Being a foreigner is not easy. As migrants, people gain a lot of experience and knowledge about the World, about cultures and societies. However, they also have to put up with a lot of hate. Hate from people in the country they moved in, who are afraid of the different and hate from people back in their own country. I have been told I am a ‘betrayer’ of my country, my state, my city. Apparently liking and loving other places in the World is seemed as a sin. But I never cared, and I still do not care. It is my life and I want to live it in the way I like. For me, it was about living in the place you love and making the most of it while growing as a person and becoming a productive member of society. Because no matter where you live, your hometown or a different place, we all have the duty of fulfilling our social obligations to be a decent citizen. However, for me it was not that easy, and I was not aware of, to be able to feel as a member of this society, it would take some suffering and pain.
I cannot talk on behalf of every migrant, not at all. But my experience is this and I want to share it. This process was not just a bureaucratic one, but also emotional. Some people might think of it differently or might have felt differently, but the truth is that for me, it was a tough process because I felt kind of left behind.
The day I handed my final project, after celebrating and being happy for a moment, Angelo and I had a conversation. What was the next step? For me it was obvious, I did not want to go back to Mexico. I like it here and I love London. I wanted the opportunity to prove myself in a different country. I spent all my life in the same city and I wanted to move out of my comfort zone. So, there were two paths: One the working visa, which seemed easier, if you have a sponsor you will be able to keep the visa and have the right to work in the UK. But it was also risky, because as soon as you lose the sponsorship you will be given 30 days exactly to leave the country or to get a new working visa. The second option was apply for residency.
As a Mexican who has a US visa, I thought I had some experience with authorities being strict and checking every single aspect of your life. I knew nothing. The questions from the home office were very personal. At times, the questions made me feel like I was trying to rip the country off, like if my main aim was to get benefits and live at the expense of the state, which is far from the truth. I had to explain why I wanted to live in the UK and why I could not just go back to my country and live there. How do you explain such a thing? I mean, for a lot of people it would make sense, just go back to your country. You do not need a visa to live there, you speak the native language and you will probably feel more used to the values and culture in general. I could not just write ‘Because I love London’. It would not make sense, love does not have place in bureaucracy. It was a very long application, almost 90 pages. They wanted every single bank statement for the last 5 years, they wanted a detailed description of each of the trips I have done in my life, why I travelled there, with whom, for how long, what were the intentions. It felt invasive and at some point, I felt accused. Of what? Of wanting to dare the Status Quo, of wanting to live somewhere else, guilty of wanting to fulfil my biggest desire. Like if for some reason, I should not have the right to dream.
Just to clarify, I do understand why they must follow these processes. Sadly, there are people who want to rip off countries, who want to get the easy way or worst, who just want to make people suffer and spread chaos and terror around the world. I am aware of this, and I DO understand why this must be done. I am not criticising what they do. Rather, I am explaining how it made me feel. Because, as much as I understand, such strict and tough process to identify people with bad intentions, can be mentally exhausting and intrusive for the ones who are not.
Then, believe it or not, the most difficult part was about to come. The waiting. The application format said it would take two months to get a reply. They took all my personal IDs, including the passport and I had to wait. I thought I would be able to manage it, but then some ‘issues’ came in. They needed more information, this time was not about me but about my partner. It felt wrong. But we provided what they needed and decided to wait. After two months and no response, I had to make a call. The person said it would take longer than what it was expected. Hundreds of thousands of applications were coming in and there was so much information to check and process.
For almost 8 months, my only duties involved handling stuff related with house chores, helping with little tasks and walking around the city feeling left behind. I was not like the rest of the people. I was somehow one step lower. I tried and applied for some jobs, but my legal situation of ‘waiting for a response’ was a kind of repellent. I could not work, at that point I was feeling frustrated with the impression that all my hard work to get a degree and then a MSc., and all the honours and merits were being thrown away just because of the legal situation. I could not travel anywhere, because I had no passport or ID, I was like a ghost. The most frustrating and annoying part was, at least for me, knowing that it was out of my control. I could not sort it out no matter how much effort I could possibly put on it. It was not my decision. Thinking about my future being decided by a board of people who did not know how much I have sacrificed to get here, all the nights without sleeping to finish projects, being unable to go out and enjoy with friends to save money for my flights, my fees. Would they ever wonder how much it cost me to come here? Or would they just notice I missed one little document and reject me, send me back, with a broken heart.
When I finally got my residence permit, I was thrilled. It was on the 16th of June,2017. I was over the moon. I cried, I cried of happiness, of relief, I got my peace of mind back. My legs felt weak, my heartbeat fastened, my hands were shaking while I was opening the envelope. I knew it was from the home office and that moment, it felt like an eternity. Unfolding the letter, starting to read the first lines, I was scared. Although they started in a very polite way, they always start their letters like that, even if they are telling you to pack your stuff and get ready to leave in the next month. But it was there ‘your application was approved’. Then at the back of the letter the card attached. Without a doubt, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I feel safe now, I feel visible. Before that, I used to think about myself like an invisible soul, walking around London’s streets, with no rights, with no identity, with no recognition. That day, I knew I would be able to get a job, I was at the same level of the rest of my fellow applicants ready to compete for the desired role.
Life is heading in the right direction, in the direction I wanted it to go. I am ready to face challenges, disappointments, anger, frustration and success in the professional life of London. I am aware that this is just the beginning. But now I feel prepared to overcome obstacles and succeed.