Becca Jane St Clair

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My Visa Journey Part 3: Citizenship

invitation I became eligible for my UK citizenship in January 2013 after three years of residency, but we did not submit my application until September 2014. At the time I submitted my application, I was quoted as it taking 3-6 months to process, but closer to six….so imagine my surprise on Saturday when I got my acceptance letter! Total time from application being submitted to letter arriving on my doorstep was 6 weeks and 6 days!

The application itself is pretty straight forward. You download it off the website. Don’t forget to download the guide and booklet to filling out the application as well as the payment form*! The current fee is £906, but this usually increases every 6-12 months, so it’s a good idea for you to double check with the website. I think the most frustrating part for me was finding the application online as UKBA used to have it’s own separate website and sometime between getting my ILR in 2012 and now, they moved all their files over to Google to the rescue!

You can either send your application in on your own (and send all your original documents) or you can pay £50 to your local council for a Nationality Checking Service. At this appointment, they will photocopy all of your documents and send those so you will not need to send in your originals.

Before you start to fill out the application, you need to get your photograph taken. I went to Snappy Snaps and had 4 photos done for £10. I’ve since used one for my provisional driver’s license and will use the remaining two when I apply for my British passport. You also could use one of those £5 machines in Tesco, Asda, etc. but every time we tried to get mine done the machine seemed to be down. I also preferred having mine done by a person and not a machine, because this ensured my photograph met the exact standards. Photos in hand, I was ready for the second important part of my application: your references.

You need to have two references. Both references need to have known you for at least three years. One needs to fit some very specific criteria** such as being a business owner, and the other reference needs to hold a valid British passport. Your first reference does not necessarily need to be British, by the way and neither referee can be related to you, even by marriage. Fortunately for me, I have been friends with the owner of MediVisas (BTW, an excellent source of advice!) for well over three years and I used one of our local 16mm members who I have known since I was first a visitor in 2008.


Before you sit down to fill out your application, you should first make sure you fit the residency criteria. As the spouse of a British citizen, I was eligible after three years of residency. Even though I waited longer, they are only interested in the past three years. You must have been in the country (not travelling) on the date exactly three years before the date of your application, and in the past three years you must not have been out of the UK for more than a total of 270 days and no more than 90 in the past 12 months. You also will need to know the exact dates you were out of the country (if you didn’t keep track, just go back through your passport stamps). Days spent partially in the UK (date you left and date you returned) do not count. You will need to enter the dates (for the past three years only if applying as a spouse) on page 7. If you run out of space, you can add additional details on page 13.

In addition to needing to know when you were out of the country, you need to list all of your UK addresses for the past 5 (three as a spouse) years. This can prove difficult for people who have moved multiple times. If you are reading this now with an eye to gaining citizenship, start keeping track of your addresses!

If you didn’t need to take the Life in the UK test for your ILR, you will need to take this test before you can apply for citizenship. If you are not from an English speaking country, you also will need to take an English language tests. Details for both of these can be found on the website. Hopefully, you kept hold of your LitUK test result paper, because you will need to send it with your application. If you don’t have it, you will need to take the test again, as they do not re-issue pass certificates.

You also will need to know your parents full names (including maiden for mother), birth date, nationality, and birth place, as well as all of this information for your spouse.

If you book a Nationality Checking Service appointment, you will need to bring:

-Your current passport and your passport with your current visa (if it’s in an expired passport)
-Your expired passport if it shows dates you were out of the country in the past 3 years***
-Your birth certificate
-Spouse’s current passport
-Spouse’s birth certificate
-Marriage certificate (the certified one, not the pretty one)
-Life in the UK Test pass certificate
-English language test results (if applicable)
-Proof of current address+
-Any other documents showing a change in identity (examples: adoption certificates for you or your spouse, divorce papers if either of you were previously married)
-Any other travel documents as issued by the Home Office. If you have a biometric card, bring it (I don’t have one).
-£50 to pay for the Nationality Checking Service (My council only accepted cash)
-Completed Application
-Payment slip for citizenship plus payment (No cash accepted. Card or Cheque only)

Please note that if any of your documents are in a language other than English, you will need to get them translated.

My Nationality Checking Service appointment was on a Wednesday morning. I did not need to bring my spouse along with me, but I did need to bring his documents. My appointment took about 15 minutes because I had organized everything ahead of time in a document folio in the exact order it would be needed. The woman who did my review praised my organisation….I couldn’t imagine doing these things without keeping my paperwork organised! As we went through my application, she had a checklist of documents and after we made the stack, she left the room to photocopy everything and returned all of my original documents to me. If you do not use the checking service, you cannot send copies and would need to send your originals.


At the appointment, I was told I would hear from them in about 2 weeks letting me know the payment had been taken, and then I wouldn’t hear again for 6 months as that was how long it was taking to process applications. Well, I must be lucky as my letter arrived this weekend — what a perfect fifth anniversary present for us!

First thing Monday morning (today!) is ringing up the county council office to schedule my citizenship ceremony! Unfortunately, I can’t apply for my British passport right away as I am travelling to the US in January and I do not think I would have my passport back in time, but at least I will have my new passport before my trip to the US in May! (and yes, I will keep my blue US one too! I get to be a dual citizen!)


