We are applying for my beautiful wife Taryn to be a British citizen, so that she will be on the same passport as myself and Isaac, and so that we will hopefully never again find uncooperative visa authorities trying to put asunder what God has joined together.

Like the Roman commander the Apostle Paul once met, we’ve found that you have “to pay a lot of money for citizenship” if you’re not entitled to it by birth. The cost of the application is £1005 — yes, one thousand and five pounds. Which is up £99 from last summer, when we were going to apply until we realized that we couldn’t find Taryn’s iGCSE English certificate, which was necessary to prove that she is indeed able to speak the strange and obscure tongue of this little island.

Eventually the certificate was found — in a cupboard in India — and expedited to our house in England, but by then we were busily entangled with the day-to-day activity of the DTS. By the time we’d reorganized ourselves we realized that we needed to wait two more months, because not only do you need to have been resident in Britain for the last three years, but you need to have been on British soil on the exact day three years before you apply for citizenship. And we had spent January and February of 2012 in Africa.

So we waited some more, and finally, with everything (we hoped) at last in order, we were able to book an appointment (for another £80) with the Cambridge Checking Service, who help make sure that your application fee is not wasted because of somehow foolishly forgetting to fully fill in the form — and who also conveniently copy and certify all your documents, so that we are not deprived of our passport and other certificates for the six months that it takes to process the application.

We arrived on Thursday (Election day!) for our appointment, glad to finally get this task finished with–only to be told that a A*s in GCSE English Language and Literature were not adequate to demonstrate that a person could speak English. ‘But we thought they were on the approved list..?’ — But it turns out that the English GCSE we had searched so long and hard for is only approved by Ofqual as a Level 1 or 2 qualification, and not the required Level 3.

‘What then?’ we asked. Taryn has been speaking English her whole life, and has done English at GCSE level, at IB level, and as a university degree. — ‘A university degree would be allowed,’ we were told, and so I raced out the Cambridge Shire Hall, leapt into the car, sped home, and started frantically searching for Taryn’s University of Delhi degree certificate. I grabbed all the documents I could find that could possibly be relevant and returned as soon as possible — our Checking Service appointment was allowed to last for an hour exactly, and an hour only.

I returned to find that Taryn had managed to print off confirmation from the Self Assessment Points Calculator that her “Bachelor of Arts/Science/Commerce” from the University of Delhi was a real and rigorous qualification. Unfortunately, the most convincing evidence I had found turned not to be the degree certificate I had hoped. ‘This is just a Statement of Marks — don’t you have the Certificate?’ We did not, and Taryn had a vague sense that the bureaucratic inefficiency of the University of Delhi meant she had never actually been given one. (Further research later confirmed that it does indeed take DU two years to give graduates their certificates — by which time Taryn had married me and left the country.)

We were told that we had to choose whether to take the risk of sending the application without a proper degree certificate — and perhaps thus losing our £1005 application fee — or doing the preferred IELTS test, which could be taken at Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin university. We decided not to take the risk, and our hour’s appointment came to an end, without us being able to send off a complete application.

The one blessing was that we were able for a small fee (well, comparitively — £15) to book a supplementary appointment — to the total surprise of all the Checking Service administrators, who assumed that we were required to pay the full fee and book another separate appointment.

We got home, and got to work registering for the IELTS — which would cost its own £145, and which couldn’t be taken for two weeks, and then would need another two weeks after that before its results were ready. But a few days later, as I was sorting through some papers, my eye caught out an extra print-out of part of the Citizenship application form. It specifically stated that “if you no longer have your certificate” then you can send “an original academic transcript that is on official letter headed paper and shows your
name, the name of the academic institution, the course title and provides confirmation of the award”. I wasn’t sure whether to cry that the lady responsible for our Checking Service hadn’t been aware of this caveat, to rejoice that our lack of Degree Certificate wouldn’t be a problem, or just to disbelieve what I was reading.

I told Taryn. I emailed my parents to check — they agreed, this would therefore be fine. We emailed Anglia Ruskin to take advantage of their seven-day course-cancellation and money-back policy (they are still dragging their feet on this). And today we were able at last to successfully send off the application for Taryn to become a British citizen!

It could be six months before the application is approved, after which she will have to attend some sort of ceremony. It should all be straightforward, but nevertheless please pray with us that it goes through without any hitches.

The greatest irony in this is that the very day that we were being told that our evidence was not adequate to prove Taryn’s command of the English language, Taryn was also proof-reading the latest booklet by that quintessential Englishman and Anglican clergyman our friend (and, for the sake of Taryn’s application, a referee) the Rev. Dr. Andrew Taylor. Because her English is, quite honestly, pretty much as good as anyone in this country.

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