Yes, I think that the UK Border Agency is in kahootz with my Mum – One wants to keep us out of the UK, the other wants us to stay in Australia (hi Mum!). When we first hatched this plan to sell everything we own and take the kids on the Global Adventure of a lifetime, we expected that our first destination outside of Australia would be London. Why London you ask? One of the most expensive cities in the world?! Sure, it’s an unlikely destination for new digital nomads but hear me out. First, we’ve lived there before, so we have experience of relocating there. Second, it’s our favourite city in the world, and one that we want to share with our kids. And third, I am a school teacher, so I hoped to pick up some well paying supply work there, to fund our stay in such an expensive place.
But how does an Australian family of four come to expect that relocating to the UK is even possible, let alone easy? Simple. The kids and I have British Citizenship and Simon had “Indefinite Leave to Remain” stamped in his passport last time we lived there. We were not planning on living in the UK for the rest of our lives, just a short stint, (maybe a school year) before heading off to continue the adventure.
After a bit of digging around on the UKBA website (code for HOURS of unraveling mysteries) I read that to have his “Indefinite Leave to Remain” stamp moved to his new passport Simon just had to prove that he still had strong ties to the UK. Married to a UK citizen and two British kids… easy we thought. Ah Ha! Roadblock number one. Apparently a wife and children ARE NOT strong ties, hmmm who knew? It would appear that property, bank accounts, frequent visits etc are stronger ties.
Fair enough UKBA you’ve got us on that one. But were we discouraged? No way! We’ll just apply for a spouse entry visa. It’s what we did last time, a couple of forms, a couple of hundred pound, and butta bing, butta bang… Visa! – Wrong! More digging around on that bloody indecipherable website, revealed that the visa we’d acquired quite easily back in 1998 had radically changed. Now, to be approved for spouse entry into the UK, Simon has to prove that I (yes me the British Citizen) have been earning the equivalent of £18,000 pa (AUD $34,000) for the 6 months leading up to our relocation, and that I had an offer of work in the UK for a position that would earn at least £18,000 pa. plus savings in the bank (untouched for 6 months). Hmmm… BIG roadblock! Back in my teaching days that might have been easy to prove. But I had been self employed, and not exactly writing payslips for myself, and not to mention, the business sold in October and I am unemployed now. Crap. There was another option however. The UKBA kindly suggested that if I could not prove my income, I need only provide evidence of savings in the bank over £62,000 (yes, that’s AUD $115,000) untouched for 6 months. Crap. Crap. Why did it have to me? Me who had been in and out of the classroom around having a family. Me who had given away a steady paycheck for a pretty pick cupcake shop. Me who had been relying on my fabulous husband’s earning capacity to take care of things all these years. Crap. Crap. Crap.
Discouraged yet?! Well I have to admit, maybe a little at that point. Not enough to panic and call the Real Estate agent to pull our house off the market. Just enough to make us think OK – same dream, different plan – we’ll go somewhere else. I went to bed to sleep on it that night, and sure enough by the time I woke the next morning, I had a strong desire to find out who Surinder Singh was. Never heard of him? Neither had I before my digging about, but apparently he’s the guy who took the UKBA to court, reminding the UK government that they are in the European Union now, and like it not, Europeans like keeping families together. The Surinder Singh case states that if a British Citizen lives in another EU state with their non EU family members, and then wishes to return to the UK, they and their spouse will be exercising their EU treaty rights for freedom of movement. No minimum income threshold and no cost to the family. Ha! Take that UKBA! We’ll just start out in Europe (perhaps Italy?), hang about for a few months, I could teach some English, and then into the UK we go.
That was a couple of months ago. Last night I checked out the UKBA website again to see what those cheeky buggers have been up to whilst the rest of us were enjoying our Christmas dinner. Yup. You guessed it. They’ve shifted the goal-post again. In the latest installment of “Keep that Aussie, Simon out” the rules now state, that to exercise my EU treaty rights for freedom of movement, I (yes me again) have to be able to prove that I shifted the ‘centre of my life’ from the UK to another EU state, before deciding to go back to the UK with my Australian husband. What on earth does that mean? Who knows, but you can bet your last British Pound Sterling it’s sure to be near impossible to prove.
For now, we’ve decided to let the politicians argue about it. At the current rate of change, and with a British High Court hearing scheduled for March, there seems to be no point in us trying to satisfy the current requirements for Simon’s entry into the UK. We get there, when we get there. I just hope that with all this fuss though, the door isn’t closed to Simon, and many others like him, who’d just like to visit the UK as a tourist with their British family. Not to work. Not to be a burden on the British tax payer. Not to stay until he’s got one foot in the grave. Just long enough to ride a double decker red bus with the kids, and go check out the Tower of London 😉