On the Move

Just last week we were talking about how gloriously happy we were in our current place. Great space, lovely neighbours, excellent location. So of course, we received a call today that the landlord wants to move back in, and won’t be renewing our tenancy when it expires on 31 July.


We have just shy of three months to find a new place. It’s not impossible, but it’s going to be very hard to find a place in our budget that gives us the space and location we love about our current digs. This is exactly the kind of thing I was worried about when we jumped on the renting bandwagon.

Not that purchasing a place is really possible for us right now anyhow.

As soon as we got the news, in an effort to not be unceremoniously punted out of our next place (and the one after that?), we called the bank to ask about buying. And being new to the UK has burned us again. I can not apply for a mortgage without being a permanent resident (known here as having Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR). That’s in the process, but certainly won’t be done by the time we need to move. So we’d have to qualify on Neil’s salary alone. That doesn’t leave us much to work with in this neighbourhood.

It’s just another of the ways I’m feeling particularly screwed by the immigration process lately.

I am mired in the procedure and bureaucracy of the arduous processes to get a driver’s license, because they need to take my passport for a month to verify my identity. Unfortunately, the UKBA Home Office has it for the 6 months they take to process ILR applications.

I have basically given up on the idea of getting a credit card in my own name (I am currently a secondary cardholder on Neil’s), because I do not know a bank officer, doctor, postmaster or chartered accountant who lives in the UK, has known me for two years, and will sign a certified copy of my passport swearing that I am who I say I am for the anti-money-laundering regulations.

And, immigration-wise, we have it relatively easy. Neil is a UK citizen, so he has fewer hoops to jump through to get a driver’s license (though he does still have to pass a road test on a manual transmission). His company set up a bank account and credit card, so we’re ok on that front. He did have a hard time getting a national insurance number, though.

We’re even moving faster than most on the whole ILR thing; we coincidentally received my and Isaac’s visa just a couple weeks before they changed the rules, so it means we do not have to serve the mandatory waiting period (used to be 2, just changed to 5 years) before even applying for settlement.

I do not know how other people get through that period, to be honest.

I don’t even have a lot of the barriers many other immigrants do of coming from a totally different culture or language. I don’t look or dress like I’m ‘from somewhere else.’ We are allowed to drive here for a full 12 months on our Canadian licenses, and can exchange them for UK ones, even if it is only for automatic transmissions. Nobody recognizes my university or my degree, but I am at least able to practice my profession here (unlike foreign-trained doctors, etc.) Hell, I’m even allowed to vote here (thanks, commonwealth!) But just when I feel like I’m fitting in and settling down, I keep running into these roadblocks that make me feel like a second-class citizen.

The things I worked for, achieved, or had earned in Vancouver mean nothing here. No credit history, no reputation. Nobody cares. I am an unknown, and generally not to be trusted. It all feels profoundly unfair.

“Starting over” sounds aspirational and romantic. Mostly, it’s a logistical nightmare.

I have so much empathy now for anyone who makes a much bigger leap than we have, to begin a new life in a new place.

Anyhow, having this rental rug pulled out from under us, when it was one of the only things I was feeling really good and confident about, is hard. Really hard. Making me question why we ever bothered coming here hard. Making me want to cut our months of time and thousands of dollars in losses and just get out hard.

But I have never been one to do things the easy way.

And so we plod on.

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5 thoughts on “On the Move

  1. Sue

    I find it interesting that you’re allowed to vote there. Beats Canada where you have to have citizenship… you can pay taxes, drive cars, buy property, employ people etc. but you can’t vote. Strikes me as taxation without representation.

  2. Laura

    Awww Jen I’m so sorry to hear. Somehow I didn’t realize that you guys were considering this a permanent move; I assumed (don’t know why?) that it was a temporary “secondment” or similar for a couple years.

    I think this kind of news is always most stressful when you first hear it. It’s unexpected and bad news and it’s super painful while your brain struggles out of denial and into acceptance of the new status quo. And of course the uncertainty of not knowing how it will all shake out in July is awful, and your brain plays that worst-case-scenario on repeated loop. But once you’re there, it becomes business as usual.

    As a single girl on a modest income living solo in Vancouver, home ownership is not an option for me either… but it never has been, not yet anyway, so it’s not stressful, it just IS. There are wonderful things about renting too… furnace broke? NOT YOUR PROBLEM! I have no doubt that as smart and resourceful as you guys are, you’ll find a good solution and things will start looking up.
    Laura´s last blog post ..An Elephant Story at Go Mighty

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    Thanks. We have actually been enjoying renting, just not the part about not having much control over how long we can stay. We do feel a bit duped, because we asked, and were told when we chose this place, that the owners bought it as an investment property and had no desire to live here. Unfortunately, tenants rights are pretty bad here, compared to BC (they are heavily skewed toward the landlord), so it seems like something we’ll just have to get used to.

    As for length of stay, we certainly didn’t plan this to be a for-ever-ever move, but always planned to be here longer than a short secondment. Thing is, when you come on a spousal visa, it’s only good for 28 months, and is non-renewable. So we’d need to get the ILR stuff done anyhow, and figured it’s better to get it sorted sooner than later with all the rule changes.

  3. Michele

    Yesterday must have been some sort of “boot Canadian renters out” day in Oxford because we got an email from our landlord’s son telling us they won’t be renewing our lease (they’re going to gut and totally renovate the house) in October. Even though we had sort of decided we really wanted to move out of our freezing cold falling apart house, it’s still suddenly become very real. Holy shit and all that. So I completely empathise with you. And obviously the immigration stuff doesn’t help. If you want to talk to Canadians who have been there/done that, just shout.

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    Hah. Must be something in the water this month! At least you’ve got until October to figure something out. July feels *awfully* soon!

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