Tomorrow marks two years since our arrival in the UK. It seems both forever ago and only yesterday that it had been a year, and if we hadn’t moved flats in the middle of the blur, there would have been even less to mark the passage of time.
Our plan had been to live here for “a couple of years” – but our plan certainly hadn’t been to live here for “a couple of years almost entirely in our flat.” Our plan had included things like exploring London, traveling around the UK, and visiting places in Europe we didn’t get to while we lived in Luxembourg. The pandemic had other plans, and as it stretched toward the end of last year, we started talking about what we wanted to do, and if we could figure out how to do that.
We sorta decided that unless the pandemic situation in America got a bunch better, and got a bunch worse in the UK, moving back without doing any of the things we came to do felt like something we’d regret.
Moving internationally takes work. We haven’t found it to be as hard as people expect, but it certainly takes effort, and comes with its fair share of stress (especially if you’re moving animals). Oh, and it’s not exactly cheap.
The hardest bit is typically immigration – getting permission to live and work in a country you’re not a citizen of. Both times we’ve lived abroad my work visa has been sponsored by my employer.
The term of my agreement to come to the UK was two years – and while extending that agreement was possible, there was no guarantee. Around April of last year I’d moved out of the group that I was part of when we moved here, and for several reasons it wasn’t clear the group I had joined was going see enough value in me being here that extending my stay would make sense to them. If they weren’t supportive, I didn’t have too many options, and none of them seemed great.
So I started working on a “Plan B.”
I engaged a local immigration law firm, and with their help and with some graciously written letters of support from a few former colleagues, I was able to petition the UK government to decouple my immigration status from my employment.
It took a couple months, but by the end of last year, I had a Plan B – and more options.
With that in my back pocket, I had a frank and honest conversation with the leadership in my org, and we mutually agreed that there were probably places I could be more valuable than where I was. So I started chatting with other teams and moved into a new team (again) earlier this year. As it turned out, the new team was amenable to extend my assignment, so a little paperwork later and our new plan is to be in the UK through the middle of 2022.
In other news, we’re both fully vaccinated – and by this time next week we’ll both be +2 weeks from our second dose (“maxinated”). The government is making optimistic noises that the four week delay to eliminating the last legal restrictions will stick – and that July 17th, we’ll be back to normal. “This time for real.” I’m not sure the data I can see supports that optimism, but then Boris’ government hasn’t established a particularly good track record of ahead of time decision making.
Still, with any luck the next year won’t be like the last year. We’d like to do some traveling, get back to Seattle for a visit or two, and generally speaking not spend another twelve months in our flat.