Today is the one-year anniversary of my arrival in the UK to do my PhD. (Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my enrollment as a PhD student at Northumbria.) I’m having a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, but I have no time to write about them right now. I’m just posting this short note to acknowledge the anniversary.
Category Archives: student visa
The extension to my student visa has come through, so I’m good to stay in the UK until mid-February 2017. The visa support folks at the university told me it could take up to eight weeks, and since that period included Christmas and New Year’s I thought it’d be longer than that. But they had my new visa to me just three weeks from the date I sent in my application. Amazingly enough, that included the time it took for them to notify me that I needed to provide my biometric info (which they sent by snail mail to the university) and then for me to retrieve the letter and then go to South Shields (30 minutes or so on the Metro) and get fingerprinted and photographed after paying £19.20. Since it was near Thanksgiving, the line from “Alice’s Restaurant” about being injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected, and selected kept running through my head and it was all I could do to refrain from reciting it aloud — multiple times — but really, only the “inspected” and “detected” bits were fully applicable at this point.
Now they just need to send me back my passport. Think I’ll check with the visa support folks about when I can expect that to happen.
—- Update —-
Turns out that UKVI sent my passport and other documents back to the university, and they hadn’t let me know because they were expecting to receive my biometric visa card as well. So now I have everything back, and I’m ready to travel again. (Not that I’m going anywhere for Christmas, but it’s nice to be able to go if I want.)
I’ve just received word that my application for a one-year extension to my PhD program has been approved. I’ve known for some time that I was unlikely to be able to finish within what the university calls “standard duration”, but I finally managed to convince my supervisor that I would need an extension. Some of the delay is due to things that were beyond my control (health issues that have involved doctor visits and sick days), some that I could have controlled (mostly due to travel), and some that might have been within my control if certain things had been otherwise. Regarding the third category — I’ve had a really difficult time getting my head around qualitative analysis, given my highly quantitative background; and sometimes it has come into my head that this whole thing would have been a lot easier if I had done it in an Informatics department. But I’m stretching myself more by being in a Design program, and that was a large part of the point.
Next I have to start the process of extending my student visa, but that should be fairly straightforward. I am still looking for a job (and a work visa sponsor), but extending my student visa will give me more time to make that happen, as well as less stress about the urgency. The sooner I can do this, the better — the five years I will have to work before I can apply to settle in the UK won’t start until I get a work visa — but since I love what I do and can’t see stopping altogether as long as I am capable of working in user experience, I don’t mind a bit of a delay. (When I do start work, I will switch to part-time student status to complete my PhD.)
I don’t know how I got the idea that I couldn’t leave the UK and return during the last six months of my student visa, but the student visa advice counselor at the university’s Student Support and Well-Being Centre has just disabused me of that notion. She said the US works that way (so that may be where I got the idea) but in the UK it’s generally three months and for citizens of “low-risk” countries (including the US) it’s generally not a problem. So I am no longer worried that I may not be able to travel to Europe or the US between mid-July and when I get a work visa sorted.
The UK Border agency recently announced a rule change in its Tier 4 Student Visa (the kind I have). Specifically, after I finish my PhD I can apply to stay in the UK for an additional 12 months, “to find skilled work or to set up as an entrepreneur”. This does not guarantee, of course, that my application (should I make one) will be successful, but it does open up more possibilities for me.
I’ve just received an email saying, “Your UK visa has been issued.” I let out the biggest “Yay!” I’ve done in a while. Good thing I was at home. :-)
I should have the physical document tomorrow.
I’ve just sent off the paper forms and supporting documents for my visa application. The UK Border Agency is saying they are now taking 13 days to process visa applications in New York. That’s not too bad.
It took me longer than I expected to ensure that I had all the forms filled out completely, but I did manage to make it to the Post Office in plenty of time to get it into the mail today. Whew! Now I can focus my stress on getting my house ready.
I just finished the online part of the application for my student visa. The email confirmation said “Completed Application” but really it’s just the online part that’s completed. (I won’t bore you with the details of how badly designed the online visa application is.) Now I have to make sure I have all of my documents together, with copies, and go to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’s) Application Support Center (ASC) to get fingerprinted and photographed, not to mention inspected, detected, neglected, and selected. Or however that* goes. Then I send everything to New York and hope they’re as quick as they’re saying they normally are.
It turns out that there are only three ASCs in Maryland. Conveniently, one of them is only about two miles from me. Handy!
My appointment is this Thursday.
*That is from “Alice’s Restaurant”. And if they make 27 8×10 color glossy pictures and start drawing circles and arrows and writing a paragraph on the back of each one… :-)
Today I started on the application for my student visa, now that I have all my information together. It’s confusing in some ways. Evidently I have to fill out two forms — the application itself, and my “self-assessment” regarding my meeting the criteria for a “Tier 4 (General)” student visa. The visa application is available on line, but I can’t find an online form for the self-assessment, only a PDF that has to be downloaded and completed on paper (it’s not even form fillable!). The online application leaves a lot to be desired; let’s just say that it could be a great case study for an expert usability review. But I won’t bore you with the gory details of why; if the UK Border Agency is interested in improving it, they can just hire me to help them after I arrive.
I will say one thing about it, though. Usability problems aside, the online form has a feature that is giving my friends and me much hilarity on Facebook: It wants info on all of my trips outside the US for the past ten years, including approximate date, duration, and purpose of each trip. That’s all well and good — but it gives me only 256 characters to do it in! I’ve just gone back through my emails and my memory to reconstruct all that travel, and so far I’ve come up with 18 international trips in the last ten years. There are probably a couple more hiding in there somewhere (and in fact 18 is fewer than I had thought), but it’s going to be quite a challenge to cram all that info into 256 characters — if I don’t add any more, I’m at 14 characters per trip! Bwahahahaha!!!
The good news is that as a US citizen I don’t have to send in any documents proving my academic qualifications for admission or my ability to pay for my expenses. I have to have them ready in case they ask, but there’s a list of about a dozen countries* whose citizens are considered “low risk”.
Oh well, onward through the fray.
*This includes Croatia, which surprised me. It did not include Italy, which surprised me not in the least. :-)