An Open Letter to Gordon Brown

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dear Gordon,

1. The weather in the UK is pretty awful.

2. The cost of living is very high.

3. The public services range from well-intentioned but poorly executed (NHS) to hell-on-earth (transport.)

4. Population growth in the UK is relatively low, and there is a large funding gap in the pension system.

5. There is also a large hole in the budget.

6. On and off for the last ten and a half years, I have paid more tax into HM Treasury than bears thinking about.

Given these points, but particularly 5 and 6 above, WHY THE F*&(^ DO YOU MAKE IT SO HARD TO GET PERMANENT RESIDENCY?!?!?!?!?!

Consider, Gordon, that your humble scribe is the spouse of a UK national and has resided (and paid tax) continuously in the UK since late 2003 (and from 1997 - 2000 before that.) The immigration rules state that the spouse of a UK national can obtain permanent residency after two years of living together in the UK, subject to certain proofs.

Although you are a politician, I am confident that even you can deduce that 2008 - 2003 > 2. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when upon calling for an appointment to obtain permanent residency I was informed that this would be impossible because I had the "wrong kind of residence permit."

Imagine my chagrin when I found that I now have to apply for a further temporary residence permit for another two years before obtaining permanent residency. I acknowledge that any sympathy you may feel is probably compromised given the prospect of charging me £595 this week, and then £950 (plus inflation) in two years' time, simply for the pleasure of being a host to your parasitic taxation policy.

Let's put this in perspective, Gordon. My ultimate intent is to obtain a UK passport, given that much of my family (hint: they are Guardian readers!), my friends, and my professional life are centred (note: I've spelled it wrong, just for you!) in the UK. I am doing so for all the "right reasons", and not to be a leech to society. Hell, I even passed the "Life in the UK" test in less than three minutes, which must be some sort of record.

Yet under the cackhanded policies of the Border and Immigration Agency, I cannot even obtain permanent residency by the time that someone else, who moved to the UK on the same day as me and with no familial ties to the UK whatsoever can obtain a full UK passport!

Even more bizarrely, I observe from the BIA website that by virtue of my being married to my wife for more than four years, were we to move to the UK today from foreign parts, I could obtain permanent residency immediately. Savour, if you will, the irony:


Tempting as it is to up sticks and relocate to a more welcoming country, as noted above my personal and professional lives are located firmly in the United Kingdom. So I beseech you Gordon: find the kindness in your cold, cold heart to turn your eye to the Border and Immigration Agency and hire somebody who has a triple-digit IQ and isn't in league with Satan.


Macro Man

P.S. Next time you see him, tell Mohamed al-Fayed that the reason he can't get a passport isn't down to racism, Diana, or his dealings with the Khashoggi family; most likely, it's down to bureaucratic incompetence.

P.P.S. To regular readers expecting market and economic musings, normal service will resume tomorrow. But what's the point of having a blog if you can't vent some steam every so often?

Posted by Macro Man at 9:38 AM  


MM, I can only offer my sympathy with regards to your plight...though I find your blog this morning quite apt (in particular point 3) given the 1.5 hour travel requirement for the three Tube stops to get to Canary Wharf today. It is unfortunate that in life there are some things that just cannot be hedged away.

For my two pence on the markets, the consistent behaviour of the US 2/10s spread over the last two cycles suggests that the economic pain is unlikely to end in 2008 and the spread will continue to steepen, suggesting equities are probably going to be easiest on the short side for the medium term (and bonds will be easiest on the long side). Although 2 year Treasury yields are viewed as being at levels that "cannot" go any lower, an interesting thought is that Bernanke is seen to be an expert on (avoiding) deflation, and that if anyone is going to helicopter in bank bills and send real US interest rates even more significantly negative, he might just be the man.

Many, many thanks for your exceptional blog, it presents a far more interesting view of the world than Bloomberg each morning.

Aussie Lad said...
10:21 AM  

Ive come to refer to that kind of stuff as the 'welcome wagon'. Give it a try.


Anonymous said...
10:35 AM  

i hear you macro man, i've been through the same dilemnas myself.

the rules are insane. like you say, if you were OUT OF THE COUNTRY for 4 years and married to a UK national for that time, you would get residency. being IN THE COUNTRY though, you don't. nuts.

if you've been here 5 years, i thought you apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR), then after 1 full year in the UK after that, you can get a passport. is that not the case?

it sounds like you have taken the route whereby you are applying for ILR/passport through your wife, so you get a 2 year ILR, then you can get a passport. would you not be better doing it the way i described in the previous paragraph, whereby you just apply on your own right, having been here for 5 years, and the fact that you are married to a UK citizen is neither here nor there?

