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An American in the UK – Applying for Permanent Residency and the CHALLENGING test

An American in the UK – Applying for Permanent Residency and the CHALLENGING test

The last few months I’ve been travelling with various jobs, but most of my extra time has been spent gearing up for applying for permanent residency in the UK as a family. As of the end of June, we will have been here a decade in Sheffield. My son was three months and my daughter two years old when we moved, and though I haven’t lost my accent, they have British ones. This is our home. So despite the effort, cost and stress, it’s worth it to go through the arduous application process. I’ve had American friends joke about moving to the UK, but visas are not easy to obtain and even when you get them, it is a huge expense. Because my husband went through a full Masters then Ph.D., we were on student visas before work visas which meant we had to wait a full ten years before applying. We have also had to apply every 2-3 years for new visas for my family of four which is full of challenging paperwork, visiting government agencies for small interviews and paying large amounts of money.

For a non-EU citizen, permanent residency means that ‘there are no longer any immigration related restrictions on the work or business you may do in the UK and no time limits on your stay in the UK.’ YIPPEE!!!!

Permanent residency is what we have been holding out for but before we can receive it we have to jump through numerous hoops:

1) Prove we are proficient in the English language;

2) Take the ‘Life in UK’ test;

2) Pay about several 1,000’s of £££;

4) Fill in (without error) a 30 page application PER family member . . .120 total to fill out;

5) Apply through the post along with sending our passports (meaning we can’t leave the UK);

6) Apply for a biometrics card (our personalised ID); and

7) Wait up to six months before hopefully getting full approval.

So here are the positives:

My kids don’t have to do anything until number 6 when they will come along with us to an appointment. Both of us have higher education degrees that prove we know English so we can skip number one. We have had a few people be REALLY AMAZING and give our family financial gifts to help contribute to the cost. I am learning more than I ever wanted to know about England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.


Everything else.

It’s still going to be a lot of money, AND we may not be able to leave the country for six whole months. That’s challenging if you think about friends getting married or a family crisis back in the States. The paperwork is tedious. But what most of my mental energy is going towards these days is the test I take tomorrow.

It’s hard. Not because the information is all that challenging but rather you have a book, and you have to ‘know’ all of it. It’s not just a huge summary since the Iron age of UK history; it’s also current politics, landmarks, notable personalities throughout history along with things like the judicial system. Again, you could be tested on anything in the 24 multiple choice question test. Even very small details. Speaking of the judicial system – here is a sample paragraph from the book just to give you an idea (FYI – I’m typing this out because it is helping me learn it!):

‘In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, most minor criminal cases are dealt with in a Magistrates’ Court. In Scotland, minor criminal offences go to a Justice of the Peace Court. Magistrates and Justices of the Peace are members of the local community. In England, Wales and Scotland they usually work unpaid and do not need legal qualifications. . . . In Northern Ireland, cases are heard by a District Judge or Deputy District Judge, who is legally qualified and paid. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, serious offences are tried in front of a judge and a jury in Crown Court. In Scotland, serious cases are heard in a Sheriff Court with either a sheriff or a sheriff with a jury. In most serious cases in Scotland, such as murder, are heard at a High Court with a judge and jury . . . ‘ p. 144-146 ‘Life In the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents’

AND IT goes on and on about youth courts, civil courts, and all the judicial system differences in parts of the UK. Bored yet? Stressed maybe (aren’t you glad you don’t have to take it)? There are so many combinations of questions that can happen in that one paragraph alone. Here is an example from the practice test book:

Which two courts deal with minor criminal cases in the UK?

A) Justice of the Peace Court

B) Centre Court

C) Crown Court

D) Magistrates’ Court

Now that was probably rather easy because you just read the information.  BUT times that info by about 200 and you have what you can be tested on.  Its not easy to remember the details.

So follow it with another question and it gets confusing:

Which court would you use to get money back that was owed you?

A) County Court

B) Magistrates’ Court

C) Youth Court

D) Coroner’s Court

(Answer is A)


Which of the following statements is correct?

A) Magistrates usually work unpaid and do not legal qualifications

B) Magistrates must be specifically trained legal experts who have been solicitors for three years.

(Answer is A in England, Wales and Scotland but remember in Northern Ireland they are called District Judge or Deputy District Judge and are qualified/paid.)

Anyhow, all this to say tomorrow is a big deal for me and my husband (he has a Ph.D. and even he is stressed with the amount of information). We can miss 6 out of 24 and still pass.

There are a guaranteed 2-3 pretty easy ones like ‘What is the day after 25 December?’ Answer: Boxing Day. BUT most will be nitty-gritty details that we could be quizzed on. It is timed and on a monitored computer system at a test centre. I’ve studied tons for this test, so please remember me this Wednesday, prayers and thoughts are much appreciated.

Below are links to a few you tube videos that give examples of questions (even the hard ones) on the test.

Please enjoy!

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