Theresa May and the Deportation of "Immigrant" Thomas Podgoretsky
December 29, 2015 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Musician and performer Thomas Podgoretsky, who has lived and worked in the UK for so long he now draws his state pension here, has been told he faces deportation at 72 hours’ notice. [via Private Eye magazine]

Westbriton.co.uk: "Mr Podgoretsky said he had used most of his life savings trying to fight the ruling but had lost two appeals.

He said he has to sign in at a police station once a month and has had to surrender his passport.

He said: "I feel like I am being treated like a criminal and I am tired of being treated like this – I have only had two parking tickets in my whole life.""

The home office says...
posted by marienbad (92 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's very odd to think that the right to a family life doesn't extend to a right to contact with, and care for, one's elderly and potentially vulnerable parents. But this case is particularly weird because it's such an obvious accident that he lost his indefinite leave to remain - what does the Home Office have discretion for, if not to catch cases like these? It's odd that discretion wasn't exercised in his favour. Especially, frankly, given that this is an elderly white American with adorable white grandchildren - Theresa May won't even get Daily Mail points for this one, as she would if she was deporting a Somali- or Indian-origin Muslim with a large British family.
posted by Aravis76 at 8:12 AM on December 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is what I'm scared of happening to me.

But I also don't have the the £1,241.70 I would need to become a British citizen with a passport.

I'd get angry at Theresa May for this (instead of the countless other reasons), but it's not just her that's caused this fucking disaster of legalised immigration. I got lucky, I got in just before the hysteria started, before you had to take the "Life in the UK" test just to stay here (because you obviously need to know how old a child needs to be before they can start having a paper route in Wales when you're childless, living in England, and don't get the paper delivered), before your spouse had to earn at least £18,600 just to let you come into the country (no matter how much you're going to be earning).

But god, I fuck up one tiny thing the next time I have to fly out, and that's it, I can kiss goodbye my job, my house, my entire life.

It terrifies me. But I still can't afford citizenship.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:13 AM on December 29, 2015 [26 favorites]


This sort of thing happens because there's a population of psychopaths who want it to happen. This isn't the system malfunctioning. This is the intended use.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:32 AM on December 29, 2015 [22 favorites]


before you had to take the "Life in the UK" test just to stay here (because you obviously need to know how old a child needs to be before they can start having a paper route in Wales when you're childless, living in England, and don't get the paper delivered)

I've never heard of the Life In The UK test (I'm an American with no interest in living in the UK), so I did a quick google and found a practice test. Wow. It's one part "is England great y/n", one part "how much do you know about Christianity?", one part "which of this list of obscure Welsh hills is fake?", and one part actual knowledge of relevant laws.

It makes the stuff on the American citizenship test look like a bastion of progressive thought.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2015 [38 favorites]


As a gag gift (I hope?!) I got given a life in the UK practice test book for Christmas. Wow, just wow.

You missed out the part that's part current government propaganda (eg questions about the National Citizen Service. I doubt most people over 20 are aware of it.)

I'm so sorry for what some bits of our country has become.
posted by Helga-woo at 8:43 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's also the pathetic fucking racket of it. Gouging people for money on visa applications and renewals for no good reason other than that they can get away with it. It's not just immoral, it's fucking embarrassing.
posted by howfar at 8:43 AM on December 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've never heard of the Life In The UK test (I'm an American with no interest in living in the UK), so I did a quick google and found a practice test. Wow. It's one part "is England great y/n", one part "how much do you know about Christianity?", one part "which of this list of obscure Welsh hills is fake?", and one part actual knowledge of relevant laws.

That test is crazy. I went through 48 questions on the practice test and actually got 36 right, but a lot of those were pretty much random guesses. Trivia about Irish judges and Welsh geography doesn't surprise me, but the extent of the Christian questions did.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:49 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


This concerns me, as I have the same UK permanent residency as well and never considered that it would be violated by a spell abroad for family/medical reasons.

I once forgot the old passport with the stamp in it (they want £400 to apply a new sticker to a renewed passport, no thanks), and the border police at the Channel told me I was considered a "controlled resident" and they could send me back to Paris if they felt like it, even thought the permit was easily looked up.

Maybe the citizenship thing should be taken up, I never wanted that but this is a pretty bullshit decision.
posted by C.A.S. at 8:58 AM on December 29, 2015


Many people volunteer simply because:
-they don't want to go to school
- they are rich and do not need a paid job
- they want to become a famous
- they want to help other people


??? I'm so grateful I got my citizenship before this stuff became obligatory. My sister waited a bit longer and had to do the test but I can't remember her saying it was quite this idiotic. I especially like how the awkward "forced marriage is bad, y/n" questions are shoved in with all the stuff about patron saints and interesting forts in Dorset.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:02 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I took the life in the UK test it seemed to me that it had two purposes - to penalize English as a second language speakers and quite specifically comunicate cultural norms to people from countries that have different ideas about child labour, women's rights and education. The content was a bit dumb but not completely awful.

What really sucked was what it didn't cover such as - immigrant rights, rental law, immigration requirements, NHS access and so on. All things that really matter to immigrants. The Life in the UK Study Guide actually had good chapters on a lot of this but only something like 2 chapters were on the test!
posted by srboisvert at 9:05 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another recent case is Myrtle Coghill, a 92-year-old woman from South Africa who is so frail she might not survive the flight (let alone the tender ministrations of the security operatives who would take her to the plane). Even the Daily Express is up in arms about her.

And if they're treating people like her like that, just imagine what they're doing to people who aren't white.

It always behooves us to remember that the Tories are lower than vermin.
posted by Grangousier at 9:09 AM on December 29, 2015 [19 favorites]


If police officers are corrupt or misuse their authority they are severely punished
Yes, it's correct
No, they will only be given warnings


Ahahahahahahahaha.
posted by Katemonkey at 9:10 AM on December 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


I've never heard of the Life In The UK test (I'm an American with no interest in living in the UK), so I did a quick google and found a practice test.

I'm vaguely distressed about how well I am doing on these practice tests. I'm pretty sure I would not do as well on a US-based one.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I did have to take the Life in the UK exam. I put a practice app on my phone which proved to be very popular with my English friends when I pulled it out at pubs. I would say that my friends in the UK tend to be more educated than average, so it was surprising to me how many of them couldn't answer a sufficient number of questions to pass the test. Passing the LitUK is required not just for citizenship but also to receive ILR ("indefinite leave to remain" - like a green card for the UK). It also contains a lot of propaganda in the form of questions, e.g. "Tolerance and anti-extremism are fundamental parts of British life" T/F. And then there are the "culture" questions which ask you to, e.g., identify which flower figured prominently in a Wordsworth poem. Those seemed like barriers to people who hadn't had "the right kind" of upbringing.

