Thursday was another milestone in my adventures as an immigrant as I hit the four year anniversary of my arrival in the UK. I didn’t have too much time to celebrate this achievement (and it really is an achievement) as it was another busy London working day for me, but I am still a little bit proud that I’ve lasted so long and survived the sometimes tough, heartbreaking, killer times here.
Mostly though, I’m looking forward as it’s actually going to be a pretty busy year of paperwork and details and filling in forms. In less than a year I need to cough up a whopping £1400 or so to apply for my indefinite-leave-to-remain, which means I can then be treated like a normal person here and study at University at reduced rates, have a better chance of getting a mortgage, maybe get one of the first home schemes, go on the Dole (just kidding), not have people worried about the end date on my Visa when applying for jobs and oh STAY HERE FOR AS LONG AS I WANT!
To get this I’ll need to also study for a ‘Life in the UK’ test, which the Tory government have changed to be more about UK history and other interesting things that I’d actually like to brush up on more (and maybe I’ll just know anyway after travelling around here for so long and being from a British colony). It’s going to be a busy year and somehow it makes more feel like more of an outsider than I normally do on my Ancestry Visa with my so-very-English surname. I normally tick along pretty nicely here, feeling mostly like I belong except for the times that English people think that it’s ok to open a conversation with ‘Hi, when are you going back’ (honestly, this does happen) and I feel like a cheeky Kiwi and how dare I have the audacity to leave the country that my ancestors sat on boats for six months to get to.
I also, by the Grace of God, found out last week, that while my Visa in my expired passport is fine for me to go in and out of the country on, it is not fine for me to start a new job with. The law changed last year and of course no one thought to tell me. Of course. Thankfully through a random conversation at work last week I found out about this and can now scuttle off and pay for a new biometric residency card. But sheesh, what would have happened if I hadn’t had that conversation? I could have been out of work for months waiting for that to process. Sometimes God’s provision comes in really nice, little ways like this and I’m grateful.
So back to my four year anniversary, as I’m now on the home straight to citizenship my thoughts have turned to ‘what next’ after that. Something I’ll explore more on this blog as a single gal turning forty (shhhh…) is a rather big milestone. I can’t help but think that 2017 will be quite a big year for me and I’m going to make some plans and dream a little. If I’m honest it is scaring me just a little bit too, while I think I’m going to be very pleased to be British after so many years here and it’ll be of course great to have EU citizenship as well, I know it’s going to put another wedge between myself and my home country. I’m very lucky I get to have dual-citizenship I know, but I also anticipate that it’ll be a strange feeling as well to actually know I can stay here the rest of my life.
Right now, I always have to keep a little part of me protected from ever feeling totally settled here as if anything changes like going back to NZ suddenly, a change in the Ancestry Visa laws, even a problem with my health, I know I just couldn’t stay here. But once I have that stamp in my passport, well that’ll be a totally different story. It is exciting, but it scares me also. If I stay single and don’t have a family of my own, then I can see I’ll probably never really have a major draw to any geographical area and that scares me a bit. Maybe it’s part of what I’m called to, but I still find it a bit daunting right now. In Maori (the indigenous people in NZ) there is a word turangawaewae which basically means ‘a place to stand’ and in their culture that is clearly linked to a geographical tribal area where your after birth would be buried and eventually you would be buried too.
Years ago, when I first moved to Wellington I remember visiting a church where someone had a prophetic word that some people there were feeling quite disconnected, but that Christ was our turangawaewae, our place to stand. I knew very much that I was meant to hear that and they are words that come back to me regularly – He needs to be my identity, my place, my home. Somehow, too, my church family provide a turangawaewae for me, there are so many churches in our wider ‘family’ that I can go around the world feeling totally at home and knowing that there will be Christians to be in community with, it really does make expat life so much easier.
So four years down, I can be so proud of what I’ve stuck through, so grateful to God for his provision and providing me with the fresh start I didn’t really know I needed when I booked my flight. I’m not out of the woods yet, the next patch is going to be a rather challenging bit, but I’m almost there.