I applied for Permanent Residence on November 4th ,2016 and finally received my Permanent Residence certificate on February 22nd 2017. The months of waiting were some of the most stressful times of my life. I have been through some truly difficult times in the past, but this situation was completely different as I felt that mine and my family’s future in this country was at stake. Don’t believe that nonsense that you automatically qualify for Permanent Residence after 5 years. It really is not that simple. You have to prove that you have exercised your treaty rights, and in my case I had genuine fears that my application would be refused. For all but one of my qualifying years I was a lone parent, and had to receive some public funds although I was running a business. Renting a home in London is expensive at the best of times, but add to that the cost of bringing up a child and being the sole breadwinner. I was convinced that for these reasons, I would not qualify for PR. The amount of documentation that I had to provide as I am self employed was frankly ludicrous. Gathering the actual documentation to send with my application took weeks.

Back to the waiting…the endless waiting. The first few months were fine. I did not expect to hear anything for the first 3 months. Then in January and beyond, post after post popped up in various Facebok groups by fellow EU citizens receiving their PR after having applied only 3-4 weeks earlier . What had happened to my application ? Had it been forgotten about and left at the bottom of the pile ? I received messages from other people in my situation who were frantic with worry, who couldn’t sleep, who couldn’t eat, who were close to tears 24/7 as they kept seeing these same posts and wondered why they were still waiting for theirs when they had applied before me or around the same time as me. You try to put the constant worrying out of your mind, because you know that it’s not healthy. And you think that you are managing relatively fine until you hear a knock on the door and there’s the postman asking you to sign for a parcel…but it’s not That parcel. So your heart sinks again and those damn worries return with full force yet again. Not that they ever went away, you just pretended that they weren’t there.

One night it went so far that I actually dreamt that I received my PR.  I woke up in the morning thinking I had lost the plot ! I told my partner about my dream, and as I did, I saw the Royal Mail van pull up outside our house, and there was a knock on the door, and I was told to sign for the parcel…FINALLY there it was ! But I was frightened to open it in case my application had been refused…what would we do then ? Where would we go if I couldn’t stay here ? Because I for one had absolutely no faith in the government’s guarantees that EU citizens living here for the minimum of 5 years would be able to remain. After all, the referendum win was built on nothing but lies. So with my partner standing next to me, I opened the parcel with hands trembling like leafs. I saw this letter but I didn’t see a certificate. I read the letter, expecting to see those words “Your application’s been refused on the grounds of…”. But it said “You now have a right of permanent residence in the UK”. It didn’t quite sink in . I looked through the documents,and there it was…that blue card that I had waited so long for and never thought that I’d get. Tears of relief came instantly ,the weight of Mount Everest had just came off my shoulders . This is not a dramatic exaggeration as you will know if you are a fellow EU citizen who has been worried sick about whether or not you would qualify for PR. After all we hear almost daily of EU citizens who has had their applications refused for the most ludicrous of reasons, even though they have been settled and working here for decades, in some cases. I finally feel like some kind of normality has been restored into mine and my family’s life. I will still have to go through the process of applying the citizenship process and that entails, but at least I’m a step on the way.

But many of my fellow EU citizens can’t get onto that very important first step of getting PR as they don’t qualify. They may be women who are married to British men, and who are staying at home, raising their children, thus not exercising their treaty rights unless they have CSI. And who actually knew about these requirements until after the referendum ? Who were actually told about them ? And why weren’t they told about them ? Then there are all the EU students who also don’t qualify for PR for the very same reasons. Then we have the case of Bruno Pollet, as told by The Guardian .The Home Office told him its decision to refuse his application was because during his 25 years in the UK he had spent three years in South Africa, as part of his professional development as a scientist. This simply does not make any sense whatsoever ! Now Bruno and his family are relocating to a Scandinavian country where  his specialism in renewable energy can be harnessed. A great loss to this country, but a great gain for the Pollet’s family’s new home country. Britain will continue to lose a huge amount of exceptionally talented and hard working EU citizens who have been contributing to this country in so many ways. This country would not survive without us, and I don’t think this is in anyway a bold claim. How many Brits would do seasonal work ? How many Brits would work in coffee shops ? And where would the NHS  be without all their EU staff ? I could go on and on and on. We contribute to the British society in so many ways ,not just financially. But by treating us like bargaining chips, by treating us like second class citizens who don’t really belong here, this country will cause irreparable damage ,not just to it’s economy, but to it’s global reputation.

I am very worried to what will happen to so many of my fellow EU citizens. Not just those who has been refused PR, also but those who cannot even apply because they haven’t been living here long enough .I know fellow EU citizens who are too afraid to visit their families in case they won’t be let back into the country again upon their return. And it saddens me greatly that there is nothing that I can do to reassure them . But there is one thing that could be done NOW to stop these worries and anxiety that so many EU citizens are experiencing. Something that should have been done as soon the referendum result was announced. The only DECENT thing to do…to unilaterally grant  EU citizens the rights to remain in the UK post Brexit , a move  backed by British expat organisations in the EU. But the chances of this actually happening before the triggering of Article 50 seems very slim indeed, because in the eyes of Theresa May and her government, we are not people, we are simply bargaining chips.