Is A Long Story, Let Me Sum Up…

The research continues, and the nasty surprises pile up. At this point, I’m feeling rather like Arthur Dent bashing on a locked filing cabinet within a disused lavatory in a dark, stairless basement that has a sign saying “Beware of the leopard!” on the door. Some of this stuff, I didn’t dig up until I’d visited the relevant UK gov websites several times. No wonder immigration lawyers never lack for work.

In a nutshell:

Financial cost of going the spousal visa route: $2250 / £1700 (at least*)
Emotional cost of ditto: Huge.

Financial cost of going the Tier 2 route: $2400 / £1880 (visa fee, plus healthcare surcharge, plus mandatory savings account requirement unless one’s job sponsor is a “guaranteed” sponsor.)
Emotional cost of ditto: not quite so huge.

And that’s just the bureaucratic fees. I’ve been making guesstimates about moving a forklift palette’s worth of stuff and two cats and oof. No wonder folks migrate with just the clothes on the backs and whatever they can fit into their checked baggage.

I’ve started correspondence with some recruiters in the UK that place with companies that would use The Husband’s skills. They’re being refreshingly upfront about what a PITA it is for employers to sponsor visas but, dammit, if it’s really a shortage occupation, someone’s got to be willing to do it at some point.

* A UK chum who imported his USAian wife tells me he’d spent about £5,000 on it when all was said and done.

Meanwhile…

Research is free and escapism is a favorite hobby of mine. I’ve been looking into the various ways my husband and I could move to the UK.

I’m a UK citizen, so I won’t have any difficulty. The challenges are all on the husband, poor sod.

Best case, D gets a job offer from a place that’ll sponsor him for a Tier 2 visa. Nice thing about that is the employer wants to get their money’s worth, so he’d probably be sure of employment for most of the term. The digital art industry, she is a little fraught. Tier 2 visa is good for at least three years. So, at least two rounds of that frightfulness (assuming

Tiny little bonus, husband works in a field that’s been officially deemed in short supply, so that knocks about 20% off the income threshold. What a handy way to keep local wages down, too. Hm.

It’s not clear if he could work for an employer other than his sponsor (in the same industry) on that visa. He’s allowed to take on additional work in the same industry up to 20 hours a week. Must add that to my growing list of questions.

But the odds of successfully chasing down a job offer from six thousand miles away? Not great. It’s not impossible, but it’s not great. My father landed his gig in the USA via a recruiting agency that was headhunting for any and all IT talent looking for greener pastures. Digital artists? Not so much with the head-hunting. We certainly aren’t expecting any help with relocating (and the costs of that are a headache for another day).

The other route, of course, is that I head over there and then “send” for him on a spousal visa. Downside: we’d be apart for at least six months (the minimum amount of time it would take me to meet requirements – that’s assuming I can find work right away) and the fee is nearly double that of a Tier 2 visa. It also leaves him stuck on his own in the USA for that time, which would be nigh-impossible for him to manage.

The upside of the spousal visa is that it doesn’t matter if my husband has a job offer or not. As long as I’m making at least £18K/year, he can remain with me.

Hidden cost #14: there’s a healthcare surcharge attached to all UK visas. It makes sense, but man, it’s another cost to worry about. £200 for each year of the visa’s duration, due at the time of application, thankyerverymuch.

Even if that dreadful orange man isn’t elected into high office, the husband and I are thinking more seriously about leaving the USA. There just seems to be more work for him in the UK. But “seems” and “actual” are two very different things. Every successful migration has a push and a pull. The “push” is currently rambling on Twitter about protecting American citizens from immigrants (I’m both, which list does that put me on?). The “pull”, however, is proving elusive.

Cheap Irony. Dire Predictions.

