Tag Archives: immigration

The Meaning of Nationality

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m an Australian citizen now. My mum is Australian, and I’ve been planning to apply for citizenship by descent for nearly my entire life. So I was prepared to do a lot of paperwork, jump through a lot of hoops, and pay for every step along the way. I was not prepared to have a mini identity crisis once it was done.

My citizenship certificate. The Australian coat of arms is at the top, and it states that II became a citizen on July 31st 2014.

Please ignore the fact that I haven’t legally changed my name yet, and just admire the pretty coat of arms.

The worst thing is, the whole thing has been fuelled by all of the anti-immigration rhetoric I loathe, just turned back on myself. I started referring to myself as “technically Australian,” pointing out that I’ve never been to Australia, I don’t really understand Australian culture, and generally acting like I don’t really count. Sound familiar?

I started obsessively reading a book on Australian history, hoping to someday be familiar enough with it to count. Because clearly, the best way to deal with not having to take a ridiculous citizenship test is to act like I have to and to stress about not having worked hard enough for my citizenship.

You know what citizenship I really didn’t work hard for? My US citizenship. I was just born. I didn’t fill out any forms, or even decide that I wanted it. It was just handed to me. Despite that, I feel really out of place in the States. Granted, I’m way more familiar with the culture there than in Australia, but I still can’t answer people’s questions about what it’s like very well. I was generally an unhappy person while I lived there, and I didn’t engage with the world around me.

And somehow, the place that feels most like home is the UK. I doubt I will ever achieve so much as a work visa to live here, I have no family here, highly limited rights, and the sickening thought at the back of my mind that I could be told to leave at any moment, and yet… The day I returned to the UK, after nearly a year of feeling homesick, of being able to think of nothing else, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel anything because I no longer had to twist my brain around to accept the streets and currency and shops in the US that felt strange to me after learning how to be an adult in the UK. I didn’t have to worry about people teasing me for using another culture’s words, slang, and phrasings. That night, I went to the pub I used to work in, and almost everyone knew me and was pleased to see me, and I felt so much love for this country. But according to the UKBA and everyone who supports increased regulation on immigration, I will never belong here. To them, this should never be my home.

So Australia is in the middle here. I want Australia and Australia wants me, even though we don’t really know each other. And that should be enough, that I want Australia. What else is there to go on, really? I’m not the only person with citizenship by descent, or who was born in a different country than the one they were raised in, who immigrated later in life. There are also people who never connect with the culture they are raised in, many who are not familiar with their original country’s history. This whole experience has just illuminated how strange the concept of nationalities really is.

I was raised with my mum constantly reminding me that I was Australian too, and I remember silently filling in the words “not yet.” I was wrong. I was Australian because I always intended to claim citizenship and did so as soon as I was able. I was, and am, Australian because I want to be.

But, now more than ever, I don’t know what being Australian even means.


Saying you’ll move to a different country if a politician wins is just giving up

As most of you probably know, I moved to the UK last summer. Over that time, I’ve become much more aware of issues regarding immigration, since it suddenly affected me a lot more directly. Things that I used to just go “gah people are awful” at and forget about really upset me now. Go read this for the sort of thing that makes me rage and cry now. This post is about a milder irritation, namely, the tendency of people to say “Oh, I’ll just move to [x] because politics/if this person wins.”

Come on, it sounded silly before, and now it’s just irritating.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for immigration. I want open borders. But seriously, the government does shitty things everywhere. The only reason you’re not aware of what Canada or wherever is dealing with is because you don’t live there. It doesn’t directly affect you. And you know how you stop governments from doing things you don’t agree with? How you minimise the damage a politician can do whilst in office? You stick around and get politically involved. Don’t fucking run away and let people you don’t agree with have free rein over the country. Fight!

And if you do move, move for a solid reason, not an idealised view of another country’s government. I already went into how hard it is in the piece I linked to above. If you move just to get away from where you are, you’re going to be miserable. That’s the other part of this tendency that bothers me so much. The very idea of “Oh, all I have to do is decide to move when something upsets me” undervalues the effort it takes to emigrate. I can’t help but think that this contributes to the idea of immigrants as lazy people who are taking advantage of the system. It’s an incredibly hard thing that takes a lot of money, resilience, and luck to succeed at. And really, if your only reason for saying you want to move is the politician you don’t like won, why not put that towards some political activism instead?