We were lucky enough to be able to employ a solicitor to help us with the naturalisation process. His firm deals exclusively with immigration, and the fees from people like us help them do a lot of pro bono work with asylum seekers. The stories he told us about what the Home Office does to verify certain claims truly beggar belief. Go ahead, ask me what a "penis-ometer" is.* Even the right-leaning Telegraph (unaffectionately known as the "Tory-graph") called May "over-intrusive". More details from the BBC.


*I'm not sure what the official name of this device is but penis-ometer should give you an idea.
posted by tractorfeed at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I took four of the practice tests in a row, and I didn't think they were too out there. The Christianity questions I got were all either questions about national days (David, Andrew, Patrick, George) which is really holidays, not Christianity; and about important UK government things entwined with the state Church, which seems fair. My first question was to pick out two (of four) forts along Hadrian's Wall, which is a LITTLE obscure, but the two they gave (Housesteads and Vindolandia) are both national parks and HUGELY archaeologically important so in the news a lot, and the other two options were really obviously not Roman forts. The ones that kept tripping me up were when they changed voting AGES -- I knew when women got the vote just from basic knowledge of history, but when the ages changed to equalize with men, that I had no idea. Nor when the voting age dropped to 18 in the UK, but I guessed 1969 because it was closest to the US drop in age and I was correct. Seems like the sort of factoid you could easily pick up from a study guide. Questions about law courts and stuff, again, were mostly connected to things I knew from just knowing basic UK history like that Scottish courts are different to English courts and this matters when James I & VI becomes king of the two countries. Questions about the UK drinking age OBVIOUSLY EVERY AMERICAN TEENAGED TOURIST LEARNS THAT.

Anyway, since you only have to get 75% right and like 60% of the questions are connected to pretty basic UK history (and the rest mostly to basic civics that is unlikely to be relevant to your life but the sort of thing most citizenship tests make you study and pretty easy to learn from a hornbook), I thought it was fair. If you had to get 100% some of those questions would be too obscure, but 75% isn't unreasonable.

It's sort of like Jeopardy in that you don't actually have to know the names of the Hadrian's Wall forts, just that Hadrian's Wall was built by the Roman Empire, and take a guess as to which names are obviously NOT ROMAN. Or you don't actually have to know the Welsh saint's national day as the question asked, just that it was St. David because it offered "David, March 1" and "Patrick, March 17" or whatever their days are, in the answers. Or you could know the national day for Wales but not the saint associated. Either bit of info would work, a lot of the questions have clues, or the answer options have additional info.

On the main point, though, that story is balls. There really is no point to the Home Office having discretion if it can't be exercised for something this simple. (Same shit in the US, of course; anglo-saxonia could mostly all stand to be a bit less terrible about immigration lately.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:35 AM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


(PS, the Life in the UK test really, really, really wants you to be aware you must buy a TV license.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:39 AM on December 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


The Christianity questions I got were all either questions about national days (David, Andrew, Patrick, George) which is really holidays, not Christianity

Well, ahem, they're Christian holidays, which are not exactly well-known to, say, Muslim immigrants. For example. Systemic racism, et cetera ad nauseum.
posted by fraula at 9:43 AM on December 29, 2015 [22 favorites]


I took four of the practice tests in a row, and I didn't think they were too out there. The Christianity questions I got were all either questions about national days (David, Andrew, Patrick, George) which is really holidays, not Christianity

I got one question about when Lent starts, which is basically a pure Christianity question, but otherwise, they were all about National Days or secular traditions (like what people eat for Christmas dinner). I didn't think the test was totally bonkers, but then I passed so I'm not the best judge. There was one question about whether or not the Middle Ages was a period of "constant war" that seemed bizarre as true/false question.

Also I got this:
All dogs in public places must wear ______
A collar with the name and address of the owner
Wellington boots for big puddles
Sunglasses on a sunny day to avoid eye damage
A raincoat in wet weather


And "All of the above" is not an option, as it should be morally, but they need to change the laws for that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:51 AM on December 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


They are trying hard to keep US Southerners out:

It is ______ to carry a weapon of any kind, even if it is for self-defence
• your responsibility
• your right
• a criminal offence

posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:55 AM on December 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


fraula: "Well, ahem, they're Christian holidays, which are not exactly well-known to, say, Muslim immigrants."

Yes, but they're national days that come from Christian holidays. If I were moving to Turkey or Indonesia, I'd certainly expect there to be questions about Ramadan on a citizenship test, because while it's a religious holiday, it's also a national observance. They're not asking you to know when the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is, which is straight-up religious; they want you to identify a public holiday when the government is closed, which happens to come from a religious background. As it is not a secret and it is likely to affect people's regular lives in the country (due to government offices being closed, etc.), I don't think it's particularly onerous to ask people to memorize a dozen or two public holidays. Certainly that's more difficult for someone coming from a different culture with a different set of holidays, but it remains important civic information that you're going to HAVE to learn for school calendars, work calendars, shopping, government closure, bank holidays, etc.

If you don't think European national holidays should be related to Christian saints, that's a different complaint. But asking immigrants to learn national holidays (which happen to be Christian saint days) isn't by itself onerous.

And really, national saint holidays are NOT WELL KNOWN outside their countries of origin; I'm super-Catholic and I haven't the vaguest clue when St. David or St. Andrew or St. George have their days. I only know St. Patrick because Americans like to drink for that. I don't think it's quite the "Christianity bonus" you might think. It's still just memorizing holidays.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:58 AM on December 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I got one question about when Lent starts, which is basically a pure Christianity question,...

Two public holidays, as well as school holidays, are tied to Lent in the UK. They move every year in accordance with Church observance.
posted by Emma May Smith at 10:04 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, but they're national days that come from Christian holidays.

At least one of the questions asks about Christmas Eve, which isn't a national day in the UK, or at least isn't on the UK government's official list of bank holidays (Christmas Day is, but the question specifically asks about Christmas Eve).

Additionally, none of the saints' days/'national days' are bank holidays either, which puts the lie to "it remains important civic information that you're going to HAVE to learn for school calendars, work calendars, shopping, government closure, bank holidays, etc.".
posted by Itaxpica at 10:04 AM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


St Andrew's and St Patrick's day are bank holidays in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. But the fact that St David's and St George's day are included does suggest that it's just a load of old nonsense.

Having had a partner go through the process, my view is that the test isn't really that appalling, rather it's just utterly pointless. It doesn't actually help integration or anything of the kind. It's just something you can fail people on.
posted by howfar at 10:09 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even if they were bank holidays, most people look up bank holidays. It's not about school calendars. It's about establishing the cultural hegemony of a certain kind of Christianity. And I mean, that's fine. It's a Christian country with a state church. But don't pretend it's just practical information.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:11 AM on December 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


I didn't think the test was difficult, at all, but I did think it did include a bunch of essentially irrelevant questions about the dominant culture in a slightly distasteful way. I know when St David's Day is, but that knowledge has zero bearing on my ability to conduct myself well as a British citizen or on my ability to get by in life here. It's not like my Welsh friends expect me to call them up on St David's Day or that, even when I lived in Wales, I would feel socially isolated if I didn't participate in some kind of St David's Day parade. Similarly, I know what Ash Wednesday is because I'm Christian but my sister, a Hindu, doesn't have to - nothing in the surrounding culture requires her to. It's just oddly peripheral details about Britain's Christian heritage, which the majority of average British-born people have only the vaguest interest in, and it feels vaguely like being made to jump through hoops rather than being actually taught anything useful.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Itaxpica: "Additionally, none of the saints' days/'national days' are bank holidays either, which puts the lie to "it remains important civic information that you're going to HAVE to learn for school calendars, work calendars, shopping, government closure, bank holidays, etc."."