*When I went to my appointment, they had copies of the payment form, but to be on the safe side I would print one out.
**The guide claims there is a “list on our website”, but I could never find it. However, the full list if acceptable referees can be found here.
***If you have travelled to a country that is part of the CTA (such as Ireland) it’s a good idea if you have copies of your boarding cards if you flew or took a ferry to show the dates you entered and left. I’m not sure if this was a requirement, but I submitted the information as I listed Ireland on my dates out of the UK.
+This is not listed as a requirement, however I was asked for this at my appointment. Fortunately, I had with me the letter I recieved with my ILR that listed my current address, although she did tell me it would have been okay if I didn’t.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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The Ex-Pat Packing List

On a group that I’m part of, an American about to move to the UK asked “What are the top 5 things we should bring?” After some consideration, this is the list I came up with based on my own moving experience in 2009 and my current life here.

1 – US measuring cups, spoons, and a pyrex jug. While you’re still sorting out the Metric system in the kitchen, it’s nice to know you can use your old standby recipes. I got rid of most of my cookbooks before I moved and only kept the ones that were book tie-ins (I have the Anne of Green Gables cookbook and the Little House cookbook) and good old Betty. [I still use my US measuring cups. There are some recipes that I just can’t translate into Metric and they are old favourites!]

2 – a 9×13 cake pan. I finally gave up and my mom brought me a pan when she visited as the only place I could find one was Lakeland and they wanted £30 for it! Also things like Bundt pans are a bit pricey here. But if you’re not a baker, ignore this.

3 – Die hard favourite items. I spent money on shipping 20 boxes of things over and I do not regret it at all. I even shipped (in a box) a massive 4 foot by 3 foot rug I had in my bedroom in the US and I’m so happy I did. I also brought a few throw pillows and my Penn State stadium blankets. One word of advice: If you are bringing ANY family crystal or dishes put these in your carry-on. I had loads of stuff get smashed by the shipping company and that was with me carefully wrapping things and marking the box as “fragile keep on top”. But the things I put in my carry-on wheeled suitcase all arrived in one piece. I also had my husband take a few of my dolls back with him after we got married, so I have part of my massive doll collection in the living room (I got rid of the rest of them and only kept significant ones) I packed up quite a bit of my kitchen items, even though a lot are going to be available here because it’s nice to use things that are familiar. Along this same line: family heirlooms, even the odd things. For example, I brought along this set of metal bowls and cups from my Nanny’s house because they remind me of her, my pappy, my aunt and uncle. My mom gave me a few pieces of her Corningware before I moved so I have pieces that I remember being used when I grew up. I also packed a few favourite mugs. You’ll probably buy loads more, but there’s something familiar about using the big purple coffee mug I had in my college dorm room! I also brought along some of my knick-knacks (got rid of the rest!) since I was moving into my husband’s house and I wanted to be able to look around and see a bit of me.

4 – Medical records. I went to my doctor’s office about a month before I moved and for $10 they gave me my entire file. Usually they like to send these directly to the doctors, but when I explained that I was moving overseas, they were more than happy to give me a copy. It took a few days as they had to get it all photocopied, but it was worth it to turn it over to the GP here….and the GP here had everything typed into the system, so they can go back and look at records from before I lived here. Also, 2 month supply of any prescription you are currently on as it might take you that long to get settled with a GP and get sorted for UK equivalents. While we’re talking about records, it’s best to make sure you pack all your important family docs – expired passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates, diplomas, etc. I also have my US tax records going back to 1997, but that was probably overkill. [I really can’t stress this enough. Especially if you have an on-going medical condition. You also might want to write down family medical histories for your parents & grandparents just in case.]

5 – favourite clothing pieces. Bras & Knickers. Jeans. While fashion is a little different here, it’s still nice to have old favourites. Bras & Knickers simply because it might take you awhile to find brands you love and it will be trial and error to find ones that fit and ones you like. Jeans…..I still haven’t really found jeans here that I like the fit of so I tend to buy a few pairs when I’m in the US. Hoodies are always useful no matter what time of year it is, and I love wearing my “Jersey Girl” and Penn State hoodies. Comfortable shoes. Shoe sizes in the UK are different so again, just until you are more comfortable here it’s best to have plenty of shoe options. Also, you’re likely to do a lot more walking in the UK than in the US, so comfy shoes for walking are a must…as are waterproof shoes!

Now onto things you shouldn’t pack, don’t need to bring, or should bring in moderation:

1 – Books. No, don’t get up in arms with me over this. I love to read, but I managed to get my collection down to five boxes….and of the five, based on what books I still have I could have only taken two. I kept anything that was irreplaceable or special. Childhood series (Little House, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew) came along. US editions of Harry Potter, antique books, and books that had sentimental value came along. Everything else can be replaced by visiting charity shops and used book stores.

2 – DVDs and Videos. Don’t even bother with VHS videos at all, they will not play here. As far as DVDs go… you will first need to hack a UK player, but that’s not hard. Only bring DVDs that have meaning to you or were limited editions and then mark the spines so you know they are R1. I bought little green stickers at Wilkinson’s. Just like books, you can pick up DVDs for pretty cheap at charity shops!

3 – Food. Unless it’s something you know you NEED nearly every day, don’t bother. Many items are available here either at the regular shops or specialty shops. Sure, you’ll pay out the nose for some of the things, but then you can treat them as “treats”. Part of the fun of living in a new country is discovering the food! I will admit to having peanut butter on subscription service through Amazon and getting a steady stream of ranch dressing and instant iced tea, though!

