Since I have received my British citizenship, a lot of people wanted to know how I did it. Many of you will know that I came the U.K. when I was stationed at RAF Mildenhall in 2006. I met my husband and I had also fallen in love with the country. I decided that I was going to get out and stay here.
Once I got out I applied for my spouse visa (I could not apply until the day after I separated). When I applied, it was still under the Labour government so I only had to have my spouse visa for two years before I could apply for my Indefinite Leave to Remain. Now people have to apply twice (I think that they have to have their spouse visa for 10 years before applying for their Indefinite Leave to Remain) and now they are having to pay a fee that is included for their use of the NHS. While you are on this visa, you have no recourse to public funds, that is no support from the government for things like job seeker's allowance (unemployment) or anything that you do not have to work to earn. You cannot claim anything from the US government either because you are out of the states. However, if you are to say fall pregnant and are working, you can claim maternity allowance because that is a benefit that is given because you have been working.
So after two years, I applied for my ILR. There are many benefits of having this status. One, when you are applying for a job, you are now considered a 'settled person' which means that you are on equal par with any UK/EU person. It makes it easier for the employer because they do not have to make a case for hiring you over a local. Two, you have recourse to public funds that you did not before.
For this you have to take a test called the Life in the UK test. It is meant to judge your grasp of the English language. However, I would recommend people to read it because the information is very helpful to understand the British culture. When I took mine there was a Chinese lady who was taking it for the 6th time. I passed mine the first time and only took about 10 minutes to complete.
The only problem is that this visa is kept in your U.S. passport. If the passport is expired, you are still safe to travel (as long as you carry both with you) but if you want to apply for a new job, they are no longer able to accept them in expired passports. So you have to pay to get it transferred every time you get a new passport which is not cheap!
As you know I have taken the next step and become a British citizen. You can do this three years after getting your ILR if you are married to a British citizen and five years if you are not. I know a lot of people wonder why I did but it allows me to vote in local and EU elections, to get an U.K. passport (which means it is easier for coming and going into the country) and I am able to use it when I apply for jobs as you can see above.
The truth is all of the expats that live in the U.K. have varying stories of how they came to be in the U.K. and how hard or easy this process was for them. I was lucky as I did not have any problem but a colleague of mine had his application rejected because he left his middle name out on his form. It was a costly mistake.
This is not an easy path to follow and it is very expensive as well but I would not change it for the world.
All the Best!
American to Britain
All the Best!
American to Britain