Please reread before calling me a LIAR. I said, "don't think it's particularly onerous to ask people to memorize a dozen or two public holidays. Certainly that's more difficult for someone coming from a different culture with a different set of holidays, but it remains important civic information that you're going to HAVE to learn for school calendars, work calendars, shopping, government closure, bank holidays, etc."

A DOZEN OR TWO PUBLIC HOLIDAYS, some of which are bank holidays. Not specifically just "national days." Although some UK national days are local bank holidays, so ...

Look, I'm American, we have ONE federal holiday that's Christian, which is Christmas. I think your European saints day national days are weird because we don't really do that on this continent (I don't even know when OLG's feast day is ... December? Maybe?), but that doesn't make them NOT EXIST and it doesn't make it information you don't need to learn to live there. In fact if you study abroad in Europe, it's one of the first things the office of international students wants to make you aware of -- local holidays and associated closures -- so you don't end up sobbing at the US Embassy with no money and no transit.

Again, if you don't think that European national days should be related to saints, that is a DIFFERENT COMPLAINT than whether immigrants should need to know them. I don't disagree with the first complaint -- have some independence days or something like us New World countries mostly do, it's less weird -- I think it's very odd to say that while the days are observed as national/regional holidays, they're not the sort of routine civics lesson that you put on an immigration test or give to visitors as important information. It sounds like many of you would like them not to be holidays because it reinforces an outdated idea of Christian culture, which seems quite legit to me (being all separation of church and statey as I am), but it seems odd to want to just pretend it doesn't exist when it continues to exist and government offices close and whatnot, instead of just repealing it. Just repeal it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:23 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


On a more relevant topic, what would you put on a citizenship test? What should it be testing?

(They mostly do test history and random civics, and they're mostly only limitedly relevant/important, but government usually would prefer to grade scantrons than essay tests, so ... how would you make them better?)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:25 AM on December 29, 2015


I'd keep the questions about the basic structure of the legal system (the branches of government; the nations of the U.K.; how often general elections are held; what your MP can do for you; the very basic aspects of how consumer protection, housing and criminal disputes work) and the clunky-but-useful questions about important criminal law rules (domestic violence, forced marriage, concealed weapons). That, plus a little potted history that covers how the basic institutions of society got established, seems to cover the needful. Throwing in Wordsworth and Shakespeare and St David's Day feels more arbitrary - why not Monty Python and football teams too?
posted by Aravis76 at 10:35 AM on December 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


There were multiple questions about the date of women's suffrage and one on forced marriage. Plus all the Christian questions. I think this was crafted to be under the radar for Christian takers, and to immigrants conservative Muslim countries, this test is "we're different than you, and we're going to repeat questions about those differences to remind you that we know you are different."
posted by zippy at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


All the citizenship test discussion seems to slightly derail from the more worrying point that this guy is being told that despite being in the UK for 41 years, and having all living family members in the UK and no one left in the US, on a technicality he is being told that Skype is good enough and he can't stay where he has legally resided for decades.
posted by C.A.S. at 10:41 AM on December 29, 2015 [34 favorites]


I did chuckle at "There is no place in British society for extremism or intolerance", to which the correct answer is supposedly "True".

Have they not heard of UKIP?
posted by pipeski at 10:42 AM on December 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


> There was one question about whether or not the Middle Ages was a period of "constant war" that seemed bizarre as true/false question.

This question really annoyed me, as well. Define "war." Define "constant."

Otherwise, it turns out that my childhood fascination with Hadrian's Wall has well prepared me for life in the UK and I now know a lot more about when women got the vote in the UK.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:44 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


They are trying hard to keep US Southerners out

They're trying to keep all American NRA gun "rights" types out. They ain't anywhere near limited to the South.
posted by blucevalo at 10:46 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm vaguely distressed about how well I am doing on these practice tests. I'm pretty sure I would not do as well on a US-based one.

Sorry to play killjoy, but the U.S. civics test is pretty basic: there's an official list of 100 questions including "Name one of the branches of government" and "How many Senators are there?"

Applicants are asked 10 questions verbally and they have to get six of them right. That's it.
posted by psoas at 10:50 AM on December 29, 2015


The Christianity questions I got were all either questions about national days (David, Andrew, Patrick, George) which is really holidays, not Christianity...

The feast day of the patron saint of Wales is not a public holiday, even in Wales.
posted by Etrigan at 10:59 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Please reread before calling me a LIAR.

Nobody's calling you a liar. "Put the lie to" (or "give the lie to"; the distinction between the two is regional) is an idiomatic English phrase that means 'refute' or 'disprove', and I thought that my point refuted the point that you were trying to make, though you clearly disagree.

I'm gonna drop this now, because the holiday thing is at this point a derail on a derail, but I wanted to make it clear that my intention wasn't to accuse you of lying.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:00 AM on December 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you get far enough in, you do get to this holiday question, for which my time living in the UK did not prepare me: "Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is celebrated on ______ each year with parades, dancing and singing"
posted by gingerbeer at 11:05 AM on December 29, 2015


Followed by: "Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, when Muslims have fasted for ______"
posted by gingerbeer at 11:05 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


So he was in the U.S. from '94 through '98, then again from December 2000 through February 2003, and then again from September 2007 through June 2010? I wonder if he knew that moving back to the U.S. for years at a time would mess up his immigration status in the U.K. I hope the media coverage of this situation will prompt what seem like much-needed legislative changes. I bet it won't.
posted by The World Famous at 11:11 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


"How many Senators are there?"

see i thought there might be 101, not sure why though.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:17 AM on December 29, 2015


"How many Senators are there?"

see i thought there might be 101, not sure why though.


The Vice President of the United States is also the President of the Senate, serving as the tiebreaker vote when necessary (he has historically done so about once a year, not counting John Adams doing it 29 times). That may be where you got that.
posted by Etrigan at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if he knew that moving back to the U.S. for years at a time would mess up his immigration status in the U.K.

There's a good chance that he would not know this. One of the most frustrating things about going through the UK immigration system is that it's almost impossible to find out what the rules are. When I was tracking through the system with my spouse, back in the mid-late-oughts, there were several different government websites and publications that gave conflicting information about what was and was not allowed. Nobody posted or published the actual rules, just 'helpful' summaries that conflicted with one another.