4 – Toiletries. With the exception of a month’s worth until you find new UK products or unless you have specific needs (allergies?), this is also something I wouldn’t bother with bringing along. A lot of the major brands (Dove, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Olay, Neutrogena, etc) are here and do you really want to be stuck in a situation where you are constantly filling your suitcases with face wash or shampoo when you go back to the US for a visit? There are some great UK products here, you just have to be patient while you look for them. You’ll get used to the spray deodorant. I promise.

I can’t think of a fifth.

What would be on your list?

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated below and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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My Visa Journey Part 2: ILR (aka Permanent Residency)

Yesterday was probably the most nerve-wracking and important day in our lives. As if getting married and applying for a Spousal Visa wasn’t bad enough, it only lasts for 2 years (technically, 28 months to give extra time in case you arrived more than a month after your visa was issued). To stay in the UK longer, you currently need to apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain AKA Permanent Residency). You can apply by post or in-person. The in-person appointment has a heftier fee, but it’s an immediate decision and saves weeks of finger nail biting. We decided on an in-person appointment for peace of mind, and also just in case we decide to go abroad on a long weekend (we’ve toyed with a weekend in Paris, but might put it off so we can save more for a trip to Austria in June).

My appointment was for 11:15 at the Sheffield PEO office and the appointment information states you should arrive 30 minutes before your slot. We decided to take public transportation the whole way starting with a bus at 7:40AM out of the village. Our train was running early and we actually arrived at the PEO office with an hour to spare.

Getting through security was an ordeal. There was a couple behind us complaining that their appointment was in 10 minutes and I couldn’t help but wonder why they hadn’t read the information on the website! To get through security, we had to take the batteries out of our mobile phones to show the inside. We were allowed to put the phones back together, but we had to leave them off the whole time we were in the PEO. Tim made the best blunder of the day by forgetting his dress shoes were work issued and had steel toes! Fortunately, security just waved him through after I said “it’s the shoes”.

We checked in early and were quite surprised to get called up to the desk within 5 minutes. Our case worker, Joe, looked at my application and asked me when I filled it out. I told him I had printed it off the website a few days prior and he said “everyone’s been telling me that, but this is the old form”. He then handed me the new form and asked me to fill it out. There are NO differences between the old form and the new form, save for the fact that the bottom of the new form says “10/2011” and the old form “04/2011”. Apparently, the website hadn’t been updated with the new form and everyone coming in this week has had to re-do their form on arrival. I told the man at reception I had finished the new application, and before we even found seats in the crowded lobby, we were called to the desk again.

This time, Joe went through our entire packet. He asked me where in New York I was from, and I puzzled him by answering “I’m not”. I then explained how I was born in Brooklyn, but my parents moved when I was a baby. Surprisingly, he knew where Princeton was after he didn’t know where Hightstown was. He checked to make sure we had the required documents, transferred it into a plastic document folder, and told us to proceed to the payment counter. We had to wait for about 10 minutes while someone came to the counter, but the money was soon out of our account and the woman at the payment counter said she would “pop (y)our documents over to the case worker” and that he would be with us “shortly”.

Shortly turned into two hours. Two nervous hours. I tried reading, but I couldn’t even tell you what I was reading. I couldn’t even speak to Tim because I knew if I opened my mouth I might start crying from all the stress. I kept worrying that we had missed something, or something was wrong. I kept wondering if I should go back up to Joe to ask him if they needed more documents, because I had two years of bank statements, payslips, etc. with me just in case. Finally, we were called to another window where we faced a stony-faced man named John.

From the look on his face, I was expecting bad news, but he surprised me by telling us we had been approved! He then chatted with Tim about his job for a little, and asked us how we met (in some ways, I wonder if he was checking the information on file from my first application, but I’ll pretend he really was interested). He then told us we could leave and return in a half hour to 45 minutes for the visa to be processed. I really wish they had given us the option of leaving and returning during the two hour wait instead!

We left and walked down the river to a Tesco Extra for a snack and by the time we got back and went through security again, my visa was ready! Happy day! What a relief!

We celebrated by having a late lunch at Meadowhall at our favourite restaurant, Frankie and Benny’s.

As of January 2012*, These are the minimum required documents for ILR (if settling as a spouse**):
-Completed ILR application. The bottom of the application should read “10/2011”.
-Life in the UK pass certificate
-Your passport
-Your spouse’s passport
-Two passport photos of yourself
-One passport photo of your spouse
-Three most recent payslips for your spouse and yourself (if applicable***)
-Three most recent bank statements (jointly held or singly held)
-Six pieces of post spread out over the previous two years illustrating that you and your spouse share an address. Alternately, you may use six addressed to each of you for a total of 12. They should be from at least three different sources****.

Anything else is just extra fodder and they honestly don’t need it unless you need further documents to prove residency, employment, or funds. If you are in doubt, contact an immigration lawyer^.

All hurdles are complete for settlement in the UK. Once you have ILR, as long as you do not leave the country for an extended period of time (I believe it currently is two years), you are permitted to live here.

My plans? Citizenship, once I become eligible. As a spouse and under current rules, I will become eligible on January 22, 2013, after three years of residency.