It drives me slightly bonkers that if Husband and I move to the UK – under the circumstances we’ve dictated* – it would probably be a step up for us in terms of quality of life, largely because it’ll mean that both of us are working full time for the first time in years. If we’re incredibly lucky, we’ll land somewhere outside southeast England and thus be able to afford more than a single-bedroom flat.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the southeast. I grew up on that coast and would cheerfully return, given the chance. But the presence of London acts like a black hole on the rubber sheet that is rent for anywhere within a hundred miles of the place. For the price of a single-bedroom flat in somewhere like Reading, we could get a two-bedroom house with parking and a garden north of the Watford Gap.

I lived in the San Francisco bay area, I know crazy rent. And the greater London area has gone completely and utterly mad. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but something’s got to give. There are only so many shithole houseboats on the Thames that can accommodate the city’s service personnel and what are the flash gits in The City going to do when even those cost too much for the folks who clean their offices and serve their food?

I like to think that when things finally snap, it’ll involve pitchforks and torches, but it’s more likely to feature the re-creation of the Victorian-era east end, with pod hotels taking the place of tenements. Once again, the working class will be forced into owning nothing more than they can carry because they’re dossing down at a different address every night – for a price that almost, but not quite, equals their entire wages.

At least the fast food industry will flourish as workers no longer have access to kitchens, but the knock-on effect on workers’ health – that stuff ain’t good for you – will drive health care costs even higher, thus giving some slimy bastards in Whitehall justification for dismantling and selling off whatever’s left of the NHS by that point.

Okay, that got dark, fast. But it’s barely any better here in the United States – and I only say ‘barely’ because the country is at least large enough to allow most cities a chance at expansion, even if it does take the form of bland, soulless suburbs. But as it takes a legislative gun to the head of property developers to offer “affordable” housing – and I put affordable in scare quotes for a reason – expansion is not necessarily a solution. Sigh.

*He must have a job offer in his chosen industry or else there’s no point in going. In fact, it would be impossible as he wouldn’t get a visa, otherwise.

They Do Exactly The Same Things There

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve been looking at a lot of rental listings in the UK so now I’ll share with you my personal UK-to-US English translation of British realtor’s language.

UK / US

Flat / Apartment

Mews House / We want you to think this is a converted stable. Somehow this is a selling point.

Maisonette / Not a small house in France.

Single bedroom / What Americans would consider as a walk-in closet.

Double bedroom / Technically, you can fit a bed for two people in here. Technically.

“Newly appointed” / Redecorated in 1980.

Double (or more than one) reception room / Neither of which can fit a sofa AND a loveseat at the same time.

“Close to city centre” / Property is over a Chinese take-out place.

“Bijou” / Tiny even by UK standards.

“Investment property“ / Overpriced and undersized.

“Ideal for a commuting professional” / Overpriced, undersized AND right by the train tracks.

“Retains original character” / Retains the original wiring and plumbing, too. New paint and new flooring hides the water and smoke damage.

Another Round With The Bucket of Cold Water

There’s looming legislation which will deny Tier 2* visas for any non-EU immigrants earning less than £35,000 per year – that’s 50,000 USD at the current exchange rates.

As might be imagined, this is going over like the proverbial lead balloon with any number of folks in the non-EU migrant category who have been in England for years, happily working, paying taxes and doing all the things a good little immigrant should do but, for whatever reason, they don’t meet that salary threshold. For instance, a whole slew of educators are going to be up a river if this legislation passes because teachers never make that kind of money. But I digress.

I’d heard rumors about this £35K thing, but I foolishly assumed that the threshold was 35K for the entire household, not the immigrant alone. Between us, we could make but solo? I don’t know about you, dear reader, but from where I’m sitting, that’s a pretty hefty salary. My husband has a lot of experience in his field, and the vacancies he’s considering – seeking such experience – pay in the low to mid-20’s. Hm.

Just as I was about to have a minor meltdown at the sinking of our getaway plan, Husband came across the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations list, courtesy of HMG. Husband’s field is on that list and the salary minimum is dropped by £10K – £14K depending on the role. This is much more in line with the salaries he’s seen on offer. Phew.

