Author: Estel Farell-Roig
Before the Brexit vote, I never really thought of my immigration status in the UK. I knew I wasn’t British, but felt welcome overall.
There were a few differences between me and others – such as the fact British students got a loan towards the living costs and I could only get help with my tuition fees – but that didn’t bother me too much.
Now, I can’t help feeling like a second class citizen on a daily basis and I am angry, especially this week as applications for settled status have opened.
In my mind are all the articles about us coming here to steal your jobs, to claim your benefits, to use your NHS. All we do is take, right? But I am a young woman working full-time and paying taxes here. I don’t have children and rarely go to the doctor. I spend my money in the UK and, this year, I am hoping to buy a house with my boyfriend of five years.
Still, all we do is take and now I will have to go through the humiliating process of applying for settled status. Having lived in the UK for five and a half years, I find it insulting.
Before Brexit, I never thought about becoming a British citizen because I am not British but now I see it as something I will have to do in the next few years. I am not looking forward to spending thousands of pounds on something I don’t believe in, but I can’t risk not being able to access the NHS in 20 years time if I fall ill. I guess the ones that wanted Brexit have won and taken back control, right?
Being honest with you, I am still not sure what I should do about settled status; my gut feeling tells me to do it as soon as possible to guarantee my immigration status.
A report by British Future published this week shows how high the stakes are. With the Home Office potentially required to register 3.5 million people by 1 July 2021 – or 5,600 people every working day – even if 5% of eligible applicants struggle to apply or are rejected, this would equate to 175,000 people living in the UK without status. You don’t want to risk being one of those as some predict EU residents will become another Windrush generation.
The government says that our rights won’t change until 2021 and, as things stand, I don’t think they are even sure Brexit will happen or what it will look like.
I am not overly keen on the Home Office sharing my most personal data with other public and private sector organisations either so I think I will wait a few months to see what happens.
The £65 fee was petty but symbolic. It is good news it has been scrapped, but it doesn’t make me trust the Home Office when the announcement is made within hours of the process opening.
These things are never straight forward and, to start off with, I will have to borrow a colleague’s phone as the app doesn’t work on iPhone. If that doesn’t work, I will have to go to Caerphilly to have my documents scanned as they are the only place in Wales offering the service.
Settled status is a daily reminder I am not from here – and maybe that I don’t belong here. It singles us out and frames the debate around migration being something negative. Instead of making me feel proud I speak three languages, it makes me feel conscious about the way I pronounce “r” and “s”.