*Please check the UKBA website for up to date information as requirements can change at any time and use my information as a rough guide.
**ILR applicants that fall under other categories have additional requirements. See website and application for details.
***Include payslips from whoever is employed. If you both have jobs, include payslips for each.
****My documents were council tax bills for both 2010 and 2011, e.on bills from random months in 2010 and 2011, a barclay’s bank statement, and a Santander/Soverign Bank statement. If you have changed address, you might require more documents.
^ I did not contact a lawyer to review my application as I felt fairly confident I knew what I was doing based on my own research. However, I brought along additional information in case we were asked for it including our birth certificates, marriage certificate, expired passports, Tim’s payslips for the previous two years, bank statements for the past 6 months, mortgage statements for both 2010 and 2011, and pieces of mail for each month from January 2010 to December 2011 addressed to either myself, Tim, or both of us. If I was sending my application by post, I might have included some of the other documents.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog.]


LJ Idol Week 5 Re-post – Chasing the Dream

I’m still hanging on with LJ Idol. I took a “bye” week for week 4, so here is my week 5 submission. I’m actually pretty happy that I wound up staying in the competition because it looked like I was in the bottom of my “tribe”, but somehow I wound up 5th from the bottom. Last week’s LJ Idol topic was “Inconceivable”. Here’s what I came up with to post. This also could be titled my journey to the UK. While I class this as “non-fiction”, some of it isn’t quite true to the memories…but for the most part it is.

I flitted in and out of the long line of students waiting to get into Westminster Abbey, taking photos with my new 35mm camera loaded with black and white film. I felt black and white was going to make better photographs of the old buildings, and the man at the camera shop showed me how I could easily swap between colour and black and white film without ruining my photos. My best friend, Erin, was standing in line next to our friend Rob and both of them were laughing at me as I attempted to capture everything I could see with my camera. We were only in London for two days as part of our high school’s music department trip to Europe and I was a huge Anglophile*, so I was soaking it all in.

We finally entered the cathedral** and I was speechless. I joined arms with Rob and Erin and tugged them around armed with the paper guide to the Abbey. We lit a candle for my father, saw where King Henry VIII was buried, looked at King Edward’s Chair, and spotted the Battle of Britain memorial window. The beauty of the glass took my breath away. Standing in Poet’s Corner, looking at the memorials for Chaucer, Shakespeare, Lords Byron and Tennyson, The Brontë sisters, and Jane Austen sent shivers up my spine. I squeezed Erin’s hand and told her that someday I was going to live in England.

I was waiting to see my new academic advisor at Penn State midway through my first year of studies when I spotted the brochure for the study abroad program at Leeds. Dreams of attending the program filled my head as I spoke with my advisor. Unfortunately, attending the Leeds program would do nothing towards my major, but if I was willing to spend an extra semester at university there was no reason I couldn’t apply for the program when I reached my junior year. I swapped my major into International Business, thinking that might give me a leg up on getting to live in the UK. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my boyfriend, about my plans for living in England as it was my secret alone. Unfortunately, my GPA was not high enough to apply for the study abroad program. I was crushed, but still determined to figure out a way to England.

I met my friend John in 1999 while attending a service project for Circle K. He and I hit it off and we became close friends despite attending schools 8 hours apart. John was planning on going to Japan for a semester abroad the following year, and I told him about my dreams of living in England. I was afraid he would think I was silly, but instead, he encouraged me not to forget my dream.

I forgot about my dream. I worked at a local pre-school and after I was laid off, I took a job working as a bank teller. My England dream came back, and I started talking to John about it again. John suggested creating a special bank account for my England fund and to set myself a goal of when I intended to move. It was 2002, so I told John I would give myself 10 years. I made plans to work my way up in the banking world. I thought if I got high enough at my local bank, I could then apply to work for an international bank in New York and then eventually transfer to a branch in England or even find a job with an English bank. I started pushing a small amount of money into my England fund with each paycheque. Only $50 plus loose change, but I did the math and if I continued to save $50/month for 10 years, I would have plenty of money to fund a move. I started telling the people I worked with about my England dream. Most of them scoffed and told me it wasn’t going to happen, it was impossible and inconceivable, and I should just give up. Even boys I dated laughed at me. I was still determined.

Unfortunately, I was laid off two years into my banker’s job and I spent the next few years holding down part-time jobs. I moved back in with my mom, and I needed to empty my England fund to help pay bills. I was lower than low. I started making jewellery and selling it online through a website and on Etsy and at local craft fairs. 15% of what I made was being put straight back into my UK fund. The money was trickling in in small amounts, but I wasn’t giving up. I made high quality Swarovski bracelets and necklaces, so from each sale I was getting between $1-$5 going into my UK fund. My 10-year clock was ticking and I started researching other ways of moving, thinking perhaps attending graduate school in the UK might be an option, or even becoming an Au Pair. I also became desperate to visit the UK, as I hadn’t been since 1997. But I knew that once I got a glimpse of Old Blighty again, I wouldn’t want to leave.

I met Tim online in 2004 and shared my dreams with him. He was very encouraging and told me that once I had enough money together to finance a trip I could come and stay with him in his spare room for as long as I needed while I job hunted. If I landed a job near him, he was willing to let me room with him until I could afford my own place. I was floored as no one had offered me this kind of encouragement before other than my friends Erin and John. We met in person in 2005 in Seattle and I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked, but it was enough to know that I would feel safe staying with him if I came to the UK. That Christmas, he sent me a copy of Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” with the inscription “to tide you over until you are here”. At the time, I was dating someone who didn’t understand my dream, and who enjoyed quoting “inconceivable” from The Princess Bride at me whenever I brought it up.

