It’s All Fun and Games Until…

A friend and former colleague is fond of saying “everything’s fine, nothing is broken.” Everyone’s fine, but Dawnise’s wrist is definitely broken – we’ve got pictures to prove it.

…Rewind to Tuesday…

We’d picked up Kamran early that morning, and brought him home into quarantine for a couple hours before we put him back in the carrier for his initial check at our vet, a short walk from the flat.

We were a bit over half way there when Dawnise tripped, going “ass over tea kettle” as the saying goes, twisting her ankle and landing mostly on her left wrist. She got up feeling a bit nauseous and convinced me to carry on and keep our vet appointment while she caught her breath at the bus stop we were just a few feet away from.

She texted me a few minutes later that she was going to head home to ice her wrist. By the time I got home with the cat she’d applied ice, and took some ibuprofen.

I suggested we seek medical attention, she demurred and insisted it was probably just a sprain and would be fine in a couple days. But, she said, if it didn’t get better, she’d reconsider.

By Thursday it was clearly not improved. She called our GP, but after listening to their hold message do its best to tell us to go away and use the internet, we pivoted to their electronic consult system instead. We described the symptoms, the event, the treatment steps taken, the time lapsed, and the current status. The doctor called Dawnise back that afternoon and referred her to UCLH radiology for an X-ray.

Dawnise left this morning in time to arrive at the radiology department when they opened at 9am. By 10 they had taken the x-ray, read it, confirmed a fracture, and walked her up to the emergency department (ED). I went to join her after our grocery delivery arrived at 10am. Neither of us were sure what to expect, and we settled in for a potentially long wait.

They called her back in about another hour. The doctor showed us the x-ray and talked us through it. She had a radial fracture and a small bone chip in her left wrist, and the joint was slightly compressed from the impact. They’d need to put it in a cast, and before they cast it they needed to “manipulate it” (fancy way to say “pull on her hand”) to improve bone position.

It was going to hurt, no two ways around it. They’d give her a codine tablet ahead of time, a local anesthetic injection (a hematoma block) and some “air and gas” (nitrous) while they worked.

We went back to the waiting room for a few minutes while they got set up.

True to the Doctor’s word, the shot clearly hurt. And despite the local injection and the laughing gas, the manipulation was clearly not Dawnise’s favorite thing ever. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than a couple minutes, but it felt longer, and I was just the observer – staying out of the way while they worked.

They finished setting the cast, got her setup with a sling, and sent us back to the waiting room for a few minutes until they could take another set of x-rays to see the new bone position.

After the new set of x-rays we went back to the waiting room one more time until the doc could review them.

When he called us back in he showed us the new pictures (they basically looked the same to me, if I’m honest) and said the positioning looked good.

He explained that the hospital would send the before and after x-rays to the fractures team for a consultant to review. Early next week we’d hear back with one of three outcomes. If the set looked good to the fractures consultant she’d stay in the temporary cast for two weeks and then be re-cast for another month. If they were concerned about what they saw, they might call her in for an in-person consult. If they were really concerned about what they saw, they’d call her in to discuss a surgical fix. The ED doc said he thought surgery was unlikely, but not impossible.

A short stop at the hospital pharmacy to collect some pain medication, and a detour to get bagels from our favorite bagel bakery, and we were home around 2pm.

Everyone she dealt with was great – competent and pleasant – including the GP who called her back in response to the initial consult request. The ED was busy, but not slammed, and no single step today seemed particularly lengthy or inefficient.

Dawnise is doing ok – definitely uncomfortable and when the hospital drugs wear off we expect it to get a bit worse before it starts to get better, but it will get better.

Hopefully neither of us get whacked with her cast while we sleep.

Fingers crossed.

Here We Go Again

The Universe has presented us with a cat, and we’re in the rough and sometimes infuriating first few days of integrating a new cat into the house.

Since losing Oscar in late October we’ve occasionally talked about if and when we might look into adopting another cat. We had a “near miss” a couple months ago. We were in contact with someone with a rescue they needed to place. Someone else had responded first, and we thought the important thing was that the cat find a home, not that the home be with us, so we were happy to let the right thing happen.

