Residency, Citizenship, Bureaucracy and All That Good Shit

take my pick (mrscarmichael)
not taking my pick (mrscarmichael)

I’m a Kiwi and proud of it. My formative years were filled with summer Christmases, batches, the beach, sand dunes, opossums, Southerlies, houses without central heating and packed lunches.

My, slightly, less formative years with Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, The Eagles, uni flats, motorbikes and other bits and bobs best not mentioned here.

I joined IBM. I bought a house with my boyfriend. We sold the house and moved to London. I got a good job. He got a good job.

He had dual citizenship. I did not. But one beneficent grandfather (thanks, Dick) allowed me to gain residency in Blighty where I have remained, for the most part, through the last mumble, mumble aeons.

I love London. When I arrived in Maggie’s England I felt I’d come home. I guess in a way I had, ish, with relatives aplenty hailing from the Welsh boarders, Manchester and, pushing it a little, Eire. Lots of them. Remember the potato famine.

But really I felt at home because I could buy Vogue before the month printed on its cover rather than three months later. Then, oh yes, there is a god, I could go buy the clothes, accessories and other fripperies displayed within its covers. It was London but I thought of it as my little piece of Heaven.

maybe the wrong dates but my point is made (mrscarmichael)
maybe the wrong dates but my point is made (mrscarmichael)

I became a permanent resident and voted here. Renewing my New Zealand passport I got another permanent resident stamp popped onto Page One.

And again in the subsequent passport.

At one point I did attempt to get a British Passport, filled out numerous forms, sat in Petty France with my numbered ticket for numerous hours, only to be told “You’re not going to like this….”

“Oh,” I smile my most winning sale closing smile. “Is there a problem?” I’m shaking my head as I ask hoping that my keen attitude will overcome all obstacles.

But no. Whatever I’d done/hadn’t done there was going to be no British passport for the future Mrs Carmichael that day.

I went home and forgot all about it for the next decade or so.

I split up with my boyfriend. And met Mr C. Not quite in that order.

Truth be told it was quite nice to have thousands of stamps in my NZ passport, visas (entry and exit) and not so nice (but quite exciting) to endure a couple of close shaves that included:

1) A Midnight Express type experience in Tahiti (just after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior) where my good friend, Gracie was allowed entry while I was hauled off to a bare room with a flicking strip light, a whirling ceiling fan and a mean Frenchman who confiscated my passport.

2) A wee day trip from our hotel on the Costa del Sol to Gibraltar resulted in my having to fly home from there because my Spanish visa was single entry only.

3) A New Year’s Eve wasted in the French Legation awaiting a visa renewal (they still hadn’t got over the Rainbow Warrior) so I could drive one inch through France to my Swiss skiing holiday.

4) Not being allowed to arrive on these hallowed shores before Mr C after a three year absence and having to tell a white lie to get in (advice given by the Home Office).

I could go on but really it’s been fine.

Until now.

Now it’s all getting rather silly.

In order then, this is what has happened over the last few months.

Thinking we’d done so well as a nation with the Olympics I actively wanted to gird my loins and try once more to gain a British Passport I girded my loins and tried.

But I cannot get a British Passport now without paying £800 odd to get citizenship for which I must study. Apparently the test’s quite hard.

I flagged it and bought a Kate Spade handbag instead.

I renewed my New Zealand passport. The new one looks nice – all black with a silver fern. The renewal price was a tad on the high side  -£90ish.

And it’s only for five years! Which, of course, means four and a half because most countries demand a six month validity on entry.

I had a wonderful trip to the Antipodes earlier in the year and because my passport was so hot off the press I took the old one just to be on the safe side.

Coming back into Heathrow I had cause to wish the guy in Melbourne had stamped me out because it seemed as if I’d had a bit part in The Terminal and never left airside Terminal Four.

But, once I explained that New Zealand doesn’t stamp my passport, I fast tracked Australia by glaring into a camera etc etc it was all good, I got my entry stamp and went home.

Then I went on the Costa Brava mini break of which so much has been documented and on arrival back at Luton my troubles began.

“When are you leaving the UK?” I was asked.

“I’m not. I live here. I’m a resident.”

” You don’t have a resident’s stamp. Have you got your old passport?”

“No. I wasn’t asked for it last time I came in so I didn’t bring it this time.” Winning smile.

“Hmmm, I’m new. I’ll have to ask someone to help me. I don’t think you have any right of entry.”

Really????? This, I could tell, was going to take some time.

Help arrives. For him, not me.

“Why have you got a visitor’s stamp in your passport?”

“Have I?”

“Yes you have,” That was louder. “Which means we can’t let you in unless you have your old passport or a letter of entry.” That was spoken slowly and very loud.

“Please don’t shout at me. I didn’t put that stamp in my passport. If I’d been asked anything I would have explained, showed my old passport and got the stamp renewed.”

“No you wouldn’t. Border Control doesn’t issue leave of entry stamps anymore. The Home Office does. They cost £350.” (I’m rounding).

“What are we going to do about this then?” I ask. It’s a great sales tactic – bring them into your problem. Sometimes it even works.

“Sit over there, please.”

I was directed to the naughty seat. Where I sat for quite some time. I ignored the image of a cell phone with a cross through it and phoned Daughter #2 who was outside waiting for me. She was less than amused.

I text Mr Carmichael, still in Barcelona, to share my inconvenience.

I sat a while longer and finally I, wife of twenty five years to a Brit, mother of British daughters, homeowner, tax payer, voter, was stamped in for six months.

