How long left on your visa? You have to leave that soon? You’re struggling to find a sponsor? You both have to leave because your partner’s parents weren’t born in the right place?
Besides the routine factual conversations of Australia beating England at yet another sport they invented, or a discussion about never having tasted Fosters until moving to London, these are common questions you’ll hear at a soirée of Aussies and Commonwealth expats here in the UK.
However, unlike too many fellow Australians, I am immune to such questions. My story is fairly typical: I came here 4.5 years ago to try my luck at romance with a Brit and getting some London experience in the C.V. And, to live beyond Aussie shores. What enabled me such freedom was the fluke of qualifying for an EU nation’s passport (Cyprus). Cyprus had a grandfather clause. The UK got rid of theirs. Lucky me! Unlucky you.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on how you view it), the romance didn’t pan out, but that didn’t affect my ability to remain. Nor does me ever changing employers, which as an independent contractor I do often. Within a short time of arriving I’d put down roots in my adopted country, but I never fear abandoning them lest UK authorities kick down my door in an episode of ‘UK Border Force,’ and despite me paying an awful lot more over the years into the Welfare State than I’ve taken out of it I might add.
The arguments for Australia and the UK coming to a fair reciprocal visa policy are well known: We share a common heritage, general level of prosperity, values, political institutions, laws, language and camaraderie. It isn’t simply that the Queen is on our Australian money, there is a feeling that in two world wars we and all the Commonwealth nations sent our young men to fight and die to save the motherland and in return we get treated as aliens. It doesn’t seem right. Australians feel they are part of a unique family which the UK is the heart of so it would be nice to be recognised for that. Through the good and the bad pages of history, this all amounts to us enjoying a unique family of related societies cultures and shared traditions. Australia would not be the great place it is today without the British. And, vice versa.
It seems absurd to me that a country who shares few to none of these links like, say, Latvia, should enjoy preferential immigration treatment many Australians can only dream of.
One may think I’d praise Britain’s EU membership for my good luck. But, that would be short sighted. The justification for the UK tightening up on visas for Australians is due to the EU’s free labour movement laws which benefit me, at the expense of Australians. A UK outside the EU would no longer be bound by such EU laws. And therefore, the UK Government could be more open and flexible towards re-embracing our Commonwealth. Overwhelmingly popular ideas like Boris Johnson’s freedom of labour movement between Australia and the UK would be within reach. Groups such as the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation are also rightly agitating for such freedoms to include New Zealand and Canada, and this has enjoyed overwhelming support according to the Royal Commonwealth Society’s survey.
Uniquely, as an Aussie, you enjoy a rare say over the direction the UK takes. All Commonwealth citizens who are residents in the UK are entitled to vote in the EU referendum on June 23. You can foil the EU’s march towards total political integration, the surrender of immigration sovereignty that demands, and free the UK to pursue its own fairer immigration policy with Australians in future. Let’s save Britain, again.
The registration deadline for the EU Referendum is Tuesday June 7. You can register here.
IMAGE: Via Shutterstock.com
Andrew Kollington is a lawyer and graduate in International Relations and Political Science from the University in New England, and attended the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is also an investor and debater at the London Debating Society