I don’t normally choose to write about things that aren’t books, restaurants, food, or related to publishing, but I thought “tonight might be the night that I break that unwritten rule”.
As you may have guessed reading this blog, I’m an American. But I live in Oxford, UK. I love it here. It’s not just the city, I love the country as well. There’s so much of it I haven’t seen (much like I haven’t seen as much of the USA as I’d like), but my time here is coming to an end.
Like a lot of non-EU students studying in the UK there’s a lot standing in the way of me and my happy future British lifestyle. Recent changes to immigration policy have made it difficult to continue working in the country after the end of my course. I had no idea these changes were being considered when I made my application.
When I applied just over a year ago there was a “post-study work visa” available to all students who have studied at an approved university. From the UKBA website, under the Tier 1 Post-Study Work Visa
The Tier 1 (Post-study work) category allows the UK to retain the most able international (non-European) graduates who have studied here. Applicants who have permission to stay under Tier 1 (Post-study work), you can look for work without needing to have a sponsor.
What this meant was that after I had obtained my Masters degree I could apply and stay in the country without having first secured a job, under the promise that I would then switch into a Work visa when I had obtained one.
Then, unexpectedly, after starting my Masters degree changes were made to the UKBA’s visa structure. Applications to the Post-Study Work visa were closed on 6 April 2012 and a new track was opened. Cue Darth Vader entrance music and enter the “Tier 2 (General)” visa. Under this track any international (non-EU) student on an approved undergraduate or postgraduate course can still apply to work in the UK . . . but only after they’ve secured a job with a salary of 20,000 pounds at an approved Tier 2 Sponsor company before their student visa expires.
Like in my home country, I hear a lot of complaints about immigrants coming and taking British jobs, and no doubt there are a lot of people who come from different countries and stay and, yes, perhaps get an “unskilled” job.
The consequences of this UKBA policy change have made it extremely difficult for me to find work. After spending a year here studying, paying “international” tuition fees (nearly double what UK and EU students pay), working part-time and putting money into the UK economy, it feels more like I’m being punished for wanting a UK postgraduate education.
Most companies only want to hire someone with the existing right to work in the UK. I can get that right to work, but only if they offer me the job first. And it seems like not too many companies want to take a chance on that. Catch-22.
Couple this with an already extremely competitive publishing job market and the government has almost entirely dashed my hopes of living and working in this country ever again. The complications for working here only increase once I go back home to the States. I’m planning on going home for Christmas, and unless I have a job by then I’m not coming back.
And it’s all gotten to the point where I think “Why should I?” This country doesn’t want all of my hard work. Its policies are based on a theory of “us” and “them”. There’s no grey area. UK and EU (and Commonwealth) vs. the Rest of the World. It doesn’t matter what country I’m from, I’m still lumped in a group of “potential foreign free-loader”. And I don’t understand how my country is any different from countries in the EU, other than the fact that I’m separated from the UK by a bunch of water.
I mean, I’m ready to work! And I’m ready to work hard. I’m still applying for jobs, but unless some good news comes along (an interview would be nice) I’m not holding my breath.
I’m booking my ticket home for Christmas. I don’t want to leave. It’s going to be one of the worst days in my entire life. It’s going to be my first heartbreak all over again. I’ll be separated from all of the close friends I’ve made over the past year and removed, once again, from a life I have come to love and city I have come to call a second home. I’ve done this so many times in my life that I feel a bit like a Time Lord, like the Doctor. I’m always having to regenerate, find new companions, experience loss. I haven’t felt normal since I was 17. If I counted all the times I’ve had to start over as a Regeneration I’d be on my 7th. That’s a lot of inconsistency for only 23 years of life.
I’m not really sure what sort of place moving back home will send me. It’s not something I want to think about, but something that’s been dwelling on my mind day after day.
Because in the end…
I don’t want to go.