and work in the UK, get on the NHS (National Health Service, the UK’s nationalized healthcare system), rent a flat, etc. That whole process is new to me, so it will be a journey to make sure I do everything right.
This visa was very expensive.
Just to drive this point home: $3300 for a big sticker in my passport, the right to live and work in the UK, and access to the NHS (which was $800 for 2.5 years). So let’s just say, I will be going to the doctor ALL THE TIME, just for shits and gigs, just because I can, BECAUSE IT WILL BE FREE!!! NO CO-PAY! This is very exciting for me. I like free things. Also, please hug your loved ones closer today. The right to live and work in the same country as the person you love is something I took for granted for so long, and will never ever underestimate again.
This isn’t a trip—it’s the real deal
One of my biggest pet peeves when I moved to Nottingham was how everyone kept referring to it as my “trip.” But it wasn’t really a trip, when I was gone for 9 months and unpacked and living in a place to call my own. This time, it’s not a trip either—it’s the real deal, it’s permanent, I am moving to England for good. So please don’t call it my “trip” !!
I AM NOT MOVING TO LONDON! I am moving to York!
Another one of my biggest pet peeves. When people refer to any of my trips/year abroad and continually only talked about London. “Have so much fun in London!” –said everyone even when I was living in Nottingham. I am not moving to London! There are more cities in England! There are even more cities in the UK! I love London (like, a LOT), but I’m not moving there. I’m moving to York, a town in the north of England (see below). Nottingham ≠ London. York ≠ London. England ≠ London. London is one of my favorite cities and I plan to visit often. But I am moving to England and York, not London!
I really like York—I’ve got a really good feeling about living there
I’ve visited York twice now, and really enjoyed my visit both times. York is a very charming, old medieval city that still has the original city walls built by the Romans in 71 AD (although much of the wall today dates from the 12th-14th centuries). It also has a bitching cathedral (one of the finest in the country and one of the largest in Europe!), lots of museums, tons of history, and is located close to both the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, national parks that I’m really looking forward to exploring. Despite the fact that York was basically all under water during my last visit (due to major flooding), it’s a really nice city. All of the pictures in this post are from York! So I like York and I’m excited to live there.
I’ve already lived in England—my study abroad was my test run
Probably the main reason I decided to study abroad for a year in England was as a practice run to see if I actually wanted to live in England. Could I deal with the rain? Could I handle the passive aggressiveness of the Brits? Would I like taking trains instead of driving? From my first day in Nottingham, I knew that yes, I do belong in England. It won’t always be easy—some days it will be really, really hard—but I know that it’s right for me. There are lots of things I’ve gotten practice with already, like missing my friends and family, the importance of Skype calls, and the panic when you can’t find Skippy peanut butter in the grocery store. I know pants are underwear and trousers are pants, kebabs are the greatest thing to ever exist, and to never jump the queue. There will be good days and bad days, like there always are in life, but I’m comforted in the fact that I’ve done it before and I have an amazing support system already in place for me in England.
NO MORE LONG DISTANCE!
Long distance relationships are the worst. Transcontinental long distance relationships are the woooooooooooorst. I am so excited that Adam and I don’t have to do long distance anymore. I am so excited that we get to finally live in the same country. We have always had this end goal in sight, and I’m so happy this day is finally here. After doing years of Skype calls, our Someday has finally come. So, so happy.
A word on passport privilege
I am so incredibly fortunate, lucky, privileged, and blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America and to hold an American passport. A US passport is one of the most powerful passports in the world—I can visit 174 countries without a visa. Time and time again, throughout my visa application process, we were told that “oh, that doesn’t really matter since she’s American,” “you don’t really need to do that, since she’s American,” “there’s no need for that paperwork, she’s American.” My visa was processed in 30 days, instead of the 12 weeks (or even up to 24 weeks!) that it takes for citizens of other countries. Americans are so incredibly privileged in our globalized world. I am so lucky.
Please don’t call me an expat
I really don’t like the term “expat” (short for expatriate), someone who lives in another country than their citizenship. Because it seems to me like only white Westerners get to be expats—everyone else is classified as immigrants. This is subtle racism where white Westerners are privileged beyond all belief and people of different skin colors with different passports are put down. I could say so much more about this, but I’ll cut it short for now. But it realllllllly bothers me. So please don’t call me an expat!
Don’t worry, I WILL be voting absentee
Within just a few hours of telling people, I had three different people remind me to make sure to vote absentee before I go. DON’T WORRY! I would never miss an election that could have such catastrophic consequences for the US and the world at large, and I know that Hillary needs every vote she can get. It’s the first thing on my to-do list for this week.
England has always been my dream
I don’t even know when it started. But England has always been my dream. It’s always been England. I have loved this country for what seems like forever. I don’t totally know what I’ll do once I get there—what do you do when your greatest dream comes true? My heart is so full to know that I will finally get to live there. And I am so excited to start the next chapter of my life with Adam, who is my match in every way possible.
When I moved to England last time, there was one quote that stuck out to me. It’s a beautiful thing, when your heart and body and mind and soul are all in the same place at the same time. I felt this quote every day, in the air I breathed and in the neverending rain and in the castles and cathedrals and rolling green hills. I know that I will feel this same way again in just a few weeks, in the next chapter of my life and the next chapter of my love affair with England. This photo (above) is from June 3rd 2014, one of the happiest days of my life. Taken at the village of Fotheringhay, by Adam, on a castle mound that I made him drive me to, on a glorious warm and sunny day overlooking green fields and an old church—all with the person I loved. This quote is all I can think of when I look back on that moment and this picture. Martin Luther King Jr., from his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in 1964:
“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me on this journey! I wouldn’t be ready for this next step without your love and understanding. Here’s to the next adventure!