It was almost impossible to reach anybody by phone. I remember one help line gave you a fifteen minute recorded message (in a country where phone calls are quite expensive) followed by a curt announcement that 'all our operators are busy, please call back later' *click*. Sometime later one of my friends went into the civil service, and his boss gave him a briefing about how 'helpful these messages are in reducing call volumes'. Ah, British bureaucracy!
posted by Dreadnought at 11:43 AM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have lived for ten years in the UK and before that I grew up in a British colony which became a former British colony while I was there. I do not know when the saint's days are (they aren't bank holidays are they?) and would never in a million years identify Hadrian's Wall forts. So much of the test is pointless trivia bullshit which is in no way relevant to life in the UK.

And everyone I meet assumes that of course I'm British, despite the very Scandinavian name, even after they've been told several times (let me tell you about all the anti-immigrant sentiment I've been subject to from colleagues in various jobs where I had to keep reminding people that I was actually an immigrant). I can tell you what defines a Real Ale according to CamRA, and the legal difference between a perry and a pear cider. I can cook you a steak and ale pie, several regional variations of crumpet, a beef wellington, jalfrezi, or faggot with no reference to a recipe. I can translate from thick Geordie or west highlands Scottish English for my white yam-yam boyfriend.

I cannot pass this test.

What I'm trying to say is that this test is bollocks. It tests for the extent to which you're a history anorak, maybe, not the extent to which you are capable of integrating in the UK or your practical knowledge of the country.
posted by Dysk at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2015 [24 favorites]


As an interesting thought-provoking question: why is it important that I know any of those things to become a functioning member of society?

The only answer I can fathom is that the USs want to keep themselves separate from the THEMs. Where you draw that particular line is largely inconsequential. You don't have to go much further than Dr. Seuss to see why this is problematic.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:47 AM on December 29, 2015


My husband is a permanent resident of Canada (not a citizen) and we know very well that he can't move back to the US for 2 years and hope to come back here. It's strange that this man didn't understand the rules, I am guessing he never became a citizen of the UK (as far as I know, you can't lose citizenship just for moving out of country for a few years). I would guess that he'd now need to apply for residency/citizenship all over again, which is exactly what would happen to us if we took such extended absences from our countries. It sucks for him, but that's how it goes.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 11:51 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


British government has this particular Kafkaesque pair of axiomatic principles which say:

a. Ignorance of the law is no excuse;
b. Knowledge of the law is, however, a privileged secret.

What surprises me is how many civil service types I know can't see the problem with this situation.
posted by Dreadnought at 11:52 AM on December 29, 2015 [27 favorites]


My husband is a permanent resident of Canada (not a citizen) and we know very well that he can't move back to the US for 2 years and hope to come back here.

In a system populated by humans, the fact that his extended absences were A) to take care of his elderly mother, and B) because he had a heart attack should carry enough weight for someone to say "Well, that shouldn't count against you."
posted by Etrigan at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2015 [19 favorites]


This is so scary, and exactly why I finally shelled out the £1,200 to apply for citizenship. Over six months later, it's still not quite finalised but fingers crossed it should be sorted soon. I've gone through all the visa applications with no lawyer (because it's too expensive) and it's terrifying - I sat in the Home Office centre in Glasgow with those horrible "Go home" banners all around me - even on the backs of the chairs - while I waited for someone to decide the rest of my life.

My husband is a permanent resident of Canada (not a citizen) and we know very well that he can't move back to the US for 2 years and hope to come back here. It's strange that this man didn't understand the rules

In fairness, he had a stroke and two heart attacks while in the US on holiday and stayed until he had recovered.
posted by ukdanae at 11:57 AM on December 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


My husband is a permanent resident of Canada (not a citizen) and we know very well that he can't move back to the US for 2 years and hope to come back here.

I was a permanent resident of Hong Kong, which gave me Right of Abode there. I lost it for having been absent for more than the consecutive years, but will always, for the rest of my life have Right of Land meaning I can always move back without a visa. This is under the old British colonial law. It's not super weird to assume that it might work similarly in the UK itself.
posted by Dysk at 11:57 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


But he stayed over 2 years on three SEPARATE occasions. Did he have heart attacks on all 3 trips? Ok one of them was to take care of his elderly mother. I would assume that he'd need to apply for a special dispensation for each of those times, which he didn't do.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2015


I would assume that he'd need to apply for a special dispensation for each of those times, which he didn't do.

Because, as others have noted, the system places the entirety of the burden on the individual to the extent of not actually publishing the rules. It's great that you and your husband know the rules (in a different country), but saying "It sucks for him, but that's how it goes" is not how society should operate. It's why we have society, because it doesn't have to go that way if we decide that it doesn't.
posted by Etrigan at 12:01 PM on December 29, 2015 [25 favorites]


It's not super weird to assume that it might work similarly in the UK itself.

No it's not weird to assume that. But if I were an immigrant to a country I would make sure I understood the rules of that stay and didn't just assume that this or that was allowed. Some things are not common sense and I don't agree with them, but I still have to live by those rules or face the consequence.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


But if I were an immigrant to a country I would make sure I understood the rules of that stay and didn't just assume that this or that was allowed.

That's a nice hypothetical. I AM an immigrant in the UK and don't know all the relevant laws because it's fucking impossible to in this common law mess. I know SOME relevant laws, but they're not even all publicly published. You have to have most of a law degree to understand the situation in anything but the broadest of strokes.
posted by Dysk at 12:07 PM on December 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Some things are not common sense and I don't agree with them, but I still have to live by those rules or face the consequence.

The point is that, further to making a mistake in 2010 (the earlier periods are not relevant, as he retained his status until after the heart attack) he applied for the correct visa and was refused for....some reason that no-one knows. What's the sense in that? Ruining the last years of someone's life on a technicality. What harm will the country suffer by allowing this man to remain where he has lived and worked most of his life? Why refuse him a visa?
posted by howfar at 12:15 PM on December 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


But if I were an immigrant to a country I would make sure I understood the rules of that stay and didn't just assume that this or that was allowed.

Yes, maybe, but on a systemic level - apart from what it may have been prudent or not for him to do - it is bad to have rules that have no give or discretion in them when dealing with these deeply personal questions of residence and access to family. There should be a discretion and, given the facts of the case - there is no compelling reason to deport him, he's not a criminal or a danger to the public, and he is elderly and has close family in the UK and no family in his country of origin - that discretion should have been exercised in his favour. His failure to obey rules may have put him in a situation where he's at the mercy of a government official's discretion, but it's very hard to justify that exercise of discretion here.

The right to family life argument is especially compelling, I think. It would be an uphill struggle for the government to deport the mother of British children, with a right of residence in the country, because of the children's ECHR Art 8 right to family life - that would be true even if she had broken the immigration rules in some way (that didn't produce an overwhelming public interest reason for deporting her, like terrorist offences). I would say this man's adult British children have almost as compelling an argument for keeping him here. And, even apart from the human rights argument, it's just not kind or decent or humane to make this decision in this way in this case. Our immigration rules supposedly give our government leeway to make decisions that are humane responses to the particular situation of the person precisely because "you broke the rules, so get out" is an incredibly crude tool for achieving justice in this type of situation. Even if he was careless, that doesn't justify removing him from the country.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:16 PM on December 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have no direct experience with UK immigration but I am married to a non-USian and have seen the visa process work on this side of the Atlantic.

