I originally moved to Bristol, in the United Kingdom, because of a research grant my husband received. Then he received another, which finished two weeks ago. He's spent the past year hunting for a more permanent job, but you all know how difficult the market has been. I kept hoping for good news to share here, but even this summer, I honestly didn't know where in the world we'd end up next.
Well, finally, good news: Phil has been offered (and accepted!) a one-year position at the University of Bristol. It was only this week that we submitted our new visa applications (and they still haven't been processed, but we're crossing our fingers!).
It's been an arduous few weeks (not to mention almost a year of uncertainty!). There was a lot of bureaucracy involved, and then the applications themselves can be quite demanding. We had to get photos taken, prove we're native English speakers, assemble proof of bank accounts, our marriage, and academic degrees, along with filling out miles of paperwork. And then there's the fees, many hundreds of pounds just to process the applications.
I do understand, though. The government wants to make sure we're here legally, that we can afford to stay here, and that we'll add value to the country through Phil's work.
But I've spent much of the past few weeks wondering how the application process might look different if perhaps we weren't judged by bank accounts and university degrees, but rather by the life we've led the past four years.
For example, when this position at the University opened up, Phil's colleagues unanimously wanted to offer it to Phil (I'm his wife, I can brag on his behalf!).
And when I told the primary school teacher I volunteer with once a week that I might not be back the following year, she offered to write a letter to the Border Agency herself, letting them know how useful I've been.
Of course, there's more to integrating into a country than work.
The Border Agency would probably want character references. So I think about all the friends we've made here. I think about my writing friends, my library book group, my orchestra, four years of Thanksgiving celebrations in our packed living room.
But perhaps the UK government would also like to know that we're not complete outsiders, that we've absorbed our share of British culture. Well, besides an MA in Writing for Young People, I've mastered a mean scone recipe (the quickest way to my heart, of course, being my stomach). I might be trying out some more baking after the past two months watching The Great British Bake-Off. I'm totally addicted to Downton Abbey, and may or may not (it's unconfirmed) have a thing for Kevin McCloud, the host of Grand Designs.
Of course, there's also the matter of dancing in front of hundreds of kids as the beloved Horrid Henry while volunteering for the Bath Kids Lit Fest. Surely that's got to count for something? I could even send my picture in the Telegraph in as evidence!
The more I thought about what this type of application would look like, the more certain I was that Phil and I would pass it. Over four years, Bristol really has become part of my life, and a home in all senses of the word. I've spent a lot of time looking forward to going back to the US, but I have to admit, now that I'm not going, I'm kind of looking forward to another year here.
As long as those visa applications get approved. Maybe I should send the Border Agency this link?
Thanks, everyone, and especially my British friends. Guess we'll have to put up with each other for another year!
Me & Phil at a Bristol Badgers baseball game
All pictures are mine (except the Great British Bake Off shot): Me "steering" the SS Great Britain, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and the Balloon Fiesta over Bristol's skyline