Since then I’d researched a few London animal shelters, and in the process learned that adopting a cat in the UK is different than our experiences in the US. There’s a strong cultural bias that cats are hunters and need access to the outdoors. We live in a flat several stories above street level, so “access to the outdoors” is problematic – even ignoring our concern about the mix of cats, foxes, and cars in the middle of London.

There are some shelters that focus on placing “indoor” cats. Many of those shelters only consider cats that are elderly, immnuocompromised, or physically incapable of living the “free range life.” On top of that, COVID put a damper on “come to the shelter and meet some cats,” resulting in most shelters asking you to apply, and them match making you with a candidate cat or two.

Ultimately, we weren’t really thrilled with the prospect, so we hadn’t taken any steps or submitted any applications, though we were slowly convincing ourselves that was the path forward.

Then the other day Dawnise saw a post on nextdoor from a local neighbor who was looking to re-home their cat. They were moving countries and couldn’t bring him with. Dawnise reached out and arranged a meet-and-greet.

On the day of the meeting I was stuck in a work crisis, so Dawnise had to go without me. She met the cat (and the humans). He (the cat) was a street rescue from a charity in Abu Dhabi. He’s about three years old, has a gentle friendly disposition, and he and Dawnise got along pretty much immediately. She arranged for us both come back the next day, so I could meet him too. Our meeting went equally well, and his humans decided that out of the people who’d expressed interest they preferred he go with us.

So we had agreement in principle to adopt a cat, and a plan to pick him up once we could schedule a vet check up for him.

And we needed to figure out a name. When he was adopted from the charity that rescued him he was named Lucky. We tend to choose human names, and neither of us loved the name Lucky.

I had joked for a long time that if we got a dog we should name it Loki – after all, what could possibly go wrong naming a dog after a god of mischief? Since Loki was acoustically similar, our first thought was to try that. But neither of us loved that name either.

The morning before we were scheduled to pick him up we were still thinking about names. We had the thought to see if we could draw on his origin and his current name. So I started looking for names that meant approximately “lucky” in Arabic…

And we found Kamran.

The internet told us it meant “blessed” in Arabic and “fortunate” in Farsi. I’m always skeptical of using words I don’t understand – and was concerned that we were essentially giving him a tattoo of random characters that someone told you means something. So we asked a friend, who relayed the ask to friends who were native speakers, and they confirmed that Kamran was a name, not commonly used in general speech, and didn’t mean anything terrible. That seemed good enough.

So Tuesday morning, bright and early, we picked up Kamran and brought him home. Dawnise and I went into quarantine with him for a few hours before taking him to the vet for a once over. He got a clean bill of health, caught up on his immunizations, and when we got home we started gently introducing him to Ivan.

So now were in the phase where two cats try to decide if they want to attack each other, play together, or ignore each other. There’s some occasional growling, occasional hissing, and hopefully over the next few days there’s less of each.

A Letter to Both Sides

I paid little attention to government or politics while living in Luxembourg. This was partially because all the official business was conducted en français and translation was très difficile, and partially because we only planned to be there for a couple years.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys” seemed like a good strategy.

Even before moving to the UK, I had spent enough time here – and had enough friends here – that I was at least superficially aware of UK politics and government.

I followed the Brexit debate and vote from afar, and witnessed some of the sclerotic convulsions up close and personally, from “this side of the pond.”

When I decided that I didn’t understand Brexit and the underlying arguments, politics and dynamics as well as I wanted to, I asked local friends for perspective and read a bunch. Papers and periodicals on both sides of center. Books about Brexit and the EU, and some about political dysfunction and polarization.

Most of this had the effect of “making me smarter, but not happier.”

They say misery loves company, so I figured I’d share.

You’re welcome.

Even leaving Brexit aside, it’s been … challenging… to reconcile recent events with the historical perspective of Britain as a stable well governed country with responsible adults in the halls of power.

The government’s response to the pandemic, and the indefensible actions of government ministers. Boris’ casual relationship with truth and determination to stay in power. The short but economically disastrous tenure of his successor. The government’s response to the cost of living crisis and the dramatic inflation and skyrocketing energy prices driving it. The wave of strikes and industrial actions affecting transportation. The seeming acceleration toward collapse of the national health care system.

