Friday, March 14, 2008


The Essentials (i.e. visas, money, shelter)

A few years ago, the Scottish government set up a new initiative entitled Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme, which allows students from Scottish universities to stay for up to two years after their graduation and to work without a work permit.

Good initiative – if you’re an international student studying at a Scottish university. Otherwise, you have to get in behind the rest of us dirty immigrants and apply for a visa like everyone else.

Another route is the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme – which is basically a point-based system that was introduced last month and has received wide-spread criticism and sparked a “curry crisis” in Scotland. After spending about half an hour on the Border and Immigration Agency website, I’m still not any closer to understanding just what the fuck it all means. You know if I wasn’t some web-savvy honky from Canada, I wouldn’t have been able to get passed the home page; shame on you, Borders and Immigration!

And then of course, if you’re a citizen of the EEA, you can always migrate to Scotland and work 12 hour days cleaning hotels and/or working in construction.

Personally, I managed to slip through the golden gates of Glasgow immigration via the UK Ancestry Visa system. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone who falls under the criteria, which is as follows:

*Commonwealth citizen (if you have to ask, you’re probably not one; basically is the Queen on your money and head of your country for no other reason than British imperialism? If you answered “yes”, you might just be a commonwealth citizen!)

*One UK-born grandparent

*Able to work or intend to seek employment in the UK: (I don’t really know what this means other than ensuring you’re not a fucking idiot without any employable skills? Well, you tell me!?)

*Able to support self once in the UK :This one is more purposefully vague and I honestly believe it is - like the rest of Border and Immigration policies - to discourage people from immigrating. I don’t care if this sounds controversial because I have experienced it first-hand and I will tell you this: they don’t make it easy and I’m lucky that I’m white and my mother tongue is English because if it wasn’t, I’d have lost my mind and belief in humanity.

Basically, the British Embassy wants you to prove that you will have enough funds to pay for overpriced food and shelter until you get a job. I wasn’t sure how much they were looking for so I called the British Embassy in Ottawa one afternoon (during their limited hours of about 9.45am to 1.20pm) and asked them.

“Hi. I intend on applying for an Ancestry visa but uhhh…I’m not entirely sure what you mean by the last point regarding “support”; does that mean specifically funds or shelter?”

After a long sigh, “ideally both but it’s mainly funds we look at”.

Confused by the bitchy tone but determined not to be discouraged I continue, “great, so how much are you looking for?”

“I can’t disclose that.”

“Err, well why not? I just want a goal to work towards while I’m saving up, you know?”

“I can’t say because it varies depending on the individual”

“Like what? Their sex and race?”

Personally, I applied with about $2500 in the bank and I’m assuming that was sufficient enough because I got the visa.

However, you will also be asked on your application form if you have family or know someone in the UK with whom you can stay. I was lucky enough to have both. While I put down the address of my third cousins – who I had never met – I also noted that I would be staying with friends. You will have to prove that you know these friends/ family and that they live in the UK (I photocopied my friend’s council tax bill).


Top Five Tips for New Dirty Immigrants to Scotland

1. Let Your Guard Down: As a Torontonian, I am weary of strangers speaking to me in public and even worse as a Canadian, I can come across as a bit aloof. Maybe it’s because of the frigid temperatures, I don’t know. Scottish people on the other hand, are friendly and most of them have good intentions. Don’t be afraid to chat to the wee grannies at bus stops or punters in the pub; most of them just appreciate a good chin wag and if you’re lucky they’ll regale you with stories from the war or meeting Billy Connolly.

2. Try New Things: like Tunnocks Snowballs, haggis, North Sea mussels, go on a weekend bender, attend a football match, hike in the highlands, and attend a ceilidh. You will meet some amazing people and see amazing things – like grown men crying at a football score.

3. Move to Glasgow: Obviously I’m biased but I prefer Glasgow to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city and has many beautiful tourist attractions but I just feel Glasgow is the heart of the country; it feels more genuine as the new Scottish centre of post-industrialisation. Whereas Edinburgh is the “political body” of Scotland, Glasgow is the artistic heart.

4. Increase Your Tolerance of Booze or at the Very Least Learn to Appreciate Booze: you won’t get anywhere in this city if you don’t appreciate a good chat over a pint/ glass of wine.

5. Be Prepared to Say Goodbye to: Cheap Good Food/ Decent Coffee/ Affordable and Good Quality Maple Syrup/ the deliciousness that is Vachon Cakes: you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

6 comments:

Pascale Clerk said...

I agree with all your tips -although I would add real croissants to the 5th point but that applies to any non-French country.

Jennifer said...

Ha, that's true! Although I once had an almond croissant at Heart Buchanan and it was delicious! How do they compare?

Katie said...

If you ever want to know about the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, let me know. After two applications, I know pretty much everything there is to know about the HSMP.

Pascale Clerk said...

Naaa, Jennifer, that can't be the same as real freshly-baked croissants.

Highlandscapes said...

Not just crossants. Scottish Tablet from the Highlands and Islands.
I have sarted selling my tablet on www.highlandscapes.co.uk and just wondered in people know what tablet is. I just wonder if I would be better to call it fudge, but this isn't the correct scottish term!
PS. Stacks of Scottish Pictures at highlandscapes if you're interested.

cheers
D

Aimee said...

I really enjoyed this blog...and although I am 42, you are my hero. It is my dream and now life goal to move to Scotland. I am an American with no relatives that would qualify me for an Ancestral visa. Where do I start? The process is very intimidating. Did I mention, I've never even visited Scotland? Ready to do something crazy!!!