2and20 said...
10:58 AM  

You have my sympathy too, MM. I have dealt with a few immigration authorities over the years, and none of them (even Russia) seems as bad as what you describe.

Anonymous said...
11:07 AM  

Your fiancial analysis is sharp, witty and on the ball, But your humour is breathtakingly (i couldnt stop laughing)hillarious!

PS. Im sure some ministers read your blog, after all they could learn a few things.

lccheh said...
11:19 AM  

Thanks to all for the sympathy. I even left out the bit where one of the pencil pushers refused to book me an appointment to get the temporary visa because "I hadn't printed out the form yet", and another one mysteriously lost a phone connection.

2and20, it is true that if one is resident on a work permit, one can obtain ILR after 5 years. However, I have been resident on 2 different work permits over the past 4 and a bit years, and for sundry reasons the latter of these will not remain valid in time for me to reach the magic 5 years. So I have to start from scratch; 4 years on a work permit + 1 year on marriage visa = sweet FA.

My sister in law works in the Home Office, and even she thinks the immigration people are cretins.

Macro Man said...
12:24 PM  

the other thing the government did that is practcally criminal was changing the law in 2006 so that it went from 4 years to get an ILR to 5 years, and was applied retrospectively.

good luck anyway, i recommend talking to a specialist lawyer if you're not already, they may be able to do something. it's a nightmare for everyone, i have a few stories i could tell about this, but bottom line is that the staff seem to go deliberately out their way to be as awkward as possible.

the solution? open up the borders to everyone and anyone who wants to work, reduce tax rates massively, slash benefits for everyone and have a smaller government. but that's getting a little off-topic...

2and20 said...
12:39 PM  

All I can say is that if you think the UK is bad, try going in the other direction (UK to US).

Anonymous said...
12:53 PM  

At least Green Card holders get to go through the residents' passport queue, rather than the three hour "riff-raff" queue, where the prevailiong motto is "giving you attitude even though you pay my salary."

Macro Man said...
1:03 PM  

dude... arent u gonna be taxed 30k£ for being non-resident ?

Anonymous said...
1:03 PM  

I am still awaiting the final verdict of my tax guy, but I think I'll escape by virtue of being (alas, not permanently) resident. The £30k cobb is, I believe, geared towards foreigners who are neither domiciled nor "ordinarily" resident, yet who maintain economic interests in the UK.

Should the £30k hit apply to guys like me...well, then that's another strike against Brown's Britain.

Macro Man said...
1:12 PM  

The Visit to Scotland

Ana in the EU queue, myself with the riff-raff, the guard asks me why I'm visiting. After being informed that I was attending a wedding, she asks, 'Friends of yours?'



Anonymous said...
1:19 PM  

Yes, it's hard to imagine that it could be any worse than US immigration processes. I gave up and moved back to Australia (was born/grew up in the UK with an Australian mother). Even Australian immigration has some glitches but is generally much more user friendly in our experience for my partner so far.

mOOm said...
1:31 PM  

Perhaps my problem is that I've adapted too well

Macro Man said...
1:37 PM  

it seems to me that australian immigration makes sense. if you have a skill that benefits the country, you can get in. if you don't, it's much harder. (as an aside, i took the australian on-line immigration test to see if i would make it, and as an experienced financial markets trader i was turned down!)

now compare that to the UK. being a member of the EU, anyone from any EU country can now come to the UK. hence the influx of polish folk who are basically running the london service sector! this is not so bad potentially for the economy, but the problems start when you consider that any of those people can come to this country, not get a job, and then claim benefits. i don't know what the average wage is in poland, but i'd guess it's way below what the government here will pay you to sit on your ar*e and do nothing. and it gets better...if a polish person is in the UK claiming benefits, they can also apply for benefits for their wife and child benefits for children, EVEN IF THEY STAYED IN POLAND!!!!!!!

I don't blame people for doing it, and is not a slight against polish folk at all! I am a big believer in having looser immigration laws which will help the economy, but the system is COMPLETELY BROKEN when this sort of thing exists.

sell sterling, sell UK stocks, the country is fubar!