The party that has been in power for over a decade seems to be treating these problems as though they were of someone else’s creation. That they’re as surprised as anyone to find these systems and institutions creaking after years of their policies and management, and that they’re just trying to do their best.

“I’m shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.” –Capt. Renault

It’s been just as hard understand what role the opposition party has to play in this drama, and if they’re playing it effectively, or showing up at all.

When we arrived in the UK, the left-leaning Labor party was embroiled in multiple crises and suffered a disastrous electoral loss. Its hard-left leaning leader had helped the party alienate and lose many historically reliable supporters, and he was personally accused of permitting, if not supporting, antisemitism amongst party leadership. It’s tempting to say it was surprising how difficult it was to remove him from the reigns, but the dynamic of a toxic personality holding on to power is frustratingly familiar.

He did ultimately resign, and his successor, a former barrister, is significantly more centrist. He’s been praised for effective oration and lambasted for being “boring and bland.” It’s not clear how much more excitement the country has an appetite for, but in a landscape of perpetual and persistent crisis, someone who just promises “not to break things” struggles to be heard over the noise.

In theory, the role of the opposition party, and the so-called “shadow cabinet,” is to scrutinize policies and actions of the government, and offer alternatives.

When I’ve asked local friends why we don’t hear more suggestions from Labor, canny responders point out that the opposition party never has strong incentives to volunteer their “best ideas.” The risk is that those ideas are adopted or co-opted by the sitting government. True, good things might happen. And true, the opposition might get some credit, but voters have notoriously short memories, and credit today doesn’t win the next election.

Since we’re talking about elections, general elections in the UK don’t happen on a fixed schedule. The date of the next general election has not yet been set, as of this writing. The next election is no later than five years and some days after the first meeting of the just elected Parliament.

Since the previous general election was December 2019 (that’s the one that Labor lost in a dramatic fashion when a bunch of historically reliable supporters voted against them) the next election is no later than December 2024.

But before you get to confident, did I mention that the general election prior to 2019 was June 2017?

Wait. What? I hear you ask. June 2017 to December 2019? That isn’t ever five years just then.

Yes, ahem. Well, you see… the sitting government can call an election earlier. Basically any time it likes.

So that’s interesting. Why would they call an early election? You might ask. Isn’t that just risking being voted out?


If you’ve ever played a push your luck game you might think of it sorta like that. If you call an early election (push your luck) you might lose. If you lose, you hand your opponent control. But… If you call an early election and you win you’ve ensured control for another five years. So if you’ve just done something amazing, and you think people are happy with you and will vote for you if you asked right now, you might call an early election and ask them, right now.

Credit today wins elections tomorrow.

Of course only the sitting government can call an early election. No amount of dissatisfaction by the opposing party, or the populous, can force one.

So no matter how dissatisfied the population might be with the sitting government right now, they aren’t guaranteed a chance to express that dissatisfaction (at the polls, at least) until December 2024. And voters, as mentioned above, have short memories.

What’s got the pitchforks and torches out at the moment may well have faded into the mists of memory come polling day.

US political commentators and analysts are fond of starting statements with “if the election were held today…” In the UK that is approximately a possibility.

But if the rest of that sentence isn’t “the incumbent would win in a landslide” it’s a pretty unlikely one.

In light of government behavior over the past couple years, and current satisfaction levels, I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict six more weeks eighteen more months of winter…

Four Years in the Making

We finally made it to Belgium.

In the end it only took four tries. We first planned a trip to visit Ghent and Bruges for Christmas markets in 2019. We booked Eurostar tickets, and an AirB&B, and had to unravel it all when the longest French rail strike in 30 years undid our best laid plans. In 2020 COVID in the UK put the kibosh on our re-made travel plans, and in 2021 we made the call to cancel last minute when COVID surged in Belgium and markets started being curtailed and canceled.

So when we picked dates, rearranged the train tickets, and booked accommodation in Ghent, we weren’t particularly confident that the trip would actually happen.