(Side note: it has crossed both our minds that the “shortage” might be artificial. It’s not like his career doesn’t exist over there, but it’s possible that maybe, just maybe, the hiring corps in his field have taken a page from the US software industry’s playbook. Recruit overseas talent who are desperate to come to the US and will accept whatever salary is offered as a result, undercutting their US counterparts and depressing wages all across the board. Sigh.)

The £35K rule is horrible and it’s not going to help the UK economy. Something like 360,000 migrants – of all skill types and origins – enter the UK each year. The Daily Mail and their ilk portray this as a vast, ravaging horde. Vast. Hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of non-Britons surging over the border, thirsting to skive on the oh-so-lavish benefits of the state** – and cheerfully ignoring the fact (as usual) that most immigrants arrive legally and work their asses off. And that means they’re paying into the system, not taking from it, you fecking walnuts.

Pardon me. As an immigrant, myself, I get passionate about these topics. Ironic that my being an immigrant is one of the reasons Husband and I are considering a return to the UK if the political situation plays out in a certain direction, but anyway…

Following my grasping of that particular life-ring, I then saw the application fees for said Tier 2 visa. Madre de Dios… We – the husband and I – have agreed that we don’t make the jump until/unless he has a firm job offer. Let’s hope it comes with visa sponsorship fees as part of the compensation. We don’t have £437 – £873 just lying around. Cripes, if they’re needed that badly, roll the fees back by 80%, not 20%…

*Tier 2 being like an H-1 visa in the US. It grants right to reside and work in the UK for several years.

**Did the cuts to the disability allowance go through? I know there was a U-turn on PIP, but there are others on the table. They’re ranging from 30% – 100% for some recipients. Yeah, that’s totally worth risking my life on an inner tube across the Mediterranean for.

Questions of a Certain Type

While migration to the UK remains a very long shot, more questions have been added to the must-be-answered list.

  • How do recently-arrived migrants open a bank account? (Apparently it can be quite challenging.)
  • Where is the line between ‘reasonable’ and ‘gouging’ when it comes to rental agency fees?
  • How much does a not-badly-used two-door hatchback go for? And how much is car registration?
  • Where can I find a graph of typical utility prices? I need to know how much heat in the winter is going to cost, etc.
  • What’s the trick to finding the cheapest train fares?

Meanwhile, on the mostly-rhetorical list, I’ve added.

  • Why are train ticket prices so wildly variable?
  • Will I want to slash my wrists if I have to commute 90+ minutes each way, every day?
  • Have the Brits figured out how to make a decent cup of coffee, yet?
  • Will British winters drive me insane?

On: Buckets of Water, Cold

A whole lotta folks have, like me, been declaring that they’ll leave the US if so-and-so becomes President.

I suspect that a whole lotta folks don’t know what it takes to move to a new country. Yes, even Canada.

It all boils down to: have a job offer in-hand, or have a fuckton of money in the bank.

I encountered my own bucket of cold water a few days after realizing Oh shit, the Torture More Constitution Less guy might actually win*. I’d been warned that dear ol’ Blighty is not what it once was vis-à-vis immigrant spouses, so I fired up the Internet and checked on the rules.

Oh. Yeah. Have a job offer in hand or a fuckton of money.

Unfortunately, the rules regarding household income are written in pure bureaucrat-ese. Either I need to be earning about $27,000/year to apply for a spousal visa for the Husband, which is totally achievable. Or it has to be $54,000/year which, based on my browsing of salary websites, is a bit of a stretch*.

The alternative is for The Husband to have a job offer in-hand – also meeting that $27K minimum – with start date set within three months of his arrival. Have you ever tried job-hunting remotely? Ever tried it with an eight-hour time difference thrown in? Funtimes they ain’t. Husband has some other challenges in his career field which I won’t get into. Suffice it to say that challenge will be heaped upon challenge.

A visa on the basis of our marriage is a non-starter. We haven’t been married long enough AND there’s a residency in the UK requirement on top of that: three years.