I was in and that has to count as a good thing.

So, I now have the choice of studying, sitting a test, paying £800 for citizenship and then another £70 for the passport.

Or

paying £350 for that tiny little stamp up above which I will have to pay another £350 in four and a half years because of NZ’s Lilliputian durated passports.

Or

carrying two passports for the foreseeable.

Obviously I chose route three and packed both for my recent sojourn to Mallorca.

It’s all good I think as I walk up the Luton’s Border Control. I was the first in line. That is unheard of you have to understand. There was a time when Gracie got home before I cleared immigration.

“This is my kinda’ queue,” I say in a pathetic attempt to make friends.

The next minute I was back on the naughty seat.

Apparently, because I was given a fixed six month’s entry that limited, clock ticking stamp overrides the residency one in my old passport. FFS.

“What are we going to do about this?” I ask through gritted teeth.

She’s handwritten something that she says may keep me off the naughty step and given me the biggest rubber band to strap around my passports.

I guess life’s supposed to be an adventure. I just don’t want all of mine to be in UK airport queues.

I’m off to America on Sunday and packing two passports, a handwritten note, rubber bands (plural) and my winning smile.

Wish me luck. I think I might need it.

If you can bear any more of this:

The End to a Carmichael Costa Brava Triptych (More Bosch that Beautiful)

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54 thoughts on “Residency, Citizenship, Bureaucracy and All That Good Shit

  1. The test is not so hard – I tried it on a website and passed – and I am not even living in England.

    But the 800 Pounds … So being Mrs. Carmichael does not automatically grant you citizenship?

  2. Oh my! Oh my! Kafka would be hugely sympathetic, as am I…. what utterly daft bureaucracy is this? I say you need the best advice you can possibly get, from someone who specialises in this sort of nationality issue, because it all sounds stupid, not to mention expensive. Think how many decent handbags you could get with the money!

    1. Oh yes, I’m all over that one!
      They did accuse me of kidnapping a daughter once though – different names in passports/different nationalities/ no father present.
      oops, got away with that one.

  3. Good Luck in that venture, apparently the test is much easier now though. Good post, I remember the pain well. You know you can go through the EU passports entry at the UK border if you are with Mr Carmichael an his passport right?

  4. Ah! As the Gracie mentioned travelling with the lovely Mrs C, I can add to the Tahiti story. Mrs C may have (deliberately, or indeed on the advice of a therapist) forgotten the very 70s porn film moustache sported by the customs officer, the sly smirk he displayed as she was led up the stairs as I watched on in horror and – worst of all- the slow closing of the Venetian blinds in the glass office! What to do? Scream murder or leave quietly to enjoy my very expensive holiday? Tough choices. You decide.

    1. At least we managed to reunite every day on the prop plane over to the non rainy island.

      I don’t remember if you came to the police station with me for the passport recovery but do know you flew back to LA ‘alone’.

      1. We’re in Cologne and the weather is beautiful here too. Off to the cable car today for an aerial view of the Rhine. JB was invited to a wedding yesterday. He is a popular guy everywhere. Have fun in America. I’m expecting to read some great stories about it, especially if Mr C is going too. How many hats will he be taking?

  5. I did. Sad but true. Then my LA friend changed the venue of our meeting place without telling me, so I spent that night drinking coffee in the wrong restaurant with waiters feeling very sorry for the poor stood up lady!

  6. What a circus. And that is precisely why the husband, who is an immigration lawyer, is unwilling to move to another country – you’re too vulnerable when you don’t have citizenship. (Of course, he makes an exception for Russia, of all places…)

  7. Oddly enough, Japanese immigration has always been strangely cooperative. There are a whole lot of bureaucratic rules, but also just as many ways to get around them. I’ve had perm res for years, never a problem. Don’t get me started on the American Embassy, though.

    Have fun in the States. Eat some diner food for me if you get a chance.

    1. In other situations I have been that person. But when you have right on your side – da da daa it’s easier to be calm.
      After I asked the supervisor to stop shouting at me she was trying to be my nbf.
      Funny how it works isn’t it?
      This time I’ll be coming back through Heathrow again, where my problems started. That should be interesting 🙂

  8. Whew! That was lot of work getting those papers, passports, not to mention the headache and hassle every time you enter another country. I do hope you will have a pleasant experience in America. Winning smile counts to. Have a fun trip.

  9. Passport garbage — bummer.
    Your not coming to the East Coast — bummer.
    How can you pass up the Pioneer Valley? No wonder they’ll suspect you of —hmmmm, I wonder what it is theyll suspect you of. Maybe irreverence, obviously an indictable offense.
    By cosmic coincidence, we are suffering through our own passport garbage at the moment. The Hub now has to prove his birth date is his actual birth date, and his name is his actual name. After all these decades!
    A bas le bourgois bureaucracy!
    And have a good day! And a good trip —

  10. I thought of you today as I sat in purgatory after having exited Europe but having been denied access to the UK. I was tempting to board a Eurostar train to return to the UK. I forgot to bring the passport with my indefinite leave visa in it, and instead had the shiny new one that I just recently received. My issue was solved however via a phone call to my son in the UK who read out the entire sticker in my old passport and a scolding from the rather starchy woman in charge.

    1. I do love a scolding but only at the right time in the right places!

      It’s all too much isn’t it? Perhaps we should climb aboard a lorry inCalais next time. Might be easier and we could make some new friends.

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