Although I suspected something like it might be on the way, I was rather unprepared yesterday to be called into the office of my boss and the bursar and told that, as of July, I will no longer have a job. I put something on the blog briefly yesterday, but I was in no shape to write a considered analysis of the position in which I found myself, and it is only now, after copious applications of beer and sympathy, that I feel calm enough to say anything worthwhile.
In October 2008, the UK Home Office changed its immigration policy vis a vis overseas nationals. They could not, of course, do anything about immigration from within the EU. Previously, visa and work-permit applications were reviewed on a case-by-case basis (with, you understand, the payment of accompanying fees), and under that system, renewing my own work-permit and leave to remain was quite easy. I teach; teaching is a shortage occupation; my criminal record is clean; end of story.
The new system is points-based and extraordinarily complex. My background and qualifications (or lack thereof; see here) do not add up to the requisite number of points. The essential problem comes from my lack of formal teaching qualification, and this has always been a bit of a catch-22: I cannot work without the PGCE, but I cannot afford to do the PGCE unless I work. There are ways around that lack of paper-qualification, which I was going to undertake in the 2009-2010 school year.
Under the old system, while all secondary-education teaching was considered a shortage occupation, my employers did not have to prove that they could not find a British or EU national to employ to do my job. Under the new system, only the teaching of maths and sciences is considered shortage, and I teach neither. If the school wished to continue employing me, it would first have to advertise the position, interview candidates, then prove conclusively that, despite my lack of a PGCE, I am still more qualified than the native candidates. (My having worked in the post for the past two years does not, unfortunately, count toward that proof.)
But the school does not wish to continue employing me. I do not have the points; they cannot prove on paper that I’m better than other applicants; and the time for advertising teaching posts is now.
‘We are very satisfied with the work you do,’ said the head. ‘Under other circumstances, we would be keeping you on. But there are criminal penalties now for flouting the new immigration laws, and the school hasn’t the time to wait and see if you can find a loophole.’
I have lived in the UK for several years now, and I have worked in this job at this school for two of them. The school is lovely, the pupils are engaging, the subjects I teach are enjoyable and fascinating, and the staff I work with are friendly and intelligent. My flat is pleasant, and my flatmate is wonderful. The friends I’ve made in this country are close and dear to me. I have grown used to living here, to the British way of doing things, to the British sense of humour and British hospitality. When I return to the US every now and then to visit my family, I feel alien there, and things about the way people live and think in the US bother me in a way they never used to.
Sometimes I bitch about being a foreigner in the UK – it’s impossible to get a credit card, for instance, and too many people ask me what I think of Bush and/or Obama – but it’s a hell of a lot better than being a foreigner in my native country, which is how I feel every time I go back. There is nothing for me in the US except my family, and the best family in the world cannot compensate for everything I will have to give up if I return to the US. I like the UK. I don’t want to leave.
Restrictions on immigration are something that have never particularly appealed to me, a libertarian. I support the free movement of labour, although I realise that on a tiny island like Great Britain, that’s not a terribly good policy. Restrictions may be necessary because space and housing are at a premium. But I cannot support any policy that puts me, and people like me, out of a job. Under the old system, I was a tax-paying asset to the common weal; under the new system, I am a dirty foreigner stealing a British job from a British worker. And yet the only thing that has changed is the system – not me.
And so to keep anti-immigration fucknuts happy, and to compensate for its inability to restrict immigration from EU countries, the British government is going to throw me out of my job and my home, and the British people will give their assent without a murmur.