Tim and I continued our friendship and I developed another idea for moving. I was going to try to get a job again at IKEA and then work my way to transferring to a UK store. I used my connections from my 1998 job at the Philadelphia store to get a job assisting with opening the Canton, MI store. Unfortunately I broke my foot that summer and wound up needing to leave my job and moved back in with my mother in PA. My England account stood at around $200, not even enough for half of a plane ticket. I was depressed. If I wanted to meet my goal, I was running out of time. I began to think that a move to the UK just wasn’t in the cards for me.

In 2008 I finally decided I was just going to come to the UK. I would sell my car and use the proceeds for a plane ticket, and stay in Tim’s spare room for as long as I could. I hoped that I might be able to do some job hunting while I was visiting. In mid-2008, Tim and I confessed our feelings for each other and began dating. We decided that I would use my upcoming trip to determine if I really wanted to live in the UK. I would stay for a few months and in addition to seeing the sights I would experience doing things that people who live there do – things like grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc.

I fell in love.

We extended my visit to the alloted 6 months on my visitor visa, and I returned to the US, determined to make the permanent move. The obvious solution would be marriage, but I didn’t want Tim to marry me just so I could move to the UK and I really wanted to get to the UK on my own merits. In the end, I did marry Tim, but we waited until we were both ready for it and both wanted it.

I entered the UK on my two-year spousal visa in January 2010. This December, I become eligible for permanent residency. And then, I have a date with Westminster Abbey.

Nothing is inconceivable, you just have to persevere.

*An Anglophile is someone who is fond of all things British. At the age of 17, this meant I watched Monty Python, Mr Bean, AbFab, and Are You Being Served on PBS.
**Technically speaking, Westminster is not a Cathedral, but I thought it was when I was 17.

This coming week’s topic is “food memory”…I have no idea if I even have any food memories….

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]

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Taking the Life in the UK Test

I took my Life in the UK test today and passed! The test honestly took 5 minutes and that included going back over a few questions I was unsure of and reviewing all my answers….and I only started studying about three days ago. This post will NOT tell you what questions will be on the test (it’s randomized anyway), but it could help you prepare for it.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Life in the UK test (LiUK) is the test everyone must pass before they can obtain permanent residency/citizenship. The test is in English, so if English isn’t your first language you will be certified as part of an English course. I have no idea if you get given the same test or not, but I’ll assume if you’re reading this that you speak English!

Before you can book a test, you will need to register on the Life in the UK test website. After you register, you will have the option of booking your test. You put in your postcode, and the site will tell you where the closest testing centre is. If you click on the centre you want to take your test at, it will take you to a calendar page and show you the available dates and times for that centre. If you don’t like the dates on offer, you can go back and pick a different centre. This is how I wound up taking my test at Nottingham since the Lincoln centre only does tests every other Friday.

The test costs £50, which you will need to pay when you book it. You also will need to enter details from your identification. It is very important that you bring that same piece of identification with you when you take the test. If your ID does not match exactly, you will automatically fail the test. The computer system allows three tries to match an ID before it locks someone out of taking the test. If you get disqualified from taking the test, you will not be refunded and you will need to re-book a test.

As far as studying goes, your best bet is to purchase the official guidebooks published by the UKBA. That book has everything you need to know in it (link to be posted later), including some additional information about Britain’s history, ILR, and citizenship. The important chapters are chapters 2-6. You can also purchase other guides, but make sure they contain chapters 2-6 of the official guide or you might not learn the correct information. The official books will be the most accurate and the most up-to-date, as the test is not updated annually. Purchasing a book that says it has been “updated for the 2011 census” will not help you since the test was last updated in 2007 or so.

If you do not want to purchase the books, you can borrow the official books from your local library. Now that I’ve passed my test, I can offer the first person to comment on this entry directly on my blog ( the copies of the book I used, which I received second hand from my friend Jessy after she passed her test last year. I have both the official Journey to Citizenship book and the practice question book. I also purchased a non-official study guide that has quizzes for each chapter I will pass along. I do not want any money for them, but I will only send them within the UK.

I also wound up downloading a non-official study guide for my Kindle, too. I found it much easier for me as I could read the Kindle version anytime and anywhere. There also are websites to help you and Tim and I even saw a computer program for it, so there are loads of options out there.

The practice tests I took really helped, even if I did blitz about 10 of them the night before. I even had 2 questions on my test nearly word-for-word out of one of the practice tests!

Taking the Test

The test is pass/fail, but you need to get at least 18 out of 24 questions right. The test will be a combination of multiple choice and true/false. There are no open-ended questions, and no room to add any comments.

Navigating the test is pretty easy. There will be a row of 24 boxes at the top for the questions. If you have selected an answer, the box will be coloured in (blue). If you have looked at the question but not answered it, the box will have a blue outline. A plain box indicates that you have not yet looked at the question or answered it. Opposite the boxes will be your timer. You have 45 minutes to take the test, and the test is set up to give you warnings at the halfway mark, 10 and 2 minutes remaining. The middle section is where the questions and answers are. The bottom left has buttons to move between the previous and next question, and the bottom right has the “finish test” button. DO NOT CLICK “FINISH TEST” UNTIL YOU ARE SURE YOU ARE DONE. If you accidentally click it, there will be a second screen asking you if you are sure, but if you exit the test you cannot get back into it and if you did not complete the test, you risk failing it.

