Since I first came to Britain, the UK immigration rules have changed a lot. Recently I obtained my 6th leave to remain. My passport has a big collection of varied visas: International Graduate Scheme (Who remembers what it was?!), Youth Exchange Scheme, Post Study Worker, Highly Skilled Worker (I like this name the most, I feel important.) etc. Because of the frequent name change of visas, Heathrow Airport officers sometimes ask me to explain ‘what my current visa status means.’ That’s your job, officer!
Each visa cost quite a significant amount of money. My latest was £1800 including the 5 days premium service at Public Enquiry Office. As my expensive three-month-awaited premium appointment was only made in Cardiff at the last minute, I had to make a two-day journey to Wales in the heavy snow. My mum was totally confused asking ‘Is there no Home Office in England??’
As an international living away from home, the inconvenience of lack of passport for sometime is quite painful. Although they advise you not to plan a overseas trip until you receive passport and visa back, I usually can’t help risking a next business travel planning because that is my reason to be in the UK! American professor at the next counter at the enquiry office was enthusiastically appealing on this point. But I knew this type of enthusiasm is a waste of energy in front of authority.
Inevitably, five years ago, my planned 10 days trip to Australia turned out to be 3 nights 5 days with my boss’s fury (one good thing was I was too jet-lagged to recognise her anger.), and 3 years ago I received my passport back just a day before the departure to Hong Kong with three days hiding from boss.
So each visa on my passport has funny (?!) stories behind it. Well, if I have a choice, I don’t want to have any more drama around visas…