2and20 said...
1:46 PM  

Complaining about the Immigration problem in UK??? Come and try US!!!

Jin said...
2:10 PM  

Mr.M, my sympathies. As lucky holder of an EU passport it wasn't a problem for me, and my only other immigration experience was NZ, which was pretty good, if a bit slow at that time.

Having to deal with UK service sector now and then and with some of the UK govt deptartments, it seems to me that what you describe is not only UK govt problem, but rather a typically british bureaucracy set up in just about any british-run organization with more than 100 people (apologies to honourable exceptions).

On the market stuff - the IMS was horrible - maybe it will finally shake out the few remaining bulls and persuade the market into exerbated bearish reaction. The only thing I'd bet on right now though is a higher VIX.

vlade said...
2:28 PM  

Jin, et al. That would be the same US where my wife would automatically qualify for a Green Card via her marriage to me, rather than having to wait for six or seven years because she didn't have the right kind of visa?

Macro Man said...
2:28 PM  

And yes, vlade, ISM was off-the charts ugly, in fact, that is scarecly believable (particularly when combined with the earlier than expected release due to leaks.)

But one would have to presume we get higher bonds, steeper curve, lower equities, and lower EUR/JPY, especially in light of German pre-G7 moans.

Macro Man said...
2:32 PM  


I feel your pain having gone through this same s**t myself here in the US. I've been here for 11 years (came here in 1997) and have been trying to get my green card since then. When Clinton announced the amnesty in 2000, the INS (which is called USCIS now) suspended processing green card applications of those who file through the normal route and started processing applications of illegal aliens. A neighbour of mine who "jumped-ship" (he was supposed to go work on a cruise ship but bailed out once he landed in the US) already has his citizenship while I don't have a green card :) And guess who paid taxes all these years! Folks back home have a great laugh when they realize my neighbour is a citizen while I'm not.

Donaldo said...
2:40 PM  


Gordon is laid out on his vinyl kitchen floor drinking a bottle of claret


tony blair said...
3:15 PM  

Mr.M, I agree with your presumtions, but they might be too rational for the market.
Of course, if you're willing to sustain the possible MtM pain in meanwhile, they are likely to pay out handsomely at the end.

That comes out of having the luxury of no capreq, VaR limits and similar things that can cramp a perfectly good strategy just before it hits the jackpot... ;)

vlade said...
3:32 PM  

Donaldo, I am sorry to hear that. If it's any consolation, I have been in the UK (albeit with a 3 year stint in Ireland) since 1997 as well.

That kind of reminds me of a story of a friend of mine, who has a US passport but no driver's license. When travelling in the US, he went into a bar in LAX, I think it was. He tries to order a drink, and despite being in his mid 30's is asked for ID. Upon producing his passport, he is still refused, as California law apparently mandates that only a driver's license or state ID are valid forms of identification. So despite fulfilling the legal criteria for consuming adult beverages, he was refused on the basis of an idiotic, literal-minded interpreatation of a poorly-worded regulation.

I suppose the moral of the story is that with a few exceptions (for example, my sister-in-law), bureaucrats are Satan's spawn.

Macro Man said...
3:37 PM  

Vlade, the trick is to have a position big enough that you make good money when you're right, but small enough/actively managed enough that you don;t get carted out when you're wrong.

Macro Man said...
3:38 PM  

MM, I highly recommend applying for the IRIS system next time you travel. Allows you to bypass those terrible queues at passport control. I had a few "encounters" with immigration control before applying -- as you say, it is nuts to have to wait 60 mins to get into the country when you pay so much in taxes.

CDN Trader said...
4:00 PM  

CDN, trust me, I've tried! But a) they don't have it at Gatwick, my airport of choice, and b) everytime I fly into the seventh level of the Inferno known as Heathrow, the bloody thing is closed for repairs!

Macro Man said...
4:13 PM  

It's been a long time since I was granted my residency, so I don't know if the places are the same, but even way back when, the biggest torture the Home-ies within the Brazil-like bureaucracy inflicted upon applicants was to make them journey to that armpit-of-a-town, Croydon and go through the mazes and queues at what I think was called "Jupiter House" or some other desolately-inspired celestial name. Why the bombers in the UK focused upon things that would obviously boomerang upon them like the underground or busses, when they could have annihilated (after business hours of course!) a building which would have universally been hailed as a triumph and a public service , not only by those who'd been mentally "tortured" there but by all right-minded people with a sense of justice not to mention an aesthetic sense, remains a great mystery to me...

