Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Being Deported

As you may have heard, I have in fact been denied leave to remain in the United Kingdom by the Home Office. Thanks to an emergency appeal by my local MP, Eric Joyce, I may legally remain in Her Majesty’s realm for the duration of my appeal. With luck, the appeal will be processed with customary bureaucratic haste, giving me at least another 6 weeks to hang about until such time as they cut our progeny out of my wife’s tummy.

This all started back in late March, when I downloaded the forms to remain in the UK from a government website. Knowing that we would be moving house and visiting London in the weeks leading up to the deadline for renewing my visa, I thought that I would be proactive – no, seriously – and make my application early. Unfortunately, such punctuality is not permitted as one is prohibited from applying prior to 28 days before the deadline. So Morag and I packed up everything we own and, with the help of some friends, migrated to Polmont.

Once the house was settled enough that I could remove the lawn chairs from the living room, I set about on my application. I spent several nights assembling the necessary documents proving that we were indeed living together as a genuinely married couple. This, it seems, is the entire point of the second application, as one in three marriages in London in recent years has been a sham perpetrated to smuggle new individual members of the huddled mass into the country. Placing the final touches to my application on Friday evening in order to postmark by the Saturday deadline, I decided to search Algore’s information superhighway to see if I could find my Home Office number. What I discovered was that I have a notable reserve of subconscious French words which can boil to the surface when no one else is present.

At some unfortunate point during the seven weeks since I had downloaded my application, the government had decided to completely redesign the 10-month-old form, up the fee from £300 to £700, and require a “Life in the United Kingdom” test. Did they notify us, you ask? No, but they did publish it in a Home Office document back in December. Immigrants, you see, are expected to read the latest Home Office press release with their morning tea. Unsure as to whether I could still submit the now outrageously-priced £700 permanent leave to remain form, which required the new test, or if I would have to submit a £400 extension and then the £700 later, I determined to call Monday morning. Morag was out of town at the time anyway and would not make it back Saturday to sign the new documents before the post office closed early. I discovered Monday that, naturally, I needed to submit the extension as soon as possible. The essence of the problem at this point was that I owed the Home Office another £400, to which their solution was to pay yet another £400. (From what I gather, the government appears to be sheltering native citizens from the high costs of their broken asylum system by sticking it to other immigrants.) So we threw together the application and included a nice letter explaining the situation and posted it the next day.

Six weeks later, we received an improperly punctuated notification that, as my application was postmarked three days late, I have been denied leave to remain in the United Kingdom. The letter –enclosing Morag’s passport - was of course delayed by a week as they had posted it to our old address despite the new address clearly marked on the application.

We currently have three options:

1) My MP and his staff are petitioning the Home Office on our behalf to have the decision overturned on grounds that Morag is giving birth in six weeks. If anyone can persuade the Secretary of State, it is him. This would be the quickest and least-expensive solution.

2) I am seeking legal consultation on my right of appeal to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, an external agency that audits the decisions by the Home Office. This does not look promising at the moment; I will find out more on Monday morning.

3) Fly back to Los Angeles and re-apply from there. This could be a quick-fix option and it would be nice to see the family, but would add the price of a trans-continental flight, a 44-hour round trip, and there is no guarantee how long it might take.

Such is the situation as it stands. One might think that the Home Office would do better to weed out Benz bombers or to punish those who abuse the system and don’t give a fig about Britain or its laws, rather than deporting law-abiding fund accountants from Polmont who, despite their good-faith efforts, fail keep abreast with ever-changing and poorly-advertised regulations. But then again, the American INS is well-known neither for the high service standards provided to Americans with alien spouses, nor for its ability control flagrant immigration violations.

Please pray for a swift and inexpensive resolution of our situation.

Please support common sense immigration reforms which place family in its proper place - before the state. Such common sense is possible: Michelle recently walked in to renew her spousal visa three months past the expiration date. The German official smiled, wondered that anyone had ever emigrated from California, and renewed her visa with no hassle and at zero cost. Meanwhile, my passport is detained by a shadowy agency called the “Local Enforcement Office.” Next time, I’ll know where to relocate.

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