Monday, May 25, 2015

letter I sent to my new MP

Dear [Newly-Elected local Member of Parliament],

I am surprised and confused by the recent doubling of immigration costs for non-EEA nationals as outlined on I would appreciate your help in clarifying and protesting the new policy that quietly came into effect after Parliament was dissolved.
I am your constituent, the wife of a British citizen, a gainfully employed taxpayer and dutiful NI contributor, and sick to the teeth of the regular introduction of ridiculous and demeaning new policies that seem designed to provide the state with infinite opportunities to extort or deport me on an ever-expanding list of technicalities.
I have been living, legally and without interruption, in the UK since September of 2009. I came here as a postgraduate student (Tier 4), transitioned awkwardly into post-study work (Tier 1, now defunct) and in April of 2012 married the man I'd been dating since 2004, a British citizen. We applied for FLR(M) in August of 2012, and after waiting for the better part of a year, in March of 2013 we were sent a new application form to fill in. Under the new (baffling) rules the qualification terms for Indefinite Leave to Remain changed from 5 years in any category to 5 years specifically under FLR(M), and now required a pointless and expensive biometric residence permit, with a note to the effect that the new regulations had been back-dated to include all applications made on or after 9 July 2012. (Had we applied one month earlier, I would have ILR by now, and would probably be able to vote next year. As it stands I won't be able to apply for ILR until 2017.)
The 5-year route to ILR includes a “restart” after 2.5 years, at which point I must reapply. If that means costs or waiting periods or access to the NHS have changed, so be it, I am treated as a new applicant. The immigration process makes one feel helpless at the best of times; the fact that UKBA crafted the 2012 policy so they could change the whole thing halfway through makes one feel absolutely exploited. What will happen between now and 2017? Will the 5-year route be extended to 10? 30? How many times will I have to fork over a month's wages, cross my fingers and wait, only to be sent a new application and more flaming hoops to jump through? No other legal fixed term programme, of which I am aware, has a trapdoor of this kind, or seems built specifically to be violable by the drafter.
The most flagrantly unethical aspect is the introduction of the new £500 “surcharge” to access the NHS for my next 2.5 years of probationary leave. I work on a PAYE contract for a royal university, and have done for nearly four years. Appropriate NI contributions are deducted automatically from my wages every month—nearly £3,000 a year. Moreover, I'm not affected by this because of some unusual technicality: The FLR(M) route requires a minimum taxable income, either on the part of the sponsor or the already-resident applicant, of £18,600 per year. I would not qualify for my visa if I were not already paying National Insurance. It is clear that the writers of this policy know perfectly well that they are charging me twice, and with reference to the extensive list of exempt categories (into none of which I fall) that the inclusion of settled, working taxpayers like me was deliberate.
When this political stunt was being discussed in the media in 2014 my husband raised this point with your predecessor, [Retired MP]. She communicated on our behalf with the Earl Howe who responded in September of last year to clarify that, as I was ordinarily resident in the UK, the new charges would not be applied to me, as they were intended to apply only to temporary migrants, not settled, ordinarily-resident taxpayers. I retain a copy of that letter and can share it with you if you deem it worthwhile. I would be fascinated to know when and why the plan adjusted to include families like mine.

My husband and I would appreciate your insight into what, if anything, can be done about this, and how we can prevent this situation from getting worse. Thank you for your help.

Points I didn't make [but really wanted to]:

"I would appreciate your help in clarifying and protesting the new policy that quietly came into effect after Parliament was dissolved [while everyone in the news was distracted by how much your recently-ousted party leader looks like Wallace.]

"I would be fascinated to know when and why the plan adjusted to include families like mine. [I will also be keeping an eye out in the post for my £500 refund. I'd prefer it in £2 coins, presented by the secretary of state at my place of employment, with tulips and a banner that says "We're very sorry, we forgot our vitriol affected real people."]"