I don't think this can be chalked up to anything essentially british or american (though comparing the tests was interesting) or due to common law or whatever else. the fundamental problem with immigration law is that the people who are directly affected by it are not, by the very definition of where they find themselves, empowered stakeholders in the political discussion of their issues. Fees will continue to be ridiculous (and go who knows where) realistic timelines and useful information will continue to be scarce because its only a problem to a tiny sliver of the population who dont vote (and those who love them, who may, but not in significant numbers).

That Go Home campaign though, thats some real brutal shit i dont think even we could pull off over here . . .
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:17 PM on December 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I got one question about when Lent starts, which is basically a pure Christianity question

The correct answer to that is "How the fuck would I know? Somewhere around chocolate sunday."
posted by lilburne at 12:23 PM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


That life in the UK test reminds me of the Jewish Problems. I'd fail despite being totally British and I'd bet most MPs would caught unawares.
posted by edd at 12:25 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


First, apologies for the self-link; I'm a trustee of the (tiny) BritCits campaign group and charity which works on behalf of divided families, includes spouses, civil partners, parents and children, elderly dependants etc. You can read about some of the cases we've come across here.

As briefly as I can, I'll try and add a bit of context to this :

In 2012, the UK government introduced new rules which made family life with a British partner or family member much, much more difficult. They basically fall into four categories :
i/ The income requirement was introduced and set at a level where 47% of the working population are unable to sponsor a loved one (this is highly variable across demographics; 60% of working women for example fail to meet the income requirement, as well as more than 50% of working people in some areas of the country, such as Wales and the northwest of England).
The rules also blocked things like third party sponsorship and didn't take account of outgoings, making the whole process much more difficult. Only the British (or EEA) partner can earn this, which locks a lot of British expats whose partners may be the main earner into effective exile from the UK. The requirement also increases for sponsorship of children who are not UK or EEA nationals (typically stepchildren of UK nationals).
ii/ The language requirement became a lot stricter - to get indefinite leave to remain, the applicant needs English language at CEFR B1 level (this is the same level which is needed to study for an HND, the British equivalend of the American associate's degree).
iii/ The time to indefinite leave to remain for partners went to 5 years, which leaves people in limbo (stories of women having abortions because of the stress and uncertainty of the whole process are unfortunately not uncommon).
iv/ Relevant to this case. Sponsorship of elderly dependants has effectively been blocked. We're challenging this in the courts and you can sponsor us here!

This is all, I believe, part of the government's drive to reduce net migration in the UK below 100,000 per year. This was promised in the 2010 Conservative manifesto and has been an obsession of both the Tory Party and the press ever since. It was a foolish promise to make because one half of the -net- migration equation is people leaving the UK (which the government has no control over), but it seems to me to have become a personal thing with Theresa May, possibly given an ambition to lead the Conservative Party.

Of course, in reducing immigration of family members (not British citizens) it also affects the right of British citizens to have a family life. This is the basis of most of the challenges to the rules underway - not that it limits the rights of migrants in that it is an attack of working and middle class, ordinary British citizens who happen to have non-EEA spouses and other family members.

Immigration to the UK from outside the UK falls into the following categories, for the most part :
i/ Skilled workers, businesspeople, investors and the like
ii/ Students
iii/ Family members, like spouses
iv/ Refugees

All four of these groups are having to 'contribute' to the government's migration target. In the case of families, this basically means either sending families of British people into effective exile, or splitting them up. Hence the very draconian income and other regulations that came in. Unlike some of the other groups, there are no big business or university lobbies speaking up for families, and indeed the issue is very poorly understood even in the UK.

The estimate (from the government's own figures) is that the new policy would lead to a reduction in net immigration of in the region of 13,600 to 17,800 people per year, so about 50,000 people (plus) since the rules were introduced. Based on the government's own figures, this policy has in fact divided or sent into effective exile some tens of thousands of British families... As mentioned here (the table is some way down but it's there if you scroll).

Two reports we contributed to are the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration's report.
Key findings :
' 1. Some British citizens and permanent residents in the UK, including people in full-time employment, have been separated from a non-EEA partner and in some cases their children as a result of the income requirement
2. Some British citizens and permanent residents have been prevented from returning to the UK with their non-EEA partner and any children as a result of the income requirement
3. Some children, including British children, have been indefinitely separated from a nonEEA parent as a result of the income requirement
4. The current permitted sources in order to meet the income requirement may not fully reflect the resources available to some families
5. The adult dependent relative visa category appears in effect to have been closed'

The Children's Commissioner's report on the effect on children.
Headline quote: 'Immigration income threshold creates thousands of 'Skype kids', says report '
Also.
Headline quote: 'Immigration rule 'has split 15,000 children from a parent'

All this is some context to what's going on. This story is not unusual at all. What's a little unusual is the media traction here, but given the nationality and age of the victim, it's a front page-newsworthy story. Unfortunately news stories about particular colours, nationalities and classes are more newsworthy than others, I'm sorry to say...

The other part to this is that, what a lot of people don't realise, is that 'indefinite leave to remain' isn't 'permanent'(and the story is a little remiss in not pointing this out). When ILR is granted, you are told that you can leave the UK for up to 2 years, and return 'to settle'. This gentleman left for 3 years and therefore broke a very clear, but little-known, rule. The same thing, more or less, occurred to the South African writer Ishtiyaq Shukri, married to a Brit, who returned to the UK only to have his ILR cancelled. He wrote very eloquently on this in his piece 'Losing London' which you can read here.

The 2 year rule is, unfortunately, quite clear if little-known, and I would doubt that this gentleman is granted leniency here, despite his long residence. He isn't the first, though the media coverage (and shocked reactions) are quite telling as to the lack of knowledge of the truly strict and harsh regime which UK immigration has become.

Finally, apart from the human rights impact, it's worth considering the economic impact of these rules in the UK. In forcing British citizens into single parenthood, and losing potential taxpayer revenue, the harsh family migration rules are costing the UK economy as much at £850 million over 10 years. More here.

Tl;dr : UK immigration rules are far more draconian than most people, even in the UK, believe, and are dividing many thousands of British families right now. This story is part of a much, much wider context. The idea that the UK is a 'soft touch' on migration is basically a myth, and a very harmful one. This family-unfriendly policy is largely politically motivated (by a rather silly and unachievable election promise) and media-driven.
posted by plep at 12:32 PM on December 29, 2015 [101 favorites]


That Go Home campaign though, thats some real brutal shit i dont think even we could pull off over here . . .

