Saturday, May 28, 2005

Canadian Invasion

Amazing how fast 12 days flies by! Had a great visit with my Dad, brothers Ian and Cam and their girlfriends Amy and Britney. Everybody managed to cover an awful lot in a short space of time on their respective adventures. I personally managed a trip up to Loch Lomond, a few days on Mull and Iona with Dad, a day in the pubs of Glasgow and a brilliant wee BBQ chez the Scottish Wilson's. These were all great book-ends to the main event:

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The Great Glen Way! Dad, Cam, Fiona and I covered the 74-mile journey over a five day period. Every type of conceivable weather was thrown at us, and the terrain was quite tough at times. But at all times the view was spectacular as were the pints at the end of the day. Shall post some pics from each of the days over the next little while.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Joining the Ranks Of Their Databanks

My last few days of work before my two-week holiday brought me an unexpected surprise. I was presented with my passport and at long last a full set of documentation allowing me to officially live and work in the UK.

I have to say that the whole experience was much more involved and time-consuming than I ever would have expected. Given the Commonwealth relationship between Canada and the UK, as well as the fact that the Scottish Parliament has repeatedly stated they are very keen to have people base themselves in Scotland (due to a diminishing population and skilled labour shortage), I would have thought getting the paperwork would be somewhat of a formality.

But there have been many tense moments where I thought it wasn't going to work out. There was some concern over whether or not I would qualify for a work visa. Legally, my employer had to repost my job to ensure there was nobody local that was qualified. After qualifying for a work visa, the system was changed so that a working visa no longer automatically meant you had the right to stay or even enter the country (leave to remain) thus requiring another application. I had to really make my case to get back into the country after my Christmas return to Canada. There was a good month where both myself and my employer determined that it would be necessary for me to sit at home, not legally allowed to work despite a work visa, pending my leave to remain application (luckily we found an exception for my particular visa). At all times, the spectre of being rejected by the Home Office lurked. I had heard many stories where an applicant would be rejected and forced to leave, regardless of how settled they were. And of course, I've been without a passport for months now, already having to pass on two trips outwith the UK.

But it worked out, and I'm incredibly grateful for it. While I still don't have all the same rights as a full British citizen, I can now live my life without a latent fear that it will all suddenly disappear before my very eyes.

I've also put things in perspective. One of my friends is trying to arrange for his Filipino girlfriend to come to the UK, but it has so far proven absolutely impossible. He laments that if it took this much carry-on for a Canadian to work in the UK, what chance do people from Third World nations have? Is it any wonder that people try to buck the system completely and work illegally? When I think about it in these terms, my personal situation really doesn't seem like a bother at all.

Though I can't help but think what comes next? My paperwork is only good for 18 months. If I choose to stay, I'll have to start the process again this time next year...

Anyway, I better get on with things! I have a mini-Canadian invasion coming my way as my Dad, brothers Cam and Ian, and Ian's girlfriend arrive tomorrow morning. A wee tour of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and then the Great Glen Way for five days, then a road trip. Shall be busy but will absolutely brilliant. Many stories and pics to come no doubt.