By pure luck our dates dodged the rail strikes in the UK, and the threatened strike by Eurostar security staff, and on the morning of our departure we met our friends and traveling companions at St. Pancras station. Mere minutes before the train was scheduled to board came the announcement – the high speed tracks in Belgium were closed due to two broken down trains, and our train was delayed. ETD unknown.

The other shoe had finally dropped.

We found some seats in the departures hall and settled in. Scheduled departures to other destinations departed. And we waited.

A couple hours later it was announced that the tracks were clear and our train was ready for boarding. A small cheer went up in the departure hall, and we joined our fellow passengers on the platform and found our seats on board.

The trip to Brussels and connection to Ghent were uneventful and, a few hours later than planned, we arrived at our lodgings, met our host, dropped our bags and headed out into the town, and the markets.

Dawnise hadn’t been exactly thrilled at the idea of taking a train under the English Channel, but it all turned out ok. Even with the delay the door-to-door trip was no longer than a flight would have been and significantly more comfortable. I’m optimistic that we’ll do it again.

We spent a rather cold (-6C) day in Bruges, the next day in Brussels, and our last warmer but rainy day in Ghent. We wandered the towns and visited the Christmas markets. We stood in a stupidly long queue for frites in Brussels (worth it), had Mexican food in Ghent that easily ranked among our top five Mexican food finds in Europe, and stumbled on an (intentionally) hilarious castle audio tour that kept us chuckling and mostly kept us out of the rain for a couple hours.

And it was the first trip in a fair while that I took my “real” camera – so I have a bunch of pictures to sift through, a couple of which I’ve added to my mostly dormant flickr photostream.

Ghent and Bruges are just as beautiful as people say – and are both places I’d happily go back to explore when the weather is a bit less hostile, even if it means less gluhwein.

Oh Yes It Is

Last night Dawnise and I saw Mother Goose at the Hackney Empire theater. It was the first panto we’d been to since we went with visiting friends and their daughter in 2019, in the before-times.

Panto strikes me as a particularly English Christmas tradition, and not one I remember being exposed to before we moved here. I find it a bit hard to describe without regurgitating chunks of the Wikipedia article, but here goes…

Panto is family theater – children come in fancy dress, and sometimes their parents do, too. Extended families come en mass, occupying entire rows.

But panto isn’t “theater for kids” – the audience has a diversity I rarely see at other live performances – everyone from babes-in-arms to pensioners.

It’s intentionally camp without being denigrating. It features gender bending performances and pokes at stereotypes and current events, all against the backdrop of a morality play. It does it all in fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is seriously subversive.

The players sing and dance, and the audience sings – and sometimes dances – along. Characters call on the audience, the audience shouts in response. The valiant heroes are cheered, and the dastardly villains are booed. Sweets are flung into the crowd eliciting shrieks from kids who scramble to scoop them up.

In a city known for world class theater and dramatic performance, it would be easy to dismiss panto as frivolous. As something “less than.”

Oh no it isn’t!


Two of the hottest panto tickets this season are a production of Jack and the Beanstalk with Dawn French, and a production of Mother Goose with Sir Ian McKellen (playing the eponymous waterfowl).

The production values we saw last night were in no way “less than.” The set pieces and costumes were eye-catching, and the vocals, choreography and performances were en pointe.

The stories are simple, without being simplistic. The jokes are hilarious to children and funny to adults, usually for very different reasons.

We laughed, we shouted at the stage, we cheered and we booed. And as the show resumed from intermission, looking at the festive chaos around me, I realized that panto has found its way into my adopted holiday traditions, right along side Christmas markets, mince pies, and feuerzangenbowle.

Happy Holiday season, friends.

You Got Lucky

For the first time since the middle of August I didn’t wake up this morning thinking about the UK Home Office.

Well, not immediately, anyway.

Then I went to double check that it hadn’t all been a dream.

The last six weeks felt crazy stressful, but this morning – with just a tiny bit of distance – that stress felt overblown.

Don’t get me wrong, the stress was definitely real. I definitely felt it. And Dawnise would definitely tell you it definitely affected my mood.

But I wasn’t actually in any real jeopardy. I had a visa. It allowed me to be in the country, to work, to and travel. And that visa had plenty of time left before it expired. So no real risk.