No, we just have angry groups of people blocking buses full of traumatized refugee children who have been through literal hell to get here and screaming how they should not immediately sent back to places where they are likely to be killed.
posted by emjaybee at 12:33 PM on December 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


'The right to family life argument is especially compelling, I think. It would be an uphill struggle for the government to deport the mother of British children, with a right of residence in the country, because of the children's ECHR Art 8 right to family life - that would be true even if she had broken the immigration rules in some way (that didn't produce an overwhelming public interest reason for deporting her, like terrorist offences).'

It's worth reading up on the Zambrano case.

These things sometimes go to the European courts which have set a precedent with various rulings. Surinder Singh is a famous (and useful) one which allows citizens of one EEA state (such as the UK) to exercise free movement rights by moving to another EEA state (such as Ireland) with their partners and families, work, gain residence, and ultimately return to the UK with their families. Unfortunately, Singh only comes into force when moving between states; within the UK (or wherever), UK law is supreme. (And not just for the UK - Denmark also has some very strict family immigration laws, and people exercise free movement rights to Sweden).

With Article 8, the UK government's argument is that the right to family life is a qualified, rather than an absolute, right :
Article 8 is a qualified right. This means a public authority can sometimes interfere with your right to respect for private and family life if it’s in the interest of the wider community or to protect other people’s rights.

The government thinks it can interfere with the right to family life, for example, to prevent terrorism; or, as is its argument with family migration, for the wider economic good (even though that argument has been debunked by numerous academic studies, including in particular the Middlesex study on the impact of family-unfriendly migration rules, the government still clings to it).

To my mind, this is a bit like the government saying that Article 8 is valid the way they define it, and they can take it away when they like; or in other words, Article 8 and the right to family life doesn't really exist. You can see this as part of the bigger picture of the UK government's attack on human rights in general (viz. Theresa May's fictitious cat story).

The only way to determine who is right and who is wrong in a legal sense is through the courts. This is a long battle which requires a lot of time and a lot of resources, especially given the context of the attacks on legal aid and indeed the loss of legal aid in immigration cases. It has to go through the UK courts before it goes to the European courts. It takes years.
posted by plep at 1:06 PM on December 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


thats some real brutal shit i dont think even we could pull off over here

no we just outright murder the nonwhite people here
posted by poffin boffin at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


What harm will the country suffer by allowing this man to remain where he has lived and worked most of his life?

Unless I'm misreading the story, they may do just that. The only thing they've done is advised him that his residence in the UK is no longer a matter of right.

The Private Eye piece says he claimed not to have stayed in the US more than 2 years, while the West Briton piece says he admitted to being gone more than 2 years. That makes it sound like he may have initially lied to the immigration office, which would be a deeply stupid thing to do.
posted by jpe at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2015


I thought the courts had already determined the application of Art 8 in a case where a British child is affected by the decision to deport a parent. I appreciate that the UK government thinks it can use its Rules to define down what "family life" means, and try to abolish the proportionality inquiry on the facts of particular cases, but I thought that they had basically conceded the point that you need a very compelling reason for deportation when it means effectively removing a British child from her country of citizenship.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:27 PM on December 29, 2015


In defense of my American horror at the Go Home campaign: I will readily concede that my home and native land is ever increasingly hostile and nativist - the inequality (financial, racial, gendered) is staggering. But at least in every interaction I have personally had with USCIS they are professional and courteous (if not somewhat skeptical).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:36 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless I'm misreading the story, they may do just that. The only thing they've done is advised him that his residence in the UK is no longer a matter of right.

As far as I can see, the Home Office have not told him simply that he no longer has indefinite leave to remain, rather than he has no right of residence whatsoever. A negative decision has already been made on a fresh application, and a judicial review has failed. As far as I can tell from scant sources, Mr Podgoretsky is currently avoiding deportation only because of a potential appeal of the judicial review.
posted by howfar at 1:52 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I took the Life in the UK test several years ago when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (that's a Very British term for "permanent resident status"). As I recall, it was ⅓ UK Demographics, ⅓ How A Whim Becomes A Law, and ⅓ How To Apply For Benefits.

My score absolved me of needing to take an English Language test, which I found frustrating for political reasons. I was immigrating from the USA, which has no official language, but they accepted 19/20 on a multiple-choice touch screen enough to excuse me from the requirement. For those keeping track, the only reason I got one wrong was that I'd underestimated how long after being unfairly terminated someone could contest it.

Our friend who immigrated from India, where one of the official languages is English, had to take an English test just to keep going with his visa status. He was told that writing and editing text that ends up in major newspapers and magazines wasn't enough "workplace experience" to waive that requirement. I ask you!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:07 PM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


I thought the courts had already determined the application of Art 8 in a case where a British child is affected by the decision to deport a parent.

This is said not to apply to adult children or grandchildren
posted by C.A.S. at 2:27 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the courts had already determined the application of Art 8 in a case where a British child is affected by the decision to deport a parent. I appreciate that the UK government thinks it can use its Rules to define down what "family life" means, and try to abolish the proportionality inquiry on the facts of particular cases, but I thought that they had basically conceded the point that you need a very compelling reason for deportation when it means effectively removing a British child from her country of citizenship.

Freemovement blog (always good) on ZH (Tanzania).

On the other hand you have this quote from a decision 'on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department' (and made to someone I know very well) :
'At two and three years old respectively, it is considered that x and y are of an age where they would be able to readjust to life without you.'

And this from 'Home Office reasons for deportation letter, October 2013' :
'It is considered that a significant number of children are brought up satisfactorily by one parent alone with little or no contact with their other parent.'

The Children's Commissioner report on the impact of the rules from August 2015 noted that 'the Government is under a legal obligation to treat the best interests of children as a primary consideration (the ‘best interests principle’) when implementing rules and policies and when making individual decisions.'

However, it goes on to say :
'The guidance plays a large part in how decision makers interpret the law and exacerbates the shortcomings with the Rules. It reduces the best interest principle to a mere exception and actively reminds decision makers that cases where an applicant can succeed under Article 8 ECHR are very rare. '

'In 2013, John Vine, former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, reported that out of 60 refused partner applications cases involving children (mostly made under the old rules) in only one had a decision-maker considered their best interests. For this report, eleven refusal decisions under the financial requirements were analysed and these showed that nothing has changed since the Rules were amended :
In eight out of eleven cases, the existence of the children was ignored
In three cases, there was a formulaic consideration with little substantive analysis
•Decision letters failed to demonstrate that any consideration had taken place of ‘the information and evidence provided concerning the children’s best interests’ as specifically required by guidance'


This is also borne out in some of my own conversations with people in the field. The government may said one thing, but the actuality of what happens is rather different.