"Cassandra" said...
4:46 PM  

C, I believe you are referring to "Lunar House", which may indeed sound celestial but is, sadly, infernal. Verily, I am in the midst of a "Croydon trifecta", having sat my Lif in the UK test there last week, visiting Lunar-cy House this week, and sitting my (amittedly long-overdue) driving theory exam there next week.

Perhaps the bombers were unwilling to target the immigration authorities as long as this latter cohort turned a blind eye to the continued presence of chaps like Captain Hook in the UK....

Macro Man said...
5:02 PM  

Jin, et al. That would be the same US where my wife would automatically qualify for a Green Card via her marriage to me, rather than having to wait for six or seven years because she didn't have the right kind of visa?

No. She would have to take a medical ($300), you would fill in c. 8 separate forms and pay $1700 in filing fees (attorney's fees would be another $3K). You would also (both) have to go to a fraud interview. And she would get a conditional 'greencard', which would only become unconditional after 2y, another interview, and another application.

Anonymous said...
5:56 PM  


Why doesn't wikipedia have any good pictures of him?? He's terribly photogenic. Omid Djalili does a most excellent Hamza al-Masri impersonation, if you haven't already seen it the nutcase with a hook

"Cassandra" said...
5:58 PM  


So in other words, 4 and a half years quicker and, at current exchange rates, a grand cheaper in official fees than in the UK.

I have my anti-fraud interview on Friday, BTW.

Macro Man said...
6:00 PM  

Oh God! You're doing the drivers' licence, too. Eight years ago, the only non-EU permits that were simply transferrable (other than the obvious Andorra and Switzerland) were from: South Korea and Japan... yes.

Anonymous said...
6:03 PM  

Japan I can understand, given that they drive on the same side of the road. If the same holds true for S. Korea, ditto.

What I particularly enjoy about the Uk licensing system is the introduction of the "hazard perception test." At the offical website FAQ, one of the queries is "is this just another way for the Government to charge me money?"

At least one bureaucratic organizaton in the Uk is on the ball!

Macro Man said...
6:26 PM  

When I lived in London, I always felt the jaw-dropping bad service from both private and public institutions was reflected each year in the Economist Magazine's survey of Productivity. I don't know if it's still the case, but for many, many years in a row the UK had the worst Productivity of any Western nation.

Your experiences with the Home Office (we've had our own, and they are UFB like everyone else's, and yours) go directly to the question of how Britain functions. Which is not very well.

I used to joke when I lived in London: The motto of British Business is "Uhhmn, we're not sure if we want YOUR business."

The country despite all the changes still seems to be locked into a very notable, distinctive trance. And if you think we Americans find it eye-opening, just ask the Aussies and the Kiwis!

Gregor said...
6:38 PM  

Isn't it the case that in the UK, your spouse can't work for the first two years you're married? At least in the US your spouse gets work authorization (and, in theory, gets it relatively quickly).

Anonymous said...
7:26 PM  

Dear Mr. MM, Are you really really sure it wasn't you who left a dead gypsy horse in a dustbin?

Spawn from Hell said...
8:11 PM  

"And she would get a conditional 'greencard', which would only become unconditional after 2y, another interview, and another application."

That's wrong. I know US immigration law VERY well, and conditional green cards are only for spousal immigrants who have been MARRIED for less than two years. Unless Macro Man isn't telling us something, it seems from what he has described of his history that he has been married much longer than that.

Couples who have been married at least two years have one interview, and upon passing that, the immigrant spouse immediately receives a ten year green card.

Anonymous said...
8:49 PM  

The abilities to have a good whinge and to queue should qualify you automatically I would have thought...

t said...
8:52 PM  

Spawn, I think I must have forgotten to say "thank you" the last time I had a ruck with the the Old Bill.

I have indeed been married for well over two years.

T, while I can whinge and queue with the best of Britain, I tend to tan, rather than redden, when exposed to sun....which clearly marks me out as a dodgy foreigner!

Macro Man said...
8:59 PM  

Aye, I feel your pain. Going through the same crap in the US

Anonymous said...
12:10 AM  

I am from South Africa ,I came to know about IIT India. What is the procedure to apply for student India visa .

Mike said...
10:07 AM  

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