Posted by: Rowland | December 2, 2008

Immigration joys!

As people have been asking I decided to post an update on our situation here. In about one month we will have been living on this wonderful island for 14 years and many will realise that Vicki has been teaching pupils of all ages and training teachers in the field of dyslexia/dysnumeracy for virtually all of that time, including regional work. And we have both been informally caring for churches, people, leaders and especially young adults, which was the main reason for our coming.

By 2002 we were granted the freedom of ‘Reside & Work’ status meaning that we could live here and do whatever work we wished, being no longer tied to specific ‘Work Permits – but that was for a period until May 2005 when we applied for Immigrant Status which we believe would last indefinitely. That application is still being processed and meanwhile we have to apply for ‘Extensions of Stay’ which have usually been given for 6 month periods but sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.

And so last Friday I got down to the Immigration Department by 6. 45 a.m. to be early in the queue – actually I was the fourth one there but after the usual total scrimmage (is that a word?) or stampede I actually got ticket number 7. So only 3 people managed to push in front of me. Last time quite a lot did and I lost my wallet to a pick-pocket – so this was a great improvement. Vicki and Mum caught a taxi down and joined me after the crush and in time for us to be seen quite early from a crowd of probably 100.

The system has changed. No longer does the receiving clerk approve (or adjust or otherwise) your application for an extension of stay and invite you to collect your updated passport the following week; the application is dealt with by a supervisor and so takes about 4 weeks instead of one. So our passports are held until the end of December and only then will we know what sort of extension has been granted. But we came away feeling relieved to have submitted our applications and come away fairly early (and not turned away or even deported as some friends have been recently; we doubt this would happen to us while the Immigrant Status application is still being processed), even if we have to wait for the verdict! There is no news on our Immigrant Status application and no reply to our letter of enquiry of a month ago.

I then went on to the Police Station intending to get a visitors driving permit – having already been told that I can’t renew my Barbadian License until Immigration have processed our long outstanding Immigrant Status application because until this is done I can’t renew my Barbadian ID Card (necessary for a new license). But the police would not issue a Visitors Permit, because they obviously know I am not a visitor – although that is now the only status indicated in our passports! And what’s more they would not let me drive away from the Police Station without an up-to-date license! So Mum, Vicki and I were stranded at the Police Station until ‘rescued’ by friends who were able to drive my car for me.

However a kind and understanding policewoman decided to take some initiative on our behalf – phoned Immigration, but got nowhere, and then phoned the Licensing Authority who agreed to give me a year’s Driving Permit on production on my now old Barbadian License and my UK Driving Licence (which fortunately is still current until 2014) on payment of B$100. That’s not too much but is ten times what visitors have usually paid for a permit – but times, they are a changing.

The new government appears to be rightly scrutinising immigration issues far more carefully. I got home about 7 hours later, very grateful to be still here (at least for a month), still able to drive and thankful for reading Psalm 37 about 3. 30 a.m. in readiness for what we have come to realise is always an ordeal. Mum and Vicki are fine now, if weary, but I long for Mum, now 91, not to be subjected to this.

What was also interesting was the policewoman’s ‘take’ on our immigration position, “Vicki is being paid for her vital dyslexia work but that does not entitle her to live here – payment is sufficient”. Whilst our ‘spiritual’ work also seems vital particularly for the next generation¬† it may not be regarded as such by the government and they may make the assumption (wrongly) that at our soon approaching retirement age that our services will stop and we can simply be sent ‘home’.

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, no doubt had longer term plans for his life and no doubt may well have had a God-given sense of call and vocation. It didn’t exempt him from opposition, persecution and martyrdom. Likewise we are not exempt from opposing views and even decisions against our calling from God.

For the first time I have begun to consider that perhaps we should entertain a ‘plan B’ if we are to remain of service to the Caribbean region but it may be that we have simply to trust God and be patient. Hope nobody needs to see our ID before Christmas.

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