It's also worth noting that the political environment has gradually become more and more hostile since 2011, as the government repeatedly fails to hit its self-imposed (and quite possibly unachievable, at least in a liberal democracy) net migration target. This also affects the tenor of discussions.
posted by plep at 2:31 PM on December 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


That's appalling; it doesn't sound like they are exploiting an uncertain gap in the law, it sounds like they are straight-up ignoring the applicable legal standard. Thank you for the link to the Children's Commissioner report, I'll read it.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:43 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Happy reading! This is the correct link for the Children's Commissioner report (I made a copy and paste error).
posted by plep at 2:45 PM on December 29, 2015


Oops, the link is coming up "Page Not Found" and the latest Asylum and Immigration reports on the website are from 2014. Could you re-link? I'm professionally interested in instances where there's an empirically-demonstrated gap between the black-letter law and its "application", and would be very interested.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2015


Sorry, cross-posted! Thank you.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


No worries. I was momentarily consumed with righteous rage. ;)
posted by plep at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


  important UK government things entwined with the state Church

There is no UK state church. England has an Established church, Scotland does not.

Also, the halloween lantern carving question is wrong. It didn't offer the option of turnip, the only possible correct answer. Pumpkins are a modern import.
posted by scruss at 4:15 PM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's sort of like Jeopardy in that you don't actually have to know the names of the Hadrian's Wall forts, just that Hadrian's Wall was built by the Roman Empire, and take a guess as to which names are obviously NOT ROMAN.

This strikes me as a rather blinkered take. Should you really have to have an educated, anglophone Westerner's knowledge of classical history and instincts about Roman nomenclature to qualify for something as gravely and universally necessary as living in the same country as your children? Remember that people from an immense range of backgrounds need to pass this test. (Personally, I was astounded at the inclusion of meaningless trivia questions like "what year did Richard III die in the Battle of Leicester City Council car park" -- with all the choices being somewhere between 1485 and 1498, to make sure the knowledge tested is as irrelevant as possible.)

Anyway, really glad this case is getting attention. Although my English husband and I have no intention of moving to the UK, I started paying attention to this stuff years ago in case it ever became an issue for us, and have been disheartened by the callousness of the system ever since. I'm particularly struck by the fact that very few people, in the UK or elsewhere, seem to know about any of it.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


I got one question about when Lent starts, which is basically a pure Christianity question

It starts the day after pancake Tuesday, so useful for worshippers of either Jesus or pancakes, the latter of which, by law, may only be eaten on this day in the UK.
posted by biffa at 4:37 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Awful story, and I hope the Home Office uses its discretionary powers to fix the shitty.

That said, I'm a permanent resident of the country in which I live, and I'm extremely aware of the laws about my status. I can't imagine being so blase about it as to think I could be away for multiple years without problems, and while Mr. Podgoretsky's absences are very understandable, I'm still somewhat shocked that before (or even upon) his return he didn't realize that his permanent residency status had been compromised.

It's pretty much par for the course that permanent residents may not be away from the country for years at a time without repercussions, and as a foreign permanent resident, I bear the onus of ensuring that I don't disqualify myself. I'd like to believe that medical emergencies can be understood by the powers that be, but (A) I have no "right" to that understanding and (B) I certainly wouldn't ever expect that to happen automagically without my petitioning.

(but of course it appears we're more interested in the minutiae of UK citizenship exams than the actual matter at hand...)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:32 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It starts the day after pancake Tuesday, so useful for worshippers of either Jesus or pancakes, the latter of which, by law, may only be eaten on this day in the UK.

Actually, the law is that you may eat pancakes at anytime in the UK, but that you MUST eat pancakes on Pancake Tuesday.

That said, Pancake Worshippers have been known to eat pancakes on Ash Wednesday, because too many people were busy on Tuesday and so we delayed the Pancake Sacrafices to the first day of Lent. (We shocked a poor Anglican divinity student by doing so).
posted by jb at 6:33 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Awful story, and I hope the Home Office uses its discretionary powers to fix the shitty.

Worth clarifying that a refusal to exercise its discretion in Mr Podgoretsky's favour is what the Home Office has already been to court to defend. A judicial review is a review of an executive decision. JR is hard to succeed at, however, as* a court will only intervene where the exercise of discretion was either unlawful; ignored relevant facts; based on irrelevant facts; or what is called "Wednesbury unreasonable", which requires that the decision is so unreasonable that no reasonable person could have made it. It's a pretty stringent test, even once human rights and equality legislation are taken into account, hence the judicial criticism of the decision despite not intervening.

The fact that executive discretion is subject to so little external review and limitation is one of main reasons why I think our lack of a written constitution is more trouble than it's worth at this point in history.

*Simplifying slightly, reducing precision while maintaining accuracy.
posted by howfar at 8:32 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


It starts the day after pancake Tuesday, so useful for worshippers of either Jesus or pancakes, the latter of which, by law, may only be eaten on this day in the UK.

I'm grateful to live in a country where I have the inalienable right to eat worshippers of pancakes on any day I please.
posted by The World Famous at 9:36 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I took the Life in the UK test several years ago when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (that's a Very British term for "permanent resident status"). As I recall, it was ⅓ UK Demographics, ⅓ How A Whim Becomes A Law, and ⅓ How To Apply For Benefits.

My score absolved me of needing to take an English Language test, which I found frustrating for political reasons.


This is no longer the case. Now all applicants for ILR need to take the Life in the UK test, and nationals of the countries not listed here also need to have passed a recognised language test at CEFR B1 level, unless they have a NARIC-recognised degree that was taught in English. Applicants for a spouse, fiance or civil partner visa need to to pass A1 level, but they will need B1 for ILR (or citizenship). This additional requirement was added a couple of years ago. (In fairness, Life in the UK has a pass rate of around 70% first time round, it's one of the easier parts of the whole process (which says a lot about how difficult the whole process is) if the applicant has read the study materials and done some practice tests, and people can retake it as many times as required; however, the trial by ordeal that is the spouse visa process all adds up).

Note that the language test for the spouse visa needs to be taken at certain centres around the world (which are hard to get to in many countries - stories of 20 hour bus rides to get to the test centre aren't that uncommon), and the test typically has a validity of 2 years. (An initial spouse visa, for example, is valid for around 2 1/2 years before you need to renew it). And the list of recognised tests changes from time to time, so some tests which were formerly recognised are no longer recognised (though there is typically a 'transition period' when people can apply under old tests; some people whose timing was wrong have had to sit entirely new courses, however).

Apart from the stress, this all adds to the expense of the whole process, which starts at around £5000 and quickly mounts up when lawyers, in person appointments (to avoid stress, uncertainty, and the time taken to make a decision, which can take many months), time off paid work to attend appointments, travel costs to attend appointments etc. are thrown into the mix.
posted by plep at 1:12 AM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, ILR is indeed 'indefinite' and not 'permanent'. That's why Mr Podgoretsky is in the situation he's in. :)
posted by plep at 1:26 AM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


So, I started an application for a new UK visa a few months ago (its been abandoned at the moment for reasons) and having always had one in my passport for past 10 years, I was taken aback by how much they've tightened up the screws.

In my city of residence (an EU capital), one can only apply, in person, on alternate Thursdays. Don't even think about a quick trip over to London.

I started filling out the application, its become rather than like an acrobat contorting itself to stay sane.

