Yesterday evening, Margaret reminded me that there’s an option whereby — for about £450 more — one can carry one’s application into a Border Agency office in person, go over it with an agent, make sure all the right bits are in the right places, get one’s biometrics recorded, and find out whether you’ve been approved in about 48 hrs. Since Leah reminded us that the delay between application and approval is very long (five months, for her), and since Margaret and I are both on the programme to deliver papers at the SBL/AAR meeting in November, and since I’m susceptible to particular stress about this process, we have reasons to fork over the extra £450 to apply in person.
At the same time, I’m offended that the government makes this process available in a way so discriminatory to poorer people. This is, after all, £450 on top of the £2250 we’re already paying. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll accept us, or (more pertinently, since we’re fully admissible by UKBA criteria) that we’ll get our passports back in time to go to the SBL meeting. I would rather not avail myself of the posh-boy option for people for whom £450 is a drop in the bucket — an option which wouldn’t be necessary, remember, if the process weren’t slow and confusing in the first place.
Such policies, combined with dispiriting news about the economy and employers’ behaviour, displays ever more vividly the extent to which social policies are reinforcing a gap between those who can sail through these stormy waters and those who are thrown overboard. As one who’s clinging to the gunwales, I don’t especially like the alternatives of climbing aboard with privilege (and me dripping wet), or being left behind to tread water.