So Keenan and I hit a big milestone in our little ex-pat adventure: we were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) on Tuesday. After living and working for five years, we are now bonafide permanent residents of the United Kingdom and 365 days away from getting our British citizenship. This means we can live and work in the U.K for the rest of lives if we wanted to - without being tied to an employer, giving us the flexibility and freedom that we couldn't enjoy whilst being on the 5 year work permit.
The process was fairly straightforward and Keenan's company paid for all fees and retained a law firm to assist us with the paper work and booked an appointment at the public enquiry office (PEO) in Croydon on our behalf. It involved us compiling three months + worth of bank statements and payslips; getting an employer letter, original marriage certificate; days out of the country; pass the Life in the UK test (yes, I know that the capital of Scotland is Edinburgh, thanks); and complete SET (O) forms for ILR.
The morning of the PEO appointment, we took the train to East Croydon from London Bridge to meet the agent who accompanied us through the whole process. All said and done, it took us about 3 hours to register our details, pay for the fees, complete the biometrics, and then wait whilst our application was under review. Then we get our brand new residency cards via post sent to the law firm.
For those of you who will be getting ILR in the near future (congrats on being in the UK for 5 years!), some helpful tips:
- If you haven't done so, start keeping track of your days out of the country on excel, including start date, finish date, and purpose of the trip. You should set up a formula to help you automatically calculate your days of the country.
- The immigration laws keep changing; so check the Home Office/UKBA on the latest rules and fees at least six to eight months prior to your application. If you want to do the premium service where you'll know of your outcome within 1 day and so you do not have to surrender your passport for three to six month, the fee is £2589 for the main applicant and 1 dependent. Otherwise, the fee is £1839. We were lucky to have Keenan's firm pay for both our application fees and legal fees.
- Whilst you need to only supply three months worth of 'proof of income,' I highly recommend that you keep all of your pay stubs and bank statements. You may not need all of it but you never know when you need for things like applying for mortgages.
- If you are on a Tier 1 visa and self-employed, I highly recommend that you seek legal advice. The bulk of the SET (O) form is for applicants under Tier 1.
- Last, if you travel under your maiden name (on your passport) but is known by your married name in the UK, like myself, then better for you to sort this out prior to avoid any issues. I still travel under my maiden name as I didn't get around to changing my name on my passport but all bills, bank statements and payslips, etc are in my married name. The issue was that I didn't have a proof of address that has my maiden name on it that matches my passport. Opps. It's not an issue at the Home/UKBA office as the name change is generally bridged by your marriage certificate. It becomes slightly more problematic at the third party Life in the UK test centres where the guy outright rejected my US marriage certificate and I couldn't take the test. Apparently, they only recognise UK marriage certificates... and they follow instructions by the Home Office to the T. Anyways, I got a deed poll and got a bank account under my maiden name, but didn't need either my second time at the test centre, thankfully.
This is by far the best gift ever on the eve of our fifth wedding anniversary. Thank you UKBA! We celebrated the occasion by popping open a bottle of Moet & Chandon. Cheers to the next five years!