"List the countries you've travelled to in the past 10 years that are not the UK or the Commonwealth but might be the EU, or North America but Canada doesn't count, righty ho, and don't forget to list all your previous passports, and your address in 1997."
posted by infini at 8:09 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's pretty much par for the course that permanent residents may not be away from the country for years at a time without repercussions, and as a foreign permanent resident, I bear the onus of ensuring that I don't disqualify myself. I'd like to believe that medical emergencies can be understood by the powers that be, but (A) I have no "right" to that understanding and (B) I certainly wouldn't ever expect that to happen automagically without my petitioning.

this.

Immigration forums online are full of "I got my work permit in company A and now have an offer with company B, what do I do" or "Can I travel etc"

There are forms one can fill if one will be away beyond the recommended length of time in order to provide evidence of not having abandoned one's green card.
posted by infini at 8:13 AM on January 1, 2016


Hero soldier forced to quit UK after his wife is barred from the country is a fairly typical story (of thousands that don't make the media) - the right combination of occupation (e.g. soldier, doctor, nurse), nationality (with some media, unfortunately) and local interest is more likely to make the news.

One interesting angle to the whole situation is that the local media is much much more likely to pick up on local stories, especially of families that lobby them, run Facebook campaigns, etc. The national media then tend to pick up on local stories. I guess there's a lesson there on the value of the local press.
posted by plep at 1:33 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


nationality (with some media, unfortunately)

Let's not forget the importance of being white and matching a limited range of conventions of attractiveness.
posted by howfar at 4:27 AM on January 3, 2016


'Let's not forget the importance of being white and matching a limited range of conventions of attractiveness.'

To a degree, though that's not the only factor by any means. For example, Mirror Group newspapers love to run stories about NHS staff in general (I'm thinking of one example of a woman whose husband was a doctor from Ecuador, who the Mirror did a campaign on).

Channel 4 News has covered the situation admirably - here's a piece on Andy Russell, his Chinese wife Molly and their children; and Chris Reed and his Kenyan wife Caroline. Some other 'quality' newspapers have run pieces, my suspicion is that interns scour the local press for attractive stories and then use them when they can - they are certainly aware of the issue but cherry pick their stories. For people affected who do want to get stories out there, the local press and local BBC radio stations are often sympathetic, especially in conjunction with Facebook and Twitter campaigns and local petitions, and so on.

Rightwing papers such as the Mail and Express have also run stories, but in their case there's something of an element of 'so how come Brits can't bring their family in but EU people can' - i.e. there's an element of levelling down rather than levelling up. Social class and 'cultural distance' are also factors.

The reason for the above because people who travel within the European Economic Area are able to live and work with their families - free movement of citizens and families being a cornerstone of the European project - whereas if they stay in-country, the national law is suprement. This is the basis of the Surinder Singh route, often used by Brits who can't meet the requirement (or indeed as preferable to the spouse visa route to those who are just more young and mobile and have fewer commitments which limit travel (e.g. mortgages, elderly parents etc) ), which allows them to move - and reunite with their families - in Ireland (video made by one family that's done it in Ireland), Malta (blog of one family that's done it in Malta), the Netherlands (piece prepared by one couple that's done it in Amsterdam), France and so on, get residency and ultimately move back to the UK - because in moving and working in a foreign country they have become, in a sense, 'Europeans', not simply Brits.

Even with other European countries, Denmark also has strict immigration laws, and a number of their citizens move to Sweden (and in some cases can commute back from Malmo to Copenhagen for work!) using the same principle, and indeed there's a campaign/advocacy group for affected families of Danish citizens (they've been going a lot longer than us because the strict 'attachment requirement rules' came in in Denmark about 10 years before the income requirement etc. in the UK). The Netherlands is also fairly strict, and some of their citizens use the 'Belgian route' or the 'German route' which again is the same principle. Norway is also strict, and isn't part of the EU but is part of the European Economic Area (so bound by the same free movement rules), so again we see families of Norwegian citizens exercising their free movement rights in Sweden.

Lots and lots and the Surinder Singh route here, and the relevant directive here. The freedom of movement in the EU blog is a great resource as well. There are also a number of Facebook support groups.

There's a great, largely untold story, of those reuniting, either through the spouse route (and all the struggles that come with that) or indeed by moving abroad in order to reunite with their families in the UK (though some simply choose to stay in their new host country, as the find they can live well there). That's before we throw other interesting cases like Zambrano, Chen and Mary Carpenter into the mix. But there are a lot of interesting support groups, especially on Facebook, which tell their own stories.
posted by plep at 5:21 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've also been remiss in not mentioning the Love Letters to the Home Office book, which is another collection of stories but one which you can get a hard copy of, as well as reading some of them online. Guardian piece. It's a lovely book, both aesthetically and in terms of the content. My friend Katharine edited it and I wrote the preface, not that that's important, so I do recommend getting a copy. ;)
posted by plep at 5:33 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of the Life In The UK test (I'm an American with no interest in living in the UK), so I did a quick google and found a practice test. Wow. It's one part "is England great y/n", one part "how much do you know about Christianity?", one part "which of this list of obscure Welsh hills is fake?", and one part actual knowledge of relevant laws.

It makes the stuff on the American citizenship test look like a bastion of progressive thought.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:34 AM on December 29 [36 favorites +] [!]



I (a Brit) got 20/24 on the first sample test on the website without trying.
It's a dumb exam but not as dumb as the criticism suggests. "The England is great" questions, besides being about the UK, not England, are actually questions about modern British values (and historical events which support those). The "Christianity" questions are about the historical and current role of the dominant religion in UK society , not about Christianity itself. Like many European nations (including that jewel of 21st century progressive politics, Germany), religion is woven into the UK state in ways that the separation of a church and state prevents (mostly) in the USA. The "Welsh hills"/ landmarks type questions encourage interest in UK geography and history. Passing this test amounts to more or less memorizing a moderate sized set of facts. It's a dumb , easy to study for test but the themes are fairly reasonable and not sinister.
posted by Bwithh at 5:29 PM on January 3, 2016


religion is woven into the UK state in ways

Intertwined. Not to mention what happened when a king wanted to marry again, and again, and again, ...
posted by infini at 6:51 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Court of Appeal rejects attempts by Home Secretary to deport man resident in Britain for 60 years.

'The Court of Appeal has rejected the Home Secretary’s efforts to deport a man who has been resident in the UK for more than 60 years. Benedetto Vassallo came to the UK from Italy when he was four in 1952. He had married a British woman, has British children and grandchildren and, having only returned to Italy once for a holiday in the early 1970s, speaks little Italian and cannot read it.'

(Interesting reading. Unlike Podgoretsky, of course, he's an EU national. He also has a lengthy and interesting criminal record, including convictions in Switzerland and Sweden - not entirely sure how long he spent in either country. Despite the rap sheet, 60 years is a long time. It is somewhat suggestive of the lengths the Home Office will go to in some cases!).
posted by plep at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2016


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