You will not be allowed to have anything with you on the desk other than your ID, but you can ask for paper and a pencil. I was the only one who asked for it, but I found it helpful when I was asked a statistic question and I was able to write down all the numbers I could remember from the book. I also used my paper to keep track of which questions I wanted to make sure I went back and looked at again. I had four questions I wasn’t positive of the answer, but since you only need 18 correct to pass, I was confident when I walked out.

You are not allowed to talk or look at someone else’s computer while taking the test. Both will result in an automatic fail. The testing centre I was at allowed you to bring in personal items (handbags, phones, etc), but you had to turn OFF the phones and leave everything under your desk. We were told that if they even heard a phone vibrating while you were taking the test that you would be disqualified.

Like I said, you will have 45 minutes to complete your test in, but in my honest opinion, you only need at the most 20. Most of my friends who have taken it before me have said it took them 5-10 minutes. I was done in about 5, including double-checking my answers. The test is not a race though, so take as much of the 45 minutes that you need!

This may be specific to the testing centre in Nottingham only, but when I was done with my test, I was able to leave the room and join Tim in the waiting room by raising my hand. Tim and I talked about the test, and I talked with another person who had taken the test. We were then called in individually to get our score, but we were called in while people were still taking the test. I understand at some centres, you need to wait until everyone has finished before getting results. I was walking out the door well before the 45 minutes would have passed. Your result will not tell you how many questions you got right or wrong, only if you passed or failed. Your pass certificate will get stamped and signed, and you need to keep this safe as you cannot get a second copy. If you lose it, you will have to take the test all over again.

To those of you taking the test in the future, good luck!

[Please note that any information about the Life in the UK test or ILR and citizenship requirements are valid as of 10 November 2011. If you are reading this for advice in the future, please double check the information against the official UKBA website.]

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Life in the UK

No time for a real entry today, it’s time to cram, cram, cram.

I have my Life in the UK test tomorrow in Nottingham. I have to pass this test in order to be eligible to apply for my ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) also known as permanent residency. It’s a short test, but there’s a lot riding on it. I’ve been studying like mad for the past few weeks and it will all come to head tomorrow morning.

I’m taking my test in Nottingham because the testing centre in Lincoln only does tests every other Friday and when I went to book a test, the first date wasn’t until the 25th. Fortunately, the testing centre in Nottingham is only about a mile from the railway station.

Wish me luck!!

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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I am an Immigrant

Apparently, there is going to be a speech made today (or maybe it has been made already) about more changes to the UK immigration system. My reliable source told me not to worry, and it looks like by “cutting family visas”, they mean more restrictions on people who come over as dependants of people here on work visas. Not family visas where you’ve moved to the UK to live with your family. Whew. My friend also pointed out to me that they already did put restrictions on the family based visa, based on the new English test, which isn’t aimed at people from English speaking countries anyway. The government scrapped the “Earned Citizenship” route as well, which affects my permanent residency, because it now looks like I am back to applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in December 2011 instead of the new Probationary Citizenship that was to go into effect in July 2011.

But all the talk lately about immigration rules changing, caps being made, and fees raising reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Erin a few weeks back. It was right around US election day and I mentioned to her that I hadn’t registered for an absentee ballot. My reasoning behind this was that I felt since I no longer lived in Lancaster/Pennsylvania/the United States, I really shouldn’t be making decisions on how things are run. I’m not there every day to experience life under [insert name of politician], and being in the UK means I only get exposed to print media, which as we all know, can be biased. I don’t think not voting made me a “bad American”, either.

I can’t vote in the UK, either. I am an immigrant, and even with permanent residency, I still can’t vote. In order to vote in the UK, you need to have citizenship. I have every intention on gaining UK citizenship when I am eligible (should be January 2013, if my calculations are right) because I feel that since I plan on spending the rest of my life here, I should be able to state my views on the government and be able to vote. It killed me not being able to vote in the May election.

I was discussing things over with Erin, and I proposed to her my idea — You should be able to vote where you live, regardless of immigration status. Obviously, some rules would need to be made to keep people from moving just for an election, but why shouldn’t you be able to vote where you live and vote for the candidates that you support?

I’m also in favour of “world citizenship” and having it not matter where you wish to live. Ever notice on a sci-fi show how they almost always refer to the government as “earth” or “world”? Why can’t we have that now*? Yes, I know. Overpopulation. If we had world citizenship, then everyone might move towards the “desirable” places to live, and places that were “undesirable”, like deserts where you can’t grow anything, would soon become abandoned. But it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

I never thought I would become an immigrant. Immigrants were my dad’s parents, and my mom’s great-great-grandparents. Not me. But, here we are. I am an immigrant. And I’m happy.

*Okay, so it’s been pointed out that a government controlling the world isn’t such a hot idea…but that’s not really what I meant. I’m more for the “world citizenship”, not world government!

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Staying in the UK

I often get asked what the process is for staying in the UK permanently, so I thought a post about it was in order. First, I want to explain that any information I post below is valid as of 13 May 2010. If you have found this post at a later date as part of a search or in the archives, there is a very big chance the information is out of date.