Because I haven’t ranted on here in a while…

UK politicians have decided to use xenophobia as their angle for this next election by closing multiple visas, counting students as immigrants (I am an international student studying in the UK), and discussing allowing only wealthy British citizens to be able to live with their non-EU spouses in the UK, all whilst shouting “British jobs for British workers!” Anyone reading this, if you ever say “British jobs for British workers” with any sign of support for the phrase, I will hate you. (I should probably warn everyone reading now, that this will not be a polite rant.)

But you know, politicians do things that depress me all over the world, and normally I would probably have gotten this out of my system by ranting to my friends and family. But I read comment threads on the internet because I am a masochist. Another awful thing is that Cameron wants to take away housing benefit payments from people under 25. Fortunately, a lot of people are upset about this. But of course, people can’t just blame Cameron. No, the comments are full of people blaming those lazy immigrants and international students for coming over and taking all those benefits from British citizens.

So, where are these benefits you’re complaining about me stealing? Because if I’m going to be demonized for it then I’d fucking well like some. I can use NHS while I’m a student. The Post-Study Work visa I was hoping to get after I graduated, but can’t now, because the UKBA ended it, wouldn’t have even let me use that. I’m not exactly sure of what help you can get on other visas, and I think it depends on which it is. But really, there’s a reason you have to prove you have money to support yourself for however long when applying – because it’s hard to get benefits and having a bunch of immigrants starving on the streets doesn’t exactly make the UK look good.

But you know, we really aren’t coming to the UK just to steal all your benefits, we’re coming to steal your jobs, too! Of course! I’ve heard these lines in America too, and couldn’t stand them then, but now that I have actually experienced moving to another country, they are a berserk button for me. Do you honestly believe that this is easy? That this is the undemanding alternative to living for lazy people? Because to all of you assholes who say things like this, I would like to see you try it.

Go on.

Move to another continent far away from your friends and family. But wait, first you have to go through all the paperwork. As a student, you have to apply to universities with different standards of applications than what you’re used to. But make sure it’s a public university because the visa changes are hitting the private ones hard and you might end up stranded. Go through the paperwork to get your visa, which could be denied for small errors which would cause you to have to reapply, paying the full £200-something fee over again. Also note that you can’t apply for the visa more than three months before term starts as it will be automatically denied if you do. Be very aware of how short a time you have to fix things if something does go wrong.

Of course, you also have to afford the plane ticket and the shipping for any stuff you plan to bring, as well as the higher tuition fees for international students. It will be easier to move into halls if you can’t afford to visit before you move, like me. Of course, if you can’t afford to have a family member or friend come to help you do any moving stuff, it’s still going to be hell.

But moving isn’t the hardest part, obviously. At that point, it’s still sort of like a vacation where you way over-packed. No, the months after is where it gets hard. When you run out of money for food because international student loans come in so much later. When you realise you’re straining your friendship with the person you know in the country because you need more help than either of you thought. At some point it hits you that you’ve been so focused on adjusting and keeping your grades up and staying alive that you’ve not made anything more than acquaintances and that if things went really wrong, you’d be shit out of luck.

And then this description is from my experience, and I have it so very easy. I’m a white, cis, American whose parents had good enough credit that I was able to get a loan. I haven’t been required to register with the police and I have the maximum of allowed working hours a week that a student visa allows. I know that the people who say “British jobs for British workers” aren’t picturing me when they complain about immigrants, but all knowing that does is make me feel even worse, for feeling so beaten down by the minimum of difficulties for moving.

The thing is, as ugly as this all is, I love my city and I love living in the UK.  Though I’ve spent a mostly isolated year here, I have begun to make friends and build a life for myself, and it kills me every time I realise that in a few years I will have to leave it all behind and start over. It hurts to get close to people when you’re aware that there’s an end date where you’ll end up having an ocean between you and all of your friends.

And through all of this, in politics and the media and by everyday people, you will hear how immigrants are coming to steal all of the benefits and jobs, and international students are just pretending to come over to study because it’s easier than getting any other kind of visa and they just want to steal benefits and jobs too.

Seriously, fuck you.