I’ve never been a big fan of birthdays. Having your birthday between Christmas and New Year’s Eve means that most of your presents are wrapped in Christmas-themed paper and under the still-up Christmas tree, and that it’s often forgotten or pass in a blur anyway.
For these reasons, I have stopped celebrating my birthday the ‘traditional way’ years ago. Instead, we travel. We celebrated my 25th birthday in New York, last year we visited Berlin… This year we had planned to spend a couple days in London, but London and the luxurious Kensington hotel turned into Croydon and a long day waiting at the Home Office bureau.
It’s never a great way to spend a birthday – or any day for that matter – but the fact that, after a 10-hour wait, our visa was refused made it the worst birthday ever.
I’ve known loss and heartbreak before, but nothing that came even close to how I felt that night. The world crumbled from under me. How we made it through the 4-hour drive home is still a mystery to me!
The rest of the weekend was filled with tears, questions and phone calls.
We were lucky enough to find an immigration adviser who accepted to meet with us quickly. After delivering more bad news (our appeal would have void my current visa and robbed me of my right to work), she explained us our options and helped us plan a new application for a slightly different visa.
So after ‘celebrating’ my birthday at the Premium Service Centre, I started the New Year in a solicitor’s office. Not exactly what I had in mind for 2018!
However, it turned out to be a humbling experience. It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change when the life you spent years building and your entire future is hanging in the balance. The miles ran, the mountains climbed, the countries visited had no meaning anymore; all that mattered were the moments shared with Edward and those shared with our friends. I wanted more of that.
I think I also learned some valuable lessons regarding immigration (possibly the subject of a future post). When we told our loved ones that the application was refused, they were just as shocked as us. Because, as I said in a previous post, my case is strong and rather straightforward. We ticked all the boxes but one, for a reason that any person with a bit of logic would have understood had they taken the time to speak to us… We know people who were in the same situation and got approved after a quick chat with their caseworker; it was the main reason we paid an extra £500, to be in the waiting room if they had questions regarding our case!
But we were unlucky and didn’t go through the interview process. Instead, we were left to rot in a waiting room for 10 hours (without food and literally locked in because by then, the people in charge of the metal detector had gone home), given the refusal letter with not so much as a look in our direction and escorted out by three security guards. It’s one of them who advised us to get a lawyer; the caseworker was rude, condescending and refused to answer the most basic questions – you know, even the simple ones, like, will I be deported?
Our biggest mistake was to believe the Home Office employees were humans and would treat us as such. In reality, we were treated like numbers. And even that is generous…
Thankfully, our solicitor knows better and is now handling the case without letting emotions get in the way, which is what we should have done the first time round.
The future is very uncertain for us right now, and we can only hope that I’ll still be on this side of the pond on my next birthday…