On top of that, I had two lawyers who were confident that I was “in the right,” and our member of parliament’s office was advocating for me, too.

Worst case – if the only way to resolve the situation was to submit a new application – it would cost me some time and some money.

I suspect most people who’ve ever gone through any immigration process probably remember how stressful it can be. Governments and bureaucracies seem opaque and capricious. Each application is a just one of many a caseworker will handle in a week. To the case worker the decision on an application is just another decision.

To the person, or family, behind that application, their entire future can hinge on the outcome.

When things go wrong, having access to resources, and specifically to sound legal advice, can make a massive difference.

I had a bunch of advantages and I got lucky. Dawnise and I agreed we wanted to pay that luck forward – and decided to donate what we were expecting to spend on a second application to organizations that provide immigration-related legal aid. I asked around, and some friends pointed me at JCWI in the UK and Unlocal in the US.

I hope it helps someone who needs it.

Into the Great Wide Open

“It’s like Plato once said…It doesn’t matter how the fuck you get there, as long as you get there” —Conrad Brean

Three things have happened in the couple days since I wrote the previous ILR post.

Yesterday, the Home Office sent a response to the Pre-Action Protocol to the “bad cop lawyer,” dismissing it and saying that the process would be resolved through the administrative review request, which – the letter noted – was only 4 weeks into its six month expected duration. The review, it said, would be decided “in due course.”

I didn’t find that particularly encouraging.

Once I got done wishing ill on all forms of intransigent bureaucracy, I forwarded the response on to the “good cop lawyer.” We agreed that the likely outcome was that I’d need to reapply on return from my business travel next week.

This morning, I sent a follow up email to our MP, explaining the response I’d received and asking her (office) if she could reengage and offer additional assistance. I explained the upcoming business travel and provided the evidence her staff requested.

And went back to waiting.

While sitting at my desk writing a document, my phone buzzed. Twice.

It was a message from the “good cop lawyer” saying “Hi Dan. I am pleased to advise that a decision has now been taken on your Administrative Review…”

…I hesitated a moment at the line break…

“…and ILR has been granted.”

I went back and read it again.

And it didn’t change.

I opened the letter from the home office…

Dear Mr Berger

Your application for administrative review has succeeded.

You have been granted indefinite leave to remain. I enclose your approval letter.

“Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

Continue to Part 4

Don’t Do Me Like That

I had a catch up with the “bad cop lawyer” this morning. When you submit a Pre-Action Protocol letter the Home Office says they “endeavour to respond to your letter within 14 days.” He’s had no response to the pre-action protocol letter we submitted 18 days ago. His advice, which I’m sure was only slightly influenced by his going on holiday next week, was to wait a bit longer.

I might have mentioned how much I love waiting.

To be honest, I’m mostly just taking the piss about the going on holiday thing – the reality is that we’ve got no leverage, so there aren’t many great alternatives to consider.

As this drags out, part of me is finding it increasingly difficult to not view UKVI’s silence as a not-so-subtle request for a bribe.

If I resubmitted my application, and paid them for expedited service again, they’d answer me “tomorrow” – so the extended silence seems to say “grease our palms and we’ll answer quickly. Or … don’t.”

So my next step will likely to be email our MP. Again.

Our MP? Again?


A few weeks after the Home Office refused the application, while looking to book a tour of the Houses of Parliament, Dawnise suggested that maybe I should contact our MP.

“What the hell,” I figured. Little point in holding back – I might as well hit it with everything I‘ve got.

So I sent our MP an email explaining the situation and asking for help.

To my surprise I got a response from her office saying they would talk to the Home Office on my behalf, and requesting some information about the application and the review request. I provided what they requested, and they said they would bring up my case during a scheduled call with the Home Office on Friday the 9th of September.

Then Thursday took an unexpected, but not entirely shocking, turn, and I assumed all forward momentum would be lost.

I got a (surprising) follow up from our MP’s office on the 14th saying “Our liaison at the Home Office has updated us to let us know that you have submitted an administrative review and your solicitor has submitted a Pre-Action Protocol, and that there should be an update on your case soon.”