I am in the UK on a two-year spousal visa. Tim and I had to pay £585 for this very elaborate sticker. After the two years are up, we will need to apply for a further visa for me to stay. Under the OLD system, this would have been called ILR – Indefinite Leave to Remain, and would have meant I could permanently stay in the UK and could apply for citizenship if I wanted to, but it would not be mandatory. When the BCI (Borders, Citizenship, and Immigration) Bill was passed in July 2009, the decision to remove ILR as an option as of July 2011 was made. As I will become eligible for my next visa in December 2011, I will fall under the “new rules”…

All we know is it will be called “Probationary Citizenship” and if you want to stay in the UK you will HAVE to apply for citizenship. The few details released are that the road to citizenship will take 5 years or 3 years if you do volunteer work…but this is all we know.

As soon as we have more information, I’ll let everyone know.

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US2UK is ready to go!

In love with a Brit? Working for a company offering a transfer to the UK? Studying abroad? BritianniAmerica offers an online community and information for those living in or planning a move to the UK.

Uprooting your life and moving across ‘the pond’ can be overwhelming, exciting, and confusing. BritiannAmerica offers community, information, and guidance to Americans at any point in their journey to live in the UK – all for FREE. We will NEVER ask you to pay for any of the services we provide or ask you to pay to access additional features.

The online home for Americans living in, working in, studying in, or wanting to move to the UK includes a growing wiki, an active forum, and a great community.

BritanniAmerica is also great for networking and meeting new friends! Imagine moving to a country where you barely know anyone, but having a strong network of friends who are just like you! Friends who will offer advice and support whenever you need it, without that expensive phone call back to the US. From time to time, we’ll even be hosting various gatherings to get to know your fellow Americans face to face.

Not from America? No problem! We welcome anyone who is working their way towards a move to the UK, though most of our experience with immigration lies with US to UK moves.

We are still a relatively new site, so we also are looking for people to join our staff – people to moderate different sections of our site and board, people who want to add pages to our site (and who know HTML), people who want to write articles for the Wiki, and even people who just want to write a blog post about their experiences so far.

Come join us!

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Establishing Myself in the UK

I landed at LHR (London Heathrow) in the wee hours of the morning on the 22nd. We were the first plane down for the day (at around 5:30AM) and I managed to get through immigration and customs before Tim even left the hotel room! Sitting in Business Class (thanks Friend! [you know who you are]) rocked. They passed out these “fast passes” for immigration which goes to a special line only for First & Business class, so not a long wait there at all. I held my passport open to my spousal visa when I walked up to the counter and was asked one question “Where is your husband?” I replied that he should be waiting for me on the other side of Customs, and the I/O stamped my visa and said “Welcome Home, Mrs. L”.

Fortunately, luggage carts are free at LHR, and I piled it high with my bags and managed to get myself through Customs (nothing to declare) and out into the arrivals hall….to no Tim. Granted, it was 6AM, and my plane was supposed to land at 5:55, so I wasn’t upset. Instead I called Mom to tell her I had arrived and then called Tim. Turned out he was just leaving the hotel (since we live about 3 hours away from London by car, we figured a hotel was the best idea).

We were soon reunited and loaded the car…and we almost took the bags of someone parked next to us (who was even on my flight!) who had a purple bag, because Tim is programmed that all things purple must belong to me. heh. We had breakfast at the hotel, then went to our room and crashed for a few hours.

I woke up around 11, and after a shower we decided to head into the nearest town (though not into London proper) to find some Lunch and pick up a few things at Boots (Pharmacy), and tehn it was mostly hanging around in our hotel room until our pre-paid dinner at the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately, my stomach hadn’t figured out the time change yet, so I spent most of my afternoon being sick, but I felt well-enough to go down to dinner and nibbled a bit. Again, we didn’t do much after dinner (partially due to me not feeling well).

The following morning we decided to stop at IKEA in Essex on our “way home”. It wasn’t entirely on the way, but closer than any of the IKEAs in our area, and we wanted to go window shopping for new bedroom furniture.

We wound up spending 5 hours in IKEA! But it was worth it. We now know what we want and have a plan for renovating our bedroom.

We returned to Lincoln….and then the errands started. Oh, the errands.

Monday we went over to the GP (Doctor) so I could register. The receptionist had a little trouble with registering me, as she thought I needed to call the NHS to get a NHS number, but after calling the helpline from the lobby we got it straightened out and I should have my NHS card in a few days. We also headed into town, thinking that we’d be able to add me to Tim’s bank account. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out and we had to make an appointment for Tuesday. We also stopped at the Library though, and I got a library card and then to the Co-Op to sign up for a membership there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my NI number (It’s similar to an SSN), but I have the number to call to get that, too.

Tuesday we had our bank appointment and after a two-hour meeting overviewing our finances, I was added to the account, we paid off the credit card mostly (we used it for my visa & moving fees), and we have a plan for a new savings account once I have my NI number. I should have my bank card in a few days!

We’ve also been doing a lot just to get the house in order. We plan on celebrating our Christmas on Sunday, complete with putting presents under the tree. At IKEA we purchased a new laundry hamper that ought to handle a week’s worth of two people’s clothing (and it even has a divider), and a cute side table for under the living room window. We’ve also been opening the wedding presents and started to use them – yesterday I made bread in the bread machine and it turned out really good.

