Back in 1977, an American band called ‘The Eagles’ released a song titled ‘Hotel California’. The song tells the story of how someone is travelling on a dark desert highway with cool wind in their hair, how their head grew heavy, and when they saw a shimmering light in the distance, they decided to stop for the night. The song goes on to describe some fellow guests and the scenery at Hotel California, but the song ends with the words “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

Now I know that some people have their personal reservations about this particular song and claim there’s a ‘hidden message’ behind it, but if we look at the last line of the song in isolation, then I can’t think of a better way to describe our legal status in the UK today. You see today, exactly 5 years ago, our UK visas came into effect and on 1 Sept 2015, I was off to London for a second and final stage interview with Barclays (read that post here). The next month, in Oct 2015 (and despite me not getting the Barclays job), Elaine and I packed our bags and moved to the northern hemisphere where we’ve had quite an adventure over the last few years – trotting the globe together, buying a house and making new friends. Unlike other visa types that require renewal after 2 or 3 years, the Ancestry visa is issued for 5 years and if you play by the rules and meet the requirements, you can apply to settle permanently when the visa comes to an end. Earlier this year we had to write and pass both the UK Citizenship test and English language test before we could book an appointment at the UK Home Office to submit all our biometrical data (photo, fingerprints, and electronic signature) along with our supporting documents. And then finally, last week, we submitted our formal application electronically to the UK Visas & Immigration Office to apply for permanent residency here in the UK. This means, if successful, we will remain South African citizens with our green passports, but are no longer subject to the visa system and can live in the UK permanently without restriction or expiry date.

The only problem is that tonight at midnight, our UK visas (or entry clearance) will expire and the Home Office is currently experiencing severe delays in processing applications due to COVID-19. The decision on our settlement application is expected to be given within the next 6 – 8 weeks and until then, we can’t leave the country but we can’t necessarily prove our legal right to stay here either. I guess we’re in that immigration “grey zone” until a decision is made.

So you see, it’s like Hotel California, we checked in, but we can’t leave. At least for now.

Chat soon

Andre

 

The UK Home Office in London where our applications are currently awaiting a decision by an Immigration Officer

 


[UPDATE POSTED: 15 October 2020]

The UK Immigration team today requested additional documentation to support our settlement application. These documents were returned to the Home Office immediately and we now await further updates from the caseworker. We expect a decision to be given very soon.