So much for my thought that we could both head over together.

Cue: the opening of a whole other can of worms – the cost of Husband staying behind while I swan it back to Blighty and cheerfully impose on family for free accommodations while job-hunting. Again, I won’t go into details, but it would be very difficult for The Husband to get by, by himself. Sure, once I find work, I could send money to him, but who knows how long it’ll take me to find said work and anything sent home is money diverted from setting up our own household. And I’m bound to wear out my welcome with my Brit family sooner or later, no matter how much they tell me – from afar – that I wouldn’t.

So, yeah. Big bucket of cold water. We might not be able to manage a migration to the UK, even if we want to.

I’m not giving up, but I’m adjusting the (hypothetical) plans. Step 1: we BOTH start job-hunting in six months’ time…

*British understatement in action. It’ll be nigh-impossible. I’m a damn good AA/EA/PA but I’m not that good.

On Matters Political And Potentially Migratory

If you know me in RL or have bothered to read my bio, you’ll know that I’m an English expatriate in the US. I’ve been in the States since I was 12 so, in many ways, it’s a bit ridiculous to cling on to the British label but cling I do. Even after all this time, I have difficulty connecting with US history, and the globalization of information makes it very easy to maintain a serious Anglophilia habit. I maintain a running joke that if I won the lottery, I’d return to Britain – although winning the lottery is about what it would require. I lived in the San Francisco bay area for over twenty years and consider myself pretty hard-bitten when it comes to property prices, but England – especially the entire south-east – makes me wince.

Far more wince-worthy, though, is the current state of the US presidential election. Specifically, that crop of inhumane creatures passing for GOP candidates. The top three candidates could be represented by a Venn diagram of horrific policy positions – and the area of overlap would be pretty significant.

More horrific yet is the fact that millions of people support these three men, cheering on the idea of rolling back various human rights, building walls and generally securing the USA’s place at the top of the Most Disappointing Nations league. Seriously, fellow citizens? You want to be a part of an agenda built on fear and hate?

(A moment’s silence, please, for poor ol’ Kasich, the best of a bad lot and without even a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the nomination.)

Over the past few months, my opinion regarding Herr Trump’s candidacy has shifted from sarcastic nonbelief (“He just wants attention”) to bemusement (“Why are people taking this seriously?”) to growing dread (“Oh my god, what if he wins?”).

I’m not feeling so hot about the other two, either but, let’s be honest, it’s Mr. Torture More, Constitution Less that has me sweating.

(News broken while typing this post: Mittens is going to run. This isn’t an improvement.)

So, what’s all this got to do with my being an expat – beyond the fact that you can bet your ass I’m voting in November?

The husband and I have been talking and we’re prepared to leave the country if we end up with a Republican president and a GOP-controlled Congress. If it’s Mr. TMCL, we won’t even stop to pack. The cultural zeitgeist re: immigrants around here is NOT going to be pleasant, even those of us who are brimming over with Anglo privilege.

(What if we get a Republican executive and Democrat legislature? The Magic 8 Ball says “Answer uncertain”. To quote another pundit elsewhere, the Dems have a tendency to step on their own dick when given a political advantage. They’ve rolled over for a GOP administration before, that much is well-established.)

I’m lucky. I’ve got a way back to the old country and could, in theory, return at any time. My husband’s situation is trickier as we haven’t been married for all that long and Britain, in particular, has built a couple of serious speedbumps when it comes to bringing a non-citizen spouse over. But at least we’ve got an option, even if it’s difficult, expensive and might require our being apart for several months.

Stay and fight? If you want to, then the best of luck to you. Me? I can’t bear the thought of my tax dollars supporting a fresh round of war-mongering for the benefit of industry cronies and god knows what other lunacy a lock-stepped Republican president and Congress will bring in. It definitely won’t be a good time for anyone who isn’t a cis white male – and Christian, to boot.

As they say “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” So… we’re preparing.