Sadly, last night the washing machine decided that this was teh PERFECT time for it to crap out. So today we went off to Comet’s and picked out an inexpensive washer dryer combo. We figured since we knew we needed a new dryer eventually, we might as well spend the money now to get the combo, because buying them separate would have been twice as much. Plus, this gets rid of one of the units in the kitchen, so more space for other things.

Hopefully we’ll have a quiet weekend (other than Christmas on Sunday) and start to get things in order. My shipment got to Felixtowe on the 25th, so hopefully it won’t sit in customs for too long….but hopefully long enough for us to make room for the boxes.

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My Visa Journey

I’ve recently applied for and recieved my UK spousal visa. Here is a detailed account of what I did. I hope this can help someone in the future!

1229091138 On 5 November 2009, Tim and I got married in a small and private ceremony in PA, followed by a reception for friends/family in th US. I filled out the paperwork to get the certified copy of our marriage license before the wedding and had the envelope and cheque all ready to be sent post-wedding. Tim and I departed on our honeymoon on the morning of the 7th, and my mom mailed off the request for the certified copy on Monday. We returned from our honeymoon on the 15th, Tim went back to the UK on the 16th, and the marriage certificate arrived on the 17th.

Before sending off the marriage certificate, I went ahead and changed my name with my bank (though I did that immediately after the wedding and added Tim to the account) and with PennDOT. Then, it was off to the post office to send in a renewal/name change on my passport. This is an optional step, however I really wanted everything to be in my married name. I did NOT expedite my passport, but I had it back after only 4 weeks. During this time, Tim was able to collect the required documents we needed on his end, and he FedExed me his paperwork on 23 December. Due to the holiday, I did not receive the package until the 28th.

Tim and I had gone through the paper version of the application together to make sure I knew the answers to some of the questions (like Tim’s NI number) in case he wasn’t around when I filled out the online form. Fortunately, Tim was around and we filled out the application together. It took about an hour, but that partially had to do with my slow computer. It got to the schedule biometrics page and I was given a date at the beginning of January.

I organized all the paperwork before I did anything else. I purchased Avery dividers with document pockets and color-coded each section. I had 6 sections to my documents – General Information, Identification, Finances, Employment, Housing, and Misc. I will attach at the end my table of contents for more details. Anything that was more than a page long got paperclipped together, and each section was then clipped together with a small binder clip. The entire application was 60 pages, 12 photos, and 3 passports, so I then took 3 very large binder clips and clipped it ALL together on three sides.

After hearing a few success stories of getting biometrics done early, I decided to take my chances and we drove over to York (where my local facility was). It worked out since it was only about a 20 minute drive away, and we wanted to go out to Lunch at a restaurant in York anyway. Fortunately, there was only 3 people waiting for their testing (this also is INS, the place where US immigrants go for their biometrics and green cards!). Since they weren’t busy, they agreed to take me after the three people waiting.

Biometrics was pretty painless. Instead of using ink and paper, they have a special scanner that scans in your fingerprints. Mine were hard to read, and the woman doing it told me it’s because I use my hands a lot – like to type on a computer, send text messages, even crafting. Doing those things creates lines on your fingertips and it makes it harder to read your prints. Fortunately after about 15 minutes, she finally got something that the computer was satisfied with.

When we got back to the house, I had an email from my courier instructing me to send my application via overnight FedEx that afternoon, so off we went to the FEdEx facility across town. It cost me $53, but it was worth it!

I used All Star Visa & Passport Services and I can’t recommend them enough. They were very professional, didn’t offer me any unsolicited advice like some of the others, and kept in communication with me every step of the way. The received my application at 10AM on the 30th, after their submission time to the consulate, but that gave Myra time to go through my application and make sure I had sent everything I said I was (a step I appreciated). She wasn’t going through it to review it like some places, just checked for my documents. She also told me that I was pretty organized, which pleased me. Their services are a little more than some of the other LA couriers – $150 plus an additional $24 for shipping, but in my opinion it was well worth it to have such professional service. I had heard a lot of complaints about at least 2 of the other LA Consulate couriers, but nothing but good things about All Star.

Ken submitted my application in the morning on 31 December. The consulate was closing early for the holiday, so it was iffy if it would get looked at. When I didn’t hear from the courier by 3PM PST, I assumed it was going to have to wait. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call around 7PM EST telling me I was approved and my visa was on it’s way to me! Way to go All Star!

My visa process took exactly 8 weeks from wedding to visa issued, but you can cut some time off if you don’t need to/want to change your name on your passport (or if you expedite your passport). Tim had most of his documents all ready and we were only waiting for a copy of the land registry, but I’ve been told we could have used the internet print out instead, which also would have cut off a week.

I’ll be leaving the US on 21 January to join my husband so we can start our life together!

My table of contents is a pdf for you to look at and use as a guide. It can be found here: spousalvisatableofcontents.pdf. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, and you might require additional documents depending on your situation.

For a guide of required documents and an example of what your sponsor’s letter should look like, please visit Transpondia.

You can find support from fellow Americans who have gone through or are going through the same process by visiting the forums at BritanniAmerica.

Meg from UK-Y has put together a sample budget, and you can download the template here. Again, please remember this is only a guide, and you might need to add or delete lines as necessary based on your own financial situation.