In September 2016, I was asked to write about my experience being an expat, what free movement would mean to me, and what Brexit might mean for me.
I wanted to share this with you, with my updated thoughts, but it seems like CANZUK has removed all of their personal stories that have been submitted over the years, unfortunately.
Here is the original article:
On 24 June 2016, I woke like any other morning – a bit cranky that it was so early and that I actually hadn’t won the lotto / had retired to travel the world with my fiancé. Living in the UK for just over a year, 24 June was a pretty significant day in UK history – referendum results were in.
For months leading up to 24 June, all channels and newspapers were splattered with “In versus Out” campaigns, stories about how people may be affected (on either side of the campaign), and what it could possibly mean for business, trade and finance. That morning, jokingly, we both made comments to the effect of “well, another day in the EU,” thinking that there was absolutely no way the UK would have voted to leave, if for no other reason than the unknown. To our surprise, the results proved us wrong. Shocked would have been an understatement if you had asked how we were feeling. Immediately, we tried to figure out what would happen – assuming the PM would step down, we were trying to analyse possible candidates and made assumptions of who would step in (we were wrong, by the way).
That morning, as usual, I took the train to work. Generally in London, no one makes eye contact with strangers, let alone talk to them on public transportation (unless you’ve indulged in a few libations). All the natter on the train ride was about Brexit. Everyone was talking about it, and everyone had an opinion. A portly gentleman who seemed to have some sort of problem with the world in general, was offering lots of comments about the UK and it’s future (for the record: none of it was overly coherent), but began asking for the opinions of others and what they thought the future held. The kind lady beside basically offered that no one knows what the future held, and I echoed her sentiment when he asked me. Promptly, he told me to row back to America and that my time in the UK was soon over.
Its now two months post-Brexit, and while there have been some changes, we still don’t really know what’s happening. There was fluctuation in the pound, but its climbing back up. We’ve not yet noticed prices rise at the pumps or grocery stores, and I don’t think housing prices have been affected. We’ve recently purchased a flat in south London, and regularly go past the estate agent offices, peering into the window at neighbouring flats and prices are still as high as ever.
From an immigration stand-point, I think that this could possibly help Commonwealth citizens in their immigration to the UK. I’m not a solicitor, immigration specialist, or have a deep knowledge of politics in the UK, but I think that once the UK separates from the EU (should this process actually happen), it will possibly limit the amount of EU residents moving here with the intent to stay long term. If all EU residents who wish to move to the UK post the triggering of Article 50, there would be, I assume, a visa application process like those who reside in the Commonwealth have to currently go through.
From a personal standpoint, the UK is my home. I arrived here in June 2015 and quickly thereafter, met someone & fell in love. We’ve had a busy year of buying a house, travelling (within the UK, and within & outside the EU), and have also recently got engaged. My partner is born & raised in London and his family all lives near by. This is our home and where we plan to spend our lives, at least for the foreseeable future.
When I arrived here in June 2015, I had plans to stay for 2 years (Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa), and didn’t have any long term plans within the UK. Now that I’m here, and more than a year into that visa, with plans to stay forever, I need to consider how Brexit could possibly affect me. For now, no one seems to know whats happening. We don’t know what changes are to come, what Parliament is doing in the lead up to triggering Article 50, or how immigration policies will change. We also don’t know when these changes will happen.
With a wedding planned for May 2017, one month prior to the expiration of my 2 year visa, I am busy planning our wedding, and busy attending to the spouse visa application (LTR F). The fiscal new year is 1 April 2017, so there may be changes then, but there may not be. Given that there seems to be so much unknown at this point, we continue to carry on preparing for the next visa, as it currently is. Right now, I can’t accurately say what’s going to happen, if I’ll have issues submitting my next visa application, if there will be changes to immigration for EU & non-EU citizens and what to expect going forward. I’m not sure anyone in the country currently knows what’s going to happen. With all of that unknown, it does make me feel a bit uneasy. The unknown is a bit daunting, but all I can do is move along the regular process, keeping status quo and hoping for the best.
What people neglect to consider when someone is going through the visa / immigration process is that there is a large investment behind it – both financially and emotionally. My first visa cost a significant amount financially, but also meant that I was leaving my home, all of my friends and family and was taking a major risk. I left my career, my comfort zone and everything that was familiar to me. This time, I am applying for a visa that means whether or not my husband get to spend our lives together in the home we’ve both created.
Free movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK just makes sense. These countries share so many commonalities and the ease of movement between the four countries would create a strong partnership. This union would make things so much easier for me. It would mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about potentially leaving my husband at some point due to visa restrictions. It would mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about the unknowns and the what if’s. It would also mean that I wouldn’t have to pay an extortionate amount every few years to re-apply for new visas. For me, free movement means that we don’t have to worry about ever being separated.