It was the first (and so far only) confirmation I’ve had that any of the actions we’ve taken have been noticed. “Soon” was encouraging, but frustratingly vague. And the British version of “soon” and the American version of “soon” aren’t necessarily the same “soon.”

The message closed saying “Do keep in touch, and let us know if you would like us to chase this up again.”

I’m not sure they really meant that I should keep in touch, but given that we’re coming up on two weeks since that message, I’m willing to take them at their word.

Continue to Part 3

Stillness, Silence, Pipes & Drums

We paused this morning to watch as, after 70 years of service to her country, Queen Elizabeth II was memorialized and will, later today, be laid to rest. I was struck by the silence and the stillness of the honor guard, standing statuesque around the gun carriage as her coffin was transferred from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.

The stillness disturbed only by the honor guard moving the coffin to the carriage, and the silence broken sound of pipes and drums.

I was reminded by the stillness of the last time we saw Her Majesty in a church. Still. Silent. Marking and mourning the death of her husband and companion. Alone.

Today, Westminster Abbey was full of mourners – family, subjects, and – I hope – some friends.

The service ended to the call of trumpets. And stillness. And silence.

And the sound of pipes.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.

Hamlet 1:2

Rest in peace.

The Waiting (is the Hardest Part)

I expect it will be a while before this post is published, as it’s generally not a great idea to talk about a conflict until it’s over and the dust has started to settle. Especially when it’s a disagreement with a government. About immigration. And they say you should never publish angry. So, yeah.

When we moved to London in 2019, our visas were attached to my employment. I was sponsored by my employer for a “Tier 2 General” visa (now known as a “Skilled Worker” visa).

A year and a half in, with the pandemic still in full swing, Dawnise and I decided we wanted to remain in the UK long enough to experience living here without a global pandemic restricting travel and activity. And it wasn’t obvious if my employer would support that desire.

So in the fall of 2020, after doing some research, and with the support of an immigration law firm and kind letters of recommendation from some former colleagues, I applied and was endorsed for a “Global Talent” visa – that decoupled my “leave to remain” and work in the UK from the sponsorship of my employer.

Applying for this type of visa is a multi-step process. First you express your intent to apply to the UK Home Office. You tell them what skills category you want to apply under, and they direct you to submit supporting evidence of your qualifications for evaluation to an endorsing body specific to that skill category.

Then you submit your request for endorsement, and the supporting evidence, and you wait for a decision. Oh, and you give the Home Office some money. Of course.

The endorsing body looks at the evidence and tells the Home Office what decision they reach. The Home Office informs you of the decision and, if you’ve been endorsed, invites you to apply for the actual visa. For a(nother) fee, naturally.

So I submitted a dossier, the endorsing body evaluated it, and they informed the Home Office that I had been endorsed, and the Home Office informed my solicitor (lawyer, for those who don’t speak The Queens’ Kings’ English) who forwarded the letter from the Home Office on to me.

Endorsement in hand, I submitted the visa application. A short wait later and the visa was granted, and life went on mostly as it had done. When I decided to part ways with my employer, it was a non-event, at least from an immigration perspective.

…Fast-forward to June 2022… And allow me to introduce a few devils that live in the details…

This sort of visa comes in two flavors; promising applicants without much experience – like post-graduate students for example – can be endorsed as having “promise,” whereas more established applicants with experience can be endorsed as demonstrating “talent.”

On advice from my solicitor, despite my being “established” and having a body of experience, we submitted for endorsement in the promise category.

The theory was that if you if you ask for a talent endorsement but fall short, the endorsing body is likely to say “sorry, no.” On the other hand, if you apply for a promise endorsement and the endorsing body sees more, they can “step up” to a talent endorsement.

And this is exactly what happened in my case – I asked for “promise,” they endorsed for “talent”.

Either endorsement (“promise” or “talent”) is enough to get a “Global Talent” visa. Critically to our story, the specific endorsement changes how long the applicant has to be in the UK before they can apply for “indefinite leave to remain” (ILR). ILR is the transition from having a time-limited visa, with a fixed expiration date, to having the right to live and work in the UK “indefinitely.”

Since I had been endorsed in the “talent” category, I was eligible to apply for ILR after I’d been in the UK for three years and passed a “Life in the UK” test. By late June 2022, both conditions had been satisfied, so I moved forward to apply.

I didn’t urgently need to apply – I had time left on my visa – and the requirement to remain physically in the UK while the application was processed meant I delayed application until we returned from New Zealand.

Unlike the initial visa application – which was reasonably complex and seemed to benefit from having a solicitor – the ILR application was simple and self-service. Even the solicitor said as much. So I gathered the needed information – itemizing all the travel I’d done out of the UK for the past three years (a very short list, thanks to the pandemic), official evidence that I’d earned income in my “specialist” field, and a few other bits and bobs, and submitted the application and fee in the middle of August.

And I paid to get “super premium” expedited service, so my application would be processed in 24 hours instead of the 26 weeks applications were nominally taking. Because one of the other devils in the details is that traveling outside the UK while the application is in process invalidates the application.

Imagine my surprise when I got the official response via email the next day from the Home Office saying: “your application for ILR has been denied. You were endorsed in the exceptional promise category which requires five years of UK residency before being eligible for indefinite leave to remain.”

You might recall that I said I applied in the promise category, was endorsed in the talent category, and had that endorsement decision in writing from the Home Office.

So what, you might ask, the actual fuck?


That was my reaction, too.

I looked to see if there was a way I could reach a human at the Home Office. Impossible. (The jokes just write themselves.)

So I reached out to the solicitor who’d helped with the initial visa application for advice. He was on holiday but I connected with one of his colleagues who agreed that the refusal from the Home Office looked to be made in error, and we started talking about paths forward.

One possibility was to request for an “Administrative Review” and challenge that decision (for another fee, naturally) within two weeks of the decision. But, the solicitor informed me, the timeline for administrative reviews was several months, and just like during the application, travel outside the UK would nullify the review request. And there is no option to pay extra for an “expedited review.” And I had work travel at the beginning of October.

The solicitor argued (to me) that Administrative Review wasn’t necessarily the right course to take. The decision, he said, was egregiously wrong. It wasn’t that I hadn’t neglected to provide some bit of required information, there was no questionable interpretation of evidence, the Home Office had just seemingly made the decision based on the wrong facts. We couldn’t even be sure they’d read my file or if they had confused me with someone else.

So the advice from the lawyer was basically “we can file a legal complaint, and we could ultimately bring a suit in court, but if you want prompt resolution, you may be best off re-applying.” So I started to wrap my head around the idea that I might need to pay the Home Office again – both the application and expedite fees – if I wanted any hope of them fixing their screw-up in reasonable time.

After sleeping on it, I instructed the solicitor to start with the formal complaint – called a “Pre-Action Protocol” – where he would lay out the situation, explain why their decision was wrong, and not-so-subtly say “please fix it, or we’ll be forced to seek redress in the courts.”

The lawyer got to drafting and over the weekend I reached out to my (limited) network of UK contacts to see if I knew anyone with connections in the Home Office that might be able to solve this with less lawyer.

It turned out I didn’t find anyone I knew with contacts at the Home Office, but I knew someone who knew someone. That second-degree someone turned out to be an immigration lawyer who had a scheduled call with their Home Office contact early the following week. They were happy to discuss my case during that call, but I needed to be a client before they could represent me. A quick letter of agreement later and I had not one but two immigration solicitors.

So much for less lawyer.

I decided I might as well play “good cop lawyer, bad cop lawyer.” With one lawyer preparing a “Pre-Action Protocol” and the other lawyer trying to make progress through a side-channel.

In the middle of the next week the “good cop lawyer” got a response basically saying “submit an Administrative Review.” So I did – the day before the review submission deadline. And gave the Home Office a little more money – ’cause that’s clearly how you effectively penalize poor performance.

And the following day the “bad cop lawyer” submitted the Pre-Action Protocol.

And I waited.

The next milestone is the response deadline for the Pre-Action Protocol on Monday the 19th – which of course is massively overshadowed by other events (and a bank holiday).

There was no news as of the close-of-business Friday, so I’ll spend the weekend waiting.

And in the words of my favorite fictional Spaniard,

